Captain America: The First Avenger
Release date: July 22, 2011
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Michael Brandon, and Samuel L. Jackson
Who’s here to prove that you can make a good superhero film? The Star Spangled Man! With Captain America: The First Avenger, Joe Johnston gives us a comic-book based film that feels more realistically grounded than most and delivers an action-packed show – without being bogged down by its use of special effects.
The film places us directly in the 1940s and introduces us to Steve Rogers (Evans), a scrawny asthmatic who just doesn’t give up on trying to get into the army to help fight for his country against the Nazis. Despite his efforts he continues being shot down; that is, until he goes off to the Modern Marvels of Tomorrow exhibit on a double date with his best friend, Bucky Barnes (Stan), that his luck begins to change.
Steve catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci), who recruits him as a possible candidate for an experiment to create super soldiers that the Strategic Scientific Reserve is working on. Under the order of Peggy Carter (Atwell) and Colonel Phillips (Jones), Steve is finally selected due to his courage and smarts. With the help of Howard Stark (Cooper), the experiment goes through, and our frail, young Steve becomes the well-muscled super soldier he was meant to be.
Unfortunately, Senator Brandt (Brandon) keeps our hero at home performing musical numbers to sell War Bonds and spread the image of Captain America. Meanwhile in Europe, Johann Schmidt (Weaving) is wreaking havoc by harnessing a new energy power to create his own personal supply of weapons and armed force – HYDRA. It isn’t until Steve gets some help from Carter and Stark, and is given a nifty new shield made of vibranium, that he heads off to war to save his fellow soldiers and his country from the threats presented by HYDRA and Schmidt – who reveals himself to be The Red Skull.
The most marvelous thing about the film is really just how well Johnston does at throwing us into the forties, while still maintaining everything that makes Cap a Marvel character. The color palette, the costumes, the set design, the dialogue, and the acting all contribute to the aesthetic feel of the time period, giving it the perfect old-school feel that a movie of its nature deserves. Even the dialogue – however cheesy many may find it – adds to the classic essence of the film, and helps to propel the narrative and character development very well.
Although many had hesitations about Chris Evans playing Cap after portraying the Human Torch, they’ll be pleased to know that he does a wonderful job as Steve Rogers. Tucci and Jones get in great performances in their little screen time and it comes as no surprise to know that Weaving plays a marvelous villain.
However, I think it’s safe to say that the most notable character performance goes to Hayley Atwell for giving us what might be the strongest performance for a female character in a superhero movie. Peggy Carter is strong, intelligent, and anything but a damsel in distress. Even the romance that buds between Peggy and Steve feels genuine. She’s a heroine and he’s a hero, and there’s a mutual trust and respect built between them that doesn’t rely on either one needing the other to save them.
Captain America: The First Avenger delivers plenty within its two hours. There are tons of special effects, but they’re used in a way that doesn’t distract from the story. There’s plenty of action, but it is well-crafted and character based sequences that add to the film’s development. There’s even a musical number by Alan Menken that is sure to surprise and please audiences everywhere. Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun and captivating film – reminding us that comic-book movies can be great, rather than just plain good.
P.S: Don’t forget to stay post credits for a special scene and trailer!