FILM REVIEW - Captain America: The First Avenger
By The Masked Medic
So recently I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel stuff and I will reluctantly admit that a lot of it has been good. The reason this surprises me is that these guys have been going for over 10 years now and they’re still churning out fairly decent stuff. Clearly, Kevin Feige is a bit of a genius. Now it has been a long while since I last did an MCU review and I thought it was time that I returned to writing some reviews! The penultimate film in Marvel’s Phase I was Captain America: The First Avenger!
‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ is the story of Steve Rogers, a young man living in Queen’s, New York at the height of World War II. Rogers is keen to sign up to the army to do his part, however, given his small physique and multiple health issues, he’s recurrently turned down. Things are not made easier when his best friend, James ‘Bucky’ Barnes is recruited. During a night out at the Stark Expo, Steve is signed up by a Dr Erskine. Unbeknownst to Rogers, he’s picked as part of a screening experiment to find someone to receive Erskine’s super-soldier serum to fight a threat greater than the Nazis. This threat comes in the form of Johann Schmidt, leader of Hydra, the Nazi’s secret science division. Schmidt has discovered an ancient artefact which contains unlimited power and together with the help of Dr Arnim Zola, he harnesses the power of the “Tesseract” to arm Hydra’s weapon systems. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Rogers has impressed Erskine, Colonel Phillips who’s running the program, and Peggy Carter, a high ranking officer working with the two of them. Steve gets the Super-Soldier Serum injected into him, granting him enhanced power, speed and a regenerative ability. Believing himself now able to fight on the frontlines, he finds himself disappointed when he’s made to wear a costume and parade across the country raising morale and selling bonds. However, during one of the morale-boosting trips to the frontline, he discovers that Bucky’s regimen was defeated by Hydra. Unsure of where his friend is, Steve, secretly infiltrates the Hydra base, rescuing all the prisoners and coming face to face against Schmidt, who is now going by “Red Skull”. Invigorated by the mission, Steve decides to form a small team to hit Hydra bases repeatedly. During one mission, Bucky is killed and Steve filled with regret goes after Red Skull. Can Steve discover what Skull’s plans really are? And at what price does victor come for Captain America?
I’m sure that when they were looking to cast Captain America, there must have been a ridiculously large number of applicants. Perhaps I say this in hindsight, but when I see Chris Evans as the titular character, I cannot imagine anyone else doing the role justice. Evans brings a charming naivety and lowkey wit to the role which I thought was done very well. Another newcomer, Sebastian Stan plays Bucky. His role isn’t extensive, but given the comic book lore, I’m sure we all know it will become so! Hayley Atwell plays love interest and all-around badass Peggy Carter. I think she could’ve had a greater role in the film, however, if we’re going by the historical nature of the way women were treated during the first half of the 1900’s you can see why her role was limited to what it was. One of the more interesting castings in my opinion was Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips. Jones famously starred in Batman Forever, playing an extremely over the top Harvey Dent. I’ve read numerous interviews in which he’s stated that he hated the experience, and a part of me thought he’d probably have sworn off superhero films altogether! Haha! Finally, coming to the villain of the story, Red Skull was played by the legendary and highly underrated Hugo Weaving. Weaving’s had more than enough experience creating iconic villains before and he settles in this role just as expertly as the rest. Without a shadow of a doubt, his acting is the best in the film and does elevate the movie in my opinion.
It’s funny that a lot of the characters who I have not previously been a fan of in the comics, end up being more exciting characters to watch in the films and TV shows. Captain America is certainly one of those examples. I never really took any notice of him before, believing him to be a hyper-patriotic strongman essentially, however the way that this film sets it up, you get a chance to understand who he was beforehand. I think Evans’ portrayal of the character makes him a lot more likeable than I thought it would. Given that this film was the 4th solo film in the MCU, the directors had to try to do something different and on that front, I’m not sure if there was much that distinguished it from the previous entries. I think ironically, given the high level of CGI in Ironman and the grandiosity of the Thor film, perhaps Captain America’s initial solo outing should have come before. But I’m not going to push that point, because I know that when I’m reviewing the DCEU film eventually, people will have my head if I make opposing points then! I had already spoken about how I’d have liked Peggy to be more than just a side character, and given the ending of the film, I’m not she’ll ever truly get her chance to do that. The end of this film sets up the beginning of the final film in Phase I and so from that perspective, I’m sure it has its useful plot points when I speak retrospectively.
Given that Cap’s solo outing is a lot more grounded than his other Avenger teammates there was arguably a lot less CGI needed. In that respect, the film’s cinematography is difficult to compare to other MCU films so far. That being said, I think the way the film was shot was pretty good. It was gritty and the filter meant that it wasn’t overly colourful which given the time period was apt. The action scenes were good and the fight choreography was a lot better than what we’ve seen before. In terms of the music, there’s a lot of music that is reminiscent of American military bands etc, and again, for this film, for this character, it was completely appropriate. The only issue I had, is that for vast swathes of the film, I just wasn’t aware of the soundtrack in the back. Overall, this was a solid entry into the MCU, however, I think it may have benefitted from coming before Thor especially. The character development is however on par with all previous films! I’m excited, however, to see how it all comes together in ‘The Avengers’!