RELEASED: July 22nd 2011
DISTRIBUTED BY: Paramount Pictures
DIRECTED BY: Joe Johnston
WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Alan Silvestri
STARRING: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci & Hugo Weaving
Although this film garnered good reviews at release, as of late, it has become severly underrated. When people talk about the best Marvel movies, things like Iron Man, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy are thrown about, but truth is, for the most part, Captain America: The First Avenger is also a pretty great film.
The story follows Steven Rogers, a young man from Brooklyn desperate to do his bit for the war effort, but constantly rejected due to his weak, fragile form. Picked as a candidate for the SSR’s Super-Soldier Program, Rogers is transformed into Captain America. But even with his new empowered body, Rogers is still doubted by her peers and sets out by himself to prove why he has what it takes to be the world’s greatest hero and bring down his Nazi (/Hydra) antithesis, the Red Skull.
While it’s easy to get tired of origin stories, The First Avenger feels unique, in that, unlike your Iron Man‘s, Ant-Man‘s and Doctor Strange‘s, it’s bolstered by its nineteen forties setting. This allows it to stand out amongst its peers, because the only film with any real similarities to it is 2017’s Wonder Woman. And that is perhaps the best thing about it. The film captures that corny, campy comic-book quirkiness of the forties perfectly, and while some of the gags may not land, they still feel charming because of what they’re trying to achieve.
Furthermore, the character work is excellent. Although the film is prefaced by a scene that essentially tells you the story is going to have a bad ending (of sorts), you still can’t help but root for the characters and their relationships. In this regard, Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are the stand outs. Both very compelling leads that emphasize the heart and heroics that all good heroes should possess. It’s worth noting at this point that although there are glitches at times, the CGI transformation of the buff Evans into the scrawny pre-Captain America Steve Rogers is pretty impressive and pleasantly amusing.
The story, for the first half at least, is also interesting, as the challenge facing our protagonist isn’t ‘will he beat this super-powered villain?’ so much as it is ‘how will he get people to see him for who he really is?’ and not just the buff hero or meek civilian that he is and was.
If we were going on the first half of the film alone, I would argue that this has what it takes to be one of Marvel’s best. However, as it stands, after Rogers manages to prove himself as Captain America, we’re treated to a montage of his adventures with his fellow soldiers, the Howling Commandos, across the years, after which, some of the charm seems to be lacking (a similar thing could be said about the flow of Wonder Woman). This means of storytelling is understandable, because the goal was to get Rogers’ World War II adventures out of the way before The Avengers, but the rush does damage its sincerity and conviction to the story its trying to tell a little bit.
That’s not to say the second half is bad by any stretch. It still has some powerful moments as it powers on towards the finish line, particularly the climax of the film. It’s just a shame things were hurried forward in the way they were, because it doesn’t just affect the story or the charm, but also some of the secondary characters. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull, for instance, would be a good candidate for the very rare ‘good Marvel villain’, but unfortunately, after the aforementioned montage, his presence becomes rather scarce, and when he does return, he provides little other than a means of advancing the plot – a shame, because the film was just starting to scratch the surface of his true potential.
But despite its (admittedly minimal) flaws, Captain America: The First Avenger is still a feel good romp of a super-hero film, with a quirkiness unique to it and it alone, and a charm that more films *cough*Superman*cough* should strive for.
All-in-all, I give it: