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Jul 26

Review: Captain America The First Avenger

Of all the Marvel comic adaptations, I most worried about Captain America because this is a hard comic to adapt. Steve Rogers AKA Captain America is essentially a flag waving, patriotic boy scout and that works in printed form but could end up being a cheesy corn dog on screen. True “Thor” is about an Asgardian thunder god but at it’s core it is essentially a fantasy film and we have done that before, so I had a lot of trust that it would work. Captain America however is rooted in the real world and it would be really easy to make this a nauseatingly patriotic Michael Bay movie.

So this brings us to “Captain America: The First Avenger”, the latest in the current series of Marvel films that lead into next year’s “The Avengers”. Did director Joe Johnston (“Jumanji” & “The Rocketeer”) manage to bring Captain Steve Rogers to the big screen successfully? The answer is simple, yes he absolutely did. Johnston and his writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have found the balance to bring Cap to life and one of the prime reasons this works so well was the decision to take the character back to his origins and set it in the World War II era. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to have a short World War II intro and then bring Cap into the modern world like the 1990 Albert Pyun version but we probably would have ended up with a similar mess.

The 1940’s wartime era plays into that patriotic symbol theme that is vital for Captain America to work. Today it would have seemed tacky to send Captain America to Iraq or Afghanistan. The World War II setting offers Captain America a chance to be a real war hero, in a time when war heroes were celebrated, and to fight a clearly defined, evil enemy that everyone recognizes as a threat. Smart move Marvel Pictures.

The story of “Captain America: The First Avenger” is simple and for anyone who has ever read a Captain America comic, instantly recognisable. Week, puny Steve Rogers wants to join the army and fight for America. What he lacks in body size or health he makes up with bravery, heart and a solid moral code. When asked if he wants to kill Nazis, he answers that he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he just hates bullies. After being rejected over and over again he is finally spotted by a scientist who is working on the super soldier program. The scientist, Dr. Abraham Erskine (played brilliantly by Stanley Tucci), recognises that Rogers has the right stuff for his program. A quick experiment later and wimpy Steve Rogers is turned into the super buff super soldier.

Let me just take a moment to say how much I loved Chris Evans in this film. Evans has always played brash and cocky characters. Take a look at “Scott Pilgrim Saves the World” or the “Fantastic Four” films for examples. We loved him in those roles to be sure, but Steve Rogers allows him to play a really humble, polite and sweet character and even after his transformation, he retains that pure and humble spirit. He may have superpowers but he really is just a kid from Brooklyn. While other superheroes are dark, brooding and full of doubt and/or pain, Captain America is like a breath of fresh air, he is brave and bright. He wants to be a superhero to do good, simple as that.

Okay, back to the film. After a minor action scene, Rogers becomes really popular in the USO circuit selling war bonds as Captain America, cheesy costume and all. It is when his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) goes MIA that Steve Rogers jumps to action and the real Captain America is born. With a new costume, super shield and a crack team of commandos at his disposal, Captain America sets about systematically dismantling Hydra, the super evil science division of the Nazis led by Germany’s own super soldier, the evil Red Skull.

Hugo Weaving’s scenery chewing performance as the Red Skull is brilliant and he often steals the film. In fact the performances by the entire supporting cast are rock solid and this helps Evans sell the more fantastical aspects of the film. Along with the already mentioned Tucci, Weaving and Stan is the ever reliable Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips (Cap’s superior officer) and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (yes, Iron Man’s dad). But I have to give special mention to Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Steve Roger’s love interest. Atwell is not only physically beautiful but she also has guts and can hold her own with the boys. I found the mutual attraction between Rogers and Carter pitch perfect and I think it is one of the most successful love stories in the Marvel films yet. She is a star in the making and I look forward to her future career.

So far I have gushed and to be fair I must point out that the film’s third act does have a minor logic flaw, but in the great scheme of things it doesn’t take away the sheer pleasure of watching this film. I found that I had a smile on my face from beginning to end.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” proves again that Marvel knows how to bring their heroes to the big screen like no other company can. It is simply the best Marvel superhero film yet and Chris Evans IS Captain America. I can’t wait to see “The Avengers” in 2012.

Oh, and one last note: stay to the end of the credits for the most satisfying post credit sequence to date.

– David McVay

  • This is a 2011
    American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain
    America.This Film has received generally favorable reviews from film critics