Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Movie Review
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Captain America - The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci

Even if I were not someone who would be classified as 4-F, or medically unfit for military service, it’s still not something I could ever do. Inevitably, because I cling to logic and reason, I would be incapable of following all orders without ever once questioning them. So, no, I would not be a suitable candidate in the slightest. This does not mean that I cannot appreciate the sacrifice of those who do enlist, do follow their orders to the letter, and give life and limb for their country. That takes courage of an exceptional quality.

It’s 1942, and America has become involved in World War II. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a patriotic kid from Brooklyn, New York, who just wants to serve his country. His problem is a long list of medical hardships, including asthma, and the fact that he’s far too short and skinny. He signs up five times, each in a different city, which is illegal. Rather than get into trouble, this actually earns him the ticket he’s been looking for, though not quite in the way he’d imagined. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) believes Rogers to be the perfect candidate for the United States Army’s Super Soldier program. Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) balks at the idea of this 90-pound kid being the face of the future for the military, but is soon impressed by Rogers’ bravery. While this is going on, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), is leading an incursion into Norway to acquire the Tesseract, an artifact of unlimited power that was accidentally left behind by the Asgardians in the 10th Century (as documented in “Thor”).

Revealing that Steve Rogers takes part in the Super Soldier program, that it works, and that he becomes Captain America is no real spoiler. It would also not be a spoiler to say that the movie ends with him frozen in ice, to be thawed out 70 years later, as this is revealed by the movie’s opening scene. Much of the charm of “Captain America” comes from the fact that it takes place in a time long past. Everything you see is evocative of the period. Even the colors of the film are faded (aside from Cap’s red, white & blue uniform and the crimson of Schmidt’s disfigured cranium) to give it an aged look.

As with all the recent Marvel Comics superhero films, “Captain America” boasts a cast of incredible talent. Tommy Lee Jones is as cool as he usually is in movies where he’s not trying too hard to be over-the-top. Sebastian Shaw as Rogers’ best friend, ‘Bucky’ Barnes, probably does the best job of the supporting cast in demonstrating how the changes in Rogers have changed how he is perceived. Before, when Rogers was a weakling, Bucky was the ladies man who would secure an extra date for his buddy out of sympathy. Now, the tables have turned, and Bucky can’t believe he’s now the one who feels invisible to the girls. That’s not jealousy, or at least Bucky is too good a friend to admit it is. With British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Rogers is finally able to break through his insecurities and talk to a woman, though he’s still got a lot to learn about the opposite sex, and she’s not afraid to tell him so.

Among the characters requiring only a brief amount of screen time, there are many familiar faces, especially for fans of the fantasy genre. David Bradley (“Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones”) plays the Norwegian keeper of the Tesseract, Natalie Dormer (“The Tudors,” “Game of Thrones”) plays the American officer who steals a kiss from Steve Rogers, and Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit” trilogy) plays the Nazi saboteur sent to put a halt to the Americans’ Super Soldier program.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is among the very best of Marvel’s superhero movies, and the experience of those involved in its creation is a clear factor. Chris Evans had come in having already played a superhero before, in the admittedly poor quality “Fantastic Four” movies. Meanwhile, the film’s director, Joe Johnston, has been here before as well. 1991’s “The Rocketeer,” starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton, was itself a superhero comic set in the WWII era. “Captain America” is a much better movie than its star’s and director’s previous entries in the genre, and is a wonderful choice for something to pop into your DVD/Blu Ray player on some of America’s more patriotic holidays.

  1. Elmo Shell says:

    These latest reviews of yours makes me want to revisit those marvel films before the next wave of them hits. I think i shall too.

  2. I’ll do the whole Iron Man trilogy eventually, but I’ll wait until I have my own copy of ‘Iron Man 3.’ Maybe after Christmas…

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