Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger starring Chris Evans

Warning: Major Spoilers!

This film is very important overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because it introduces two recurring elements: Captain America (one of the key Avengers) and the Tesseract, one of the six ‘Infinity Stones/Gems’ that will play a major role in Avengers 3: Infinity War…

The main problem in Marvel’s phase one is a lack of good villains. Only Loki in Thor had been memorable, with both Iron Man films and The Incredible Hulk failing to provide interesting villains. The First Avenger makes a decent attempt with the Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving, who is always good value as a villain even if he doesn’t match Loki) leader of the Nazi organisation HYDRA, to provide a more threatening/interesting threat. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) is also a good supporting villain as an immoral scientist recruited by the Red Skull to harness the power of the Tesseract. The problem is while they make a physical/creepy threat, they are a very black and white one, unlike Loki, who is more morally grey and possibly misguided – a more multi-layered villain.

We also have a very black and white hero – Captain America is probably the most moral of all the Avengers, and Steve Rogers is a likeable hero (much more likeable than Chris Evans was in Fantastic Four as the Human Torch!!) who isn’t afraid to question his orders if he disagrees with them and sees it as his duty to help out in the war. Initially rejected by the military due to his small stature and multiple health problems, Rogers enters a program to create super-soldiers where he gets chosen to test the serum because it amplifies the physical AND mental qualities of the user – so only a soldier as moral as Rogers is suitable. After the testing he becomes a muscular hero named ‘Captain America’ who becomes dissatisfied with the propaganda role the US government is using him for and decides to take the fight to the Red Skull, who had taken an earlier version of the serum and is leading a HYDRA using weapons powered by the Tesseract.

The action scenes are all good (especially with HYDRA’s Tesseract powered weaponry), but as its an origin story there’s little sense of any threat to the main character – you know Captain America will survive! His squad of ‘howling commandos’ are afforded so little screen time or development you don’t really care about them. Only four supporting characters make an impression, Steve’s best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), his love interest Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), his commanding officer Colonel Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) and scientist friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) who provides him with his iconic shield made of Vibranium. All give good performances, though Howard doesn’t get much screen time and Colonel Philips’ disapproval of Steve seems mainly to be to pad out the film’s running time a bit. While Bucky and Steve’s friendship is believable, it’s Atwell’s Agent Carter who makes the best impression (probably why she’s getting a TV spin-off series) as a feisty, modern woman who finds something of a kindred spirit in Steve and is impressed by his natural heroism.

The film’s climax sets up several factors for the sequel and the Avengers with Zola’s capture, Bucky’s apparent death and the ending where the Captain heroically sacrifices himself to destroy HYDRA’s supply of Weapons of Mass Destruction by crashing their transport plane into the arctic, only to be unfrozen 70 years later by SHIELD and greeted by Nick Fury. The final fight between him and the Red Skull isn’t as good as i was hoping, with the Red Skull’s apparent vaporisation by the Tesseract cutting the fight unfortunately short – just so the Tesseract’s power is evident before the Avengers?

Overall a promising film but one that lacks the spark of greatness – but still one of the better efforts in Marvel’s phase one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Coming Soon: Review of the sequel, The Winter Soldier

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