Captain America: The First Avenger – Review (2)


The best superhero origin story of the year has arrived in all its patriotic glory.

The final piece in the Marvel puzzle which began being built in 2008 with Iron Man has been put in place with Captain America: The First Avenger and now the Avengers are finally set to assemble. While every other Marvel film leading up to this one has taken place in a current setting, intertwining stories along the way, Captain America takes us back to 1942, with World War II raging and the world in need of a hero.

The film stars Chris Evans (who already has one Marvel franchise under his belt in The Fantastic Four) as Steve Rogers, a small, scrawny, weak yet good-hearted young man who wants nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve his country in the war. Unfortunately, a great many medical issues keep Rogers from being selected and it looks as though he’s destined to watch from the sidelines. That is until a Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears his dedication to the cause and offers him a chance to be a part of something that’s never been done before (well, successfully that is) and Rogers, with no other options, jumps at the chance. Within a few moments Rogers is enlisted in a special top secret program that even he doesn’t know he’s a part of.

Upon completing a series of tests, Rogers is chosen as the prime candidate to become a super soldier, the first in what the U.S. military hopes to be many. With the help of a super-soldier serum, created by Dr. Erskine, Rogers molecular structure is radically changed giving him superhuman strength, speed, regeneration (healing factor) and muscle mass. Of course, nothing can be this easy in the world of comics, and what’s a hero without an arch-nemesis? Cue Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) aka Red Skull, an evil Nazi leader with the same (if not bigger) ambition than Hitler — who was also the first (self-administered) test subject for the super-soldier serum. After discovering a mysterious artifact known as the Cosmic Cube (if you stayed until after the credits of Thor, you’ll know this item looks to play an important role in The Avengers) Red Skull has the power of the gods at his fingertips and looks to harness said power to one up Hitler and take over the globe. Do I need to mention that Captain America is the only one who can stop him?

To put it mildly, the film looks absolutely brilliant. The visual effects and cinematography help transport the viewer back in time and gives the movie such a unique look that captures the time period perfectly. There are so many dull browns and darker tones set in the film that when Captain America dons his red, white and blue uniform it stands out beautifully. While trying to describe just how good everything looks throughout I’m reminded of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” There aren’t enough words to describe how breathtaking this film looks and it really has to be seen to fully understand.

The way director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) chose to shoot the film is different than the others in this Marvel series. While Iron Man was all about technology and Thor was a mystical special effects extravaganza, Captain America has an aura about it that feels familiar, yet different. We still know that this man is a part of a super-group being formed in the future; however, the story being told is 70 years prior to those events and it fits in perfectly. Seeing Captain America leap across the screen in slow motion with bullets blazing past him is something that looks as though it was pulled right from the comic book page and it’s awesome. There are multiple montages that show Captain America raging a one-man war against Hydra (the evil group lead by Red Skull) that are shown as segments of the news reels they would show before a movie to update those back home about the war. It’s an incredibly well done and imaginative way to showcase what could have easily become just a handful bunch of action sequences set to music.

Ah, the music. Captain America has a fantastic soundtrack that screams of the era that the film placed in. It adds so much to what’s happening on screen and really helps set the tone for everything that’s going on. There’s also the costume design and the various sets that really couldn’t look better. So much detail went into the making of this film and it really paid off.

When Chris Evans was cast as Captain America the announcement was met with a lot of anger from fans of the series. Steve Rogers is the backbone of The Avengers and fans felt he should be older and, well, not played by the same guy who was Johnny Storm. Personally, I loved the choice from the start and as usual, we should learn that Marvel knows what it’s doing by this point when it comes to casting. Evans is fantastic as Rogers and really captures the do-right mentality that the character is known for. It’d be hard to argue against the fact that some of the most brilliant effects in the film are how they put Evans face on the body of someone else for the scenes before he becomes Captain America. The look is flawless and seems eerily real, so when the transformation takes place it seems all the more natural and captivating instead of a sigh of relief thanking the filmmakers for finally being done with shoddy camera tricks.

Weaving is no stranger to playing the bad guy and he does it again here wonderfully. Unfortunately, Red Skull seems to get the short end of the stick as far as character development goes. Properly introducing an arch-nemesis in a film such as this is just as important as the hero himself and while they nailed Captain America on all counts, Red Skull never feels like a true threat.

The rest of the cast is fleshed out quite well with no complaints to be found across the board. Hayley Atwell plays Rogers love interest Peggy Carter and the solid chemistry that she and Evans have really help add a layer to a romance that doesn’t have a chance to blossom naturally under the circumstances. Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel Chester Phillips, a non-believer in Steve Rogers who also ends up being one of the main sources of comic relief throughout thanks to Jones’ perfect delivery. Playing the part of Rogers’ best friend ‘Bucky’ Barnes is Sebastian Stan, and while they manage to get the relationship across well enough, Stan just isn’t given enough to work with to allow his character to leave the impact that he should. Finally, helping intertwine the Marvel film universe, Dominic Cooper plays Howard Stark (Tony’s father,) who helps make Rogers into the Captain America himself. It will be interesting to see how this comes into fruition in The Avengers.

You know you’re in for something special when a major portion of a superhero film is dedicated to the character before they gain any powers or don a famous outfit. As someone who loves a great origin story, Captain America: The First Avenger passes with flying colours. Red, white and blue perhaps?

Director: Joe Johnston
Notable Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Derek Luke, Neal McDonaugh
Writer(s): Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, inspired by the Marvel comic books

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