By now, everyone knows all about the Avengers movie plans and how Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America are all leading up to next year’s massive movie event. The first three films already came and went, and all three have thus far built the hype machine high (four films if you count Iron Man 2 as well, but let’s not get technical). Captain America: The First Avenger has a lot of weight riding on its shoulders as the Avengers movie franchise has yet to have a serious misstep, so will Cap be the one that causes it to stumble? Not even a bit.
Captain America: The First Avenger is set during World War II and stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. This is all information you know pretty well. Chris Evans, previously seen as Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim and as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, had a lot to live up to. Captain America is a larger-than-life character who has to be strong but not look like he’s on steroids, smart but not overly brainy, good looking but not vapid, and the ideal American without being preachy. Somehow, perhaps through some miracle, Chris Evans managed to balance all of these aspects perfectly throughout the film.
The coolest part is the early half of the film where Steve Rogers is a scrawny little guy with a heart of gold. The effects used here to make Chris Evans, freshly ripped I might add, look like a skinny little dweeb. Somehow this doesn’t come off looking cheesy at all. I was fully convinced that I was looking at a pre-Captain America Steve Rogers in these parts rather than Chris Evans’ head floating on a body double, which wasn’t the case at all (the special effects used were way too complicated for me to understand but it involved manually shrinking him shot by shot).
As the story goes, following the original origin story very closely, Steve Rogers is a kid who wants to enlist so bad he’s even willing to lie about himself to get accepted. After getting rejected a number of times, he’s finally selected for a special Super Solider program by Dr. Erskine, played fantastically by Stanley Tucci. Dr. Erskine becomes Steve’s mentor and encourages him whereas Colonel Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, doesn’t see how Steve will amount to anything. In probably one of the most succinct moments that encompasses all that is Steve Rogers, Dr. Erskine asks Steve is he wants to kill Nazis, to which Steve says, “I don’t want to kill anybody. I just don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from.” That’s a hero we can all get behind.
Also encouraging Steve to succeed is Peggy Carter, played by a very strong Hayley Atwell. Carter’s character is great here as “The Female” for the movie, but she doesn’t feel stereotypical. She’s attractive but capable and not afraid to get her ass in gear and fight the good fight. There were a few moments here where you weren’t sure if maybe she should have been given the Super Solider Serum and changed into Captain America instead. Ooh the possibilities.
On the other side of the war is Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, a perfect fit for Weaving as the narrow-minded dictator role seems to work well for him in every aspect. His voice and presence works exactly as it’s intended, allowing him to be evil without becoming a caricature. This is helped along by the weasely Dr. Zola, portrayed by Toby Jones. Pairing the two up is great as it shows just how strong and respected the Red Skull is with Zola constantly following orders despite an undertone of reluctance. Cutting away from Steve’s training to see Zola and the Red Skull plotting with the Cosmic Cube doesn’t feel districting or annoying at all. Even better, we aren’t bogged down with extra exposition every time something appears that has already been explained in a previous Avengers lead-up movie. We don’t have to stop and take any extra time to point out that, “Hey, Howard Stark is Tony Stark’s father! You remember Iron Man, right?!” Trusting the audience like this is rare and definitely refreshing.
Once Steve transforms properly into “OMG Chris Evans can rock me to sleep all he wants,” the cast gets rounded out with more important characters such as Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, and Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, a personal favorite of mine, (who can say no to that hat and ‘stache?).
This is a movie for comic book fans, and obviously fans of Captain America and Marvel lore in general. Fan service is on high alert with nods to the source material like letting Cap wearing the iconic outfit during his early months as a USO entertainer, a nod that actually functions both as a way to appease fans but also as a means to show just how silly the old outfit really looks. Cap’s updated uniform is awesome here, and it’s great that it’s another superhero outfit where the hero has full range of motion for action sequences (seriously, why do actors even try with Batman anymore?).
When it comes to action, Captain America does not disappoint. Sure, it is very much a character-driven movie with strong leads and good emotional impact, but when the film breaks down near the middle to allow for an action montage where Cap and his elite team mess up the Red Skull’s many bases, you can’t help but want to throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care.
I ended up seeing Captain America in 3D, though this wasn’t by my own wishes. In order to see the movie in time to review it for Toy-TMA, I needed to see it this weekend, and there were only two theaters near my house that were showing it, one that I had some giftcards for and one that I didn’t. Sadly, the one I had giftcards for was only showing it in 3D, a practice that infuriates me to no end and feels extremely sleazy, but for all my complaining, seeing Captain America in 3D doesn’t ruin a thing. I can’t go so far as to say that the 3D will improve the film, but it does let you feel more immersed in the large landscapes shots. If you happen to have a giftcard to see it for free in 3D, sure, go for it.
Finally, I shouldn’t have to remind you but if you stay till the end of the credits you will see a little PS that gets you excited. And then things just break all pretenses and a trailer for The Avengers plays. Yup, trailer after the movie. And you’ll want to see The Avengers even harder than you currently want to see it.
Captain America: The First Avenger is an awesome movie. It dances the line between campy “America is great” films and gritty “war is hell” films expertly, giving us a film that just feels right. It’s fun, it’s dramatic, it may even get you to cheer or tear up a few times. The more Steve proves he’s just a good guy through and through, the harder it is to keep from getting misty-eyed. Go see this immediately if you haven’t already. I mean, you’ve got nothing better to do until next summer anyway.