Captain America – The First Avenger

Directed By: Joe Johnston
Produced By: Kevin Feige
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell
Edited By: Robert Dalva, Jeffery Ford
Music By: Alan Silvestri

Distributed By: Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios
Runtime: 124 minutes
Budget: $140 million

The final setup before The Avengers releases next summer, viewers know by now what to expect when they go to the theater. Captain America, like Thor, isn’t here to win awards or make a billion dollars. It’s here to entertain while introducing us to a character that will feature prominently in a future film that has the potential to be very awesome or very complicated. America succeeds at both, giving us another fun summer blockbuster with plenty of action, comedy, and romance to satisfy. WARNING: MIDLEVEL SPOILERS!
Similar to Iron Man, this is an origin story. It introduces us, in 1942, to the skinny Steve Rogers (Evans), ever determined to join the Army and fight the Nazis. Stuff happens and he finds himself in the company of scientist Abraham Erskine (Tucci), the inventor of a super soldier serum. It succeeds, and Rogers becomes Captain America. More stuff happens and it’s up to him, with the help of brothers in arms and pessimistic Colonel Chester Phillips (Jones) to stop rogue Nazi and super soldier gone wrong Johann Schmidt (Weaving, AKA Red Skull), as he attempts to destroy every major capital in the world (including Berlin)!

Like I said, it’s what you expect out of a Marvel movie, but this isn’t meant as criticism. The movie is good. Casting is great, particularly with Evans, Jones, and Weaving. Chris Evans does a fantastic job as Steve Rogers. Marvel has been doing a great job all around of casting leading roles (Downey, Jr., Hemsworth, Evans, Renner, Sam Jackson, Ruffalo). They know how to cast characters. Tommy Lee Jones is himself, which is really funny, and his character has a larger role in the film then one would expect. Weaving is an awesome bad guy as always, with touches of Mr. Smith. You never get bored during scenes he’s in.

The remaining characters are…well…supporting. It’s interesting, really, how minor it seems the female romantic interest is lately. Natalie Portman in Thor was good, but semi-irrelevant. Hayley Atwell, as Peggy Carter, is completely irrelevant save a few scenes where I guess she helps motivate Rogers. Marvel films seem to focus less on the romantic side plot and more on the awesome action sequences, which I’m accepting of.

One of my favorite sequences is the Captain America propaganda scene. After creating this super soldier, the military doesn’t want the untrained wimp fighting Nazis; they want him selling war bonds. Enter dancing girls, patriotic music, and countrywide tours of inspirationally scripted speeches. As the senator in charge puts it, he’s doing his duty by putting “a bullet in the gun of every soldier.” The people love it, and he starts to as well. Luckily, he changes his mind and decides to fight Nazis, which is much cooler to watch. The sequence says a lot about American propaganda during the war and the question of what everyone’s duty is.

As a setup for The Avengers, it does its part well. Captain America is a different character in that he originated during World War II and, thus, has to start there but end in the current timeline. They achieve this by crashing him in the Arctic and discovering him these seventy years later. On the one hand, his character is well introduced during the story and we get a fair sense of knowing what to expect from him. On the other hand, it makes me care less for the supporting characters because I know most of them will have died of old age by the time the SHIELD Initiative starts. It’s a consequence, but one that must be accepted.

The final scene of the movie, modern day Times Square, features Steve Rogers waking up seventy years later and Nick Fury saying, “Hey, how’s it going? I gotta a job for ya.” Well, that’s not verbatim, but it’s close. The scene does a good job of portraying the awe of New York City representing a future world. The difference, after all, between 1943 and 2011 is…a lot. I sort of wanted a bit more fright from Rogers, for what I think are obvious reasons, but it’s still a solid lead-in to next summer. Finish things off with the after-credits trailer (not scene, trailer) for The Avengers, and you leave the theater happy. The trailer is awesome. Absolutely awesome, and I’m very pumped for next summer.

I liked Thor more than Captain America. I’m not completely sure why; I think it’s partly getting more enjoyment out of Asgard versus war-torn Europe. Captain America is good, though. All the Marvel movies are good, and it sets the bar high for The Avengers next summer. I’ve asked whether its better to judge these movies by themselves or by how well they prepare us for what’s coming. Both ways, however, are accomplished here. The only thing left unanswered is just what level of awesome to expect in eleven months. We know we’re getting Joss Whedon awesome. We know we’re getting Marvel awesome and Downey, Jr/Evans/Hemsworth/Jackson awesome. Knowing how these things go, there’s sure to be more still unrevealed. I can’t wait.

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