Comic Book Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America is the story of how one scrawny guy is able to change the course of World War II through heart, determination, and performance ehancing drugs super serum.

Directed by Joe Johnston

Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Sebastian Stan as James ‘Bucky’ Barnes
Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips
Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Richard Armitage as Heinz Kruger
Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
Toby Jones as Dr. Arnin Zola 

Full synopsis with spoilers and my thoughts are after the break.  

The movie opens in the present day, where scientists in the Arctic uncover a circular object with a red, white and blue motif. In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt and his men invade Tønsberg, Norway, to steal a mysterious cube possessing untold powers. In New York City, Steve Rogers is rejected for World War II military duty due to various health and physical issues. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend Bucky Barnes , Rogers again attempts to enlist. Having overheard Rogers’ conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine allows Rogers to enlist. Rogers is recruited as part of a “super-soldier” experiment under Erskine, Colonel Chester Phillips and Peggy Carter. Phillips is unconvinced of Erskine’s claims that Rogers is the right person for the procedure but relents after seeing Rogers commit an act of self-sacrificing bravery. The night before the treatment, Erskine reveals to Rogers that Schmidt underwent an imperfect version of the treatment, and suffered side-effects.

In Europe, Schmidt and Dr. Arnim Zola successfully harness the energies of the cube, intending to use the power to fuel Zola’s inventions. Schmidt, having discovered Erskine’s location, dispatches an assassin to kill him. In America, Erskine subjects Rogers to the super-soldier treatment, injecting him with a special serum and dosing him with “vita-rays”. After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and muscular, one of the attendees kills Erskine, revealing himself as Schmidt’s assassin Heinz Kruger. Rogers pursues and captures Kruger but the assassin commits suicide via cyanide capsule before he can be interrogated.

With Erskine’s death the super-soldier formula is lost. U.S. Senator Brandt has Rogers tour the nation in a colorful costume as “Captain America” to promote war bonds rather than be confined to a lab while scientists attempt to rediscover Erskine’s formula. In Italy 1943, while touring to active servicemen, Rogers learns that Barnes’ unit was lost in battle against Schmidt’s forces. Refusing to believe Barnes is dead, Rogers mounts a solo rescue attempt with Carter and Howard Stark flying him behind enemy lines. Rogers infiltrates the fortress belonging to Schmidt’s Hydra organization, freeing Barnes and the other captured soldiers. Rogers confronts Schmidt who reveals his face to be a mask, removing it to display the red-colored, skull-like face that earned him the sobriquet the Red Skull. Schmidt escapes and Rogers returns to base with the freed soldiers.

Rogers recruits Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, James Montgomery Falsworth, and Jacques Dernier to attack the other known bases belonging to Hydra. Stark provides Rogers with a new outfit and a new, circular shield made of vibranium, which negates large amounts of damage by absorbing vibrations. Rogers and his team attack and destroy all of the known bases. The team later attacks a train carrying Zola. During the assault Zola is captured but Barnes falls from the train and is lost. Using information gathered from Zola, Rogers leads an attack on Schmidt’s final base to stop him from using WMDs against American cities. Rogers clambers aboard Schmidt’s jet before it takes off, and during the fight with Schmidt, Rogers damages the cube’s container. Schmidt physically handles the cube, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The cube falls to the floor of the plane, melting through the surface and falling to Earth. Seeing no way to safely land the plane without risking its weapons detonating, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the tesseract from the floor of the ocean but the aircraft and Rogers remain undiscovered at the time.

Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing that something is wrong, he flees outside into what is revealed to be present-day Times Square. There, Nick Fury informs him he has been “asleep” for nearly 70 years.  A teaser for The Avengers is shown after the credits.

Things I Liked

  • Chris Evans as Captain America.  It’s pretty well known that Chris Evans turned down this role a couple times before accepting it, and I am now glad that he did accept it.  I’ll admit, having only seen him in goofy roles, I was a bit leery of Evans taking on a role like this.  After seeing Push (okay movie), I was a little less worried.  Now having seen Captain America, I can’t imagine how it could have been any better with someone else in the role.  Evans played the Captain with an earnestness that was perfect for the character.  I’m confident Evans will be able to hold his own in next Summer’s The Avengers.
  • The rest of the cast.  Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell were both very enjoyable in their roles.  Everyone else, too many to mention, were adequate in their background roles.
  • The period setting.  I think making this fully a World War II movie was a good idea.  Making it a romanticized, nostalgic view was a better fit for the movie, rather than making it a more realistic war movie.
  • The USO bit was a nice comedic touch that fit into the natural progression of the movie.
Things I Didn’t Like
  • The Thor tie-in.  I don’t like that they used some of the mythology established in Thor to set up the plot of this movie.  Sure, if you saw Thor, then you knew what Red Skull was referring to with the world tree, and the significance of the cube (which is probably cosmic).  But for those that didn’t see Thor, it probably didn’t make a lot of sense.
  • Knowing what was coming.  Sure, being halfway familiar with Captain America, I knew that Bucky had to die, and that Captain America would get frozen, but I wish they hadn’t started the movie with the present day recovery of him.  It just seemed unnecessary.  And created an unneeded plot hole of how did Captain America’s shield end up with Tony Stark if it was frozen with him.  But that’s minor.

Who said Disney buying Marvel was a bad idea? Sadly, this is not actually in the movie.

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2 comments

  1. I found Captain America to be pretty enjoyable, but nothing I’ll need to watch again anytime soon…I didn’t feel like I had any reason to care about smaller characters, like the Howlin’ Commandoes, and Cap’s costume looked a bit too much like a snowsuit. Still a fun flick though…Hugo Weaving did a great job as Red Skull.

    Like

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