Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci
If I remember correctly, the first time I tried watching Captain America: The First Avenger, I gave into my sleep deprivation and dozed off about 30 minutes in. What I saw of the film apparently wasn’t a great impression, as I made no attempt to re-watch it –until now, that is. If you’re familiar with my favorite guy at Reel Dude Reviews, you may know that Captain America is his favorite superhero (and yes, there are pictures of him dressed as Cap online), and he’s been desperate to make me understand the hero’s greatness. Also, with all the buzz over The Winter Soldier and with Civil War coming out in less than a year I decided it was time for me to become acquainted with the Captain. I was surprised to find that overall, I enjoyed the film. Although others have said that Captain America: The First Avenger is inferior to its sequel, the film features a superb cast, an intriguing (albeit a bit lengthy) storyline, and uses fantastic visual effects – well worth the watch.
Scrawny Steve Rogers (Evans) of Brooklyn has been rejected from joining the US Army to fight in World War II many times, but he keeps trying. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci) takes notice of Steve’s efforts, and allows him to enlist in the “super-soldier” experiment, where he is ultimately selected for the super-soldier-serum injection. Erskine reveals that he used to work under Nazi Officer Johann Schmidt (Weaving), also known as Red Skull, who forced Erskine to give him an imperfect formula of the same serum, resulting in negative effects. After Steve is given the injections, he becomes stronger, faster, taller, and eventually the superhero we know as Captain America. Working alongside Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell), Captain America must bring down Schmidt’s formidable Hydra organization.
There is a great deal of brilliant acting in this film, starting with Chris Evans. He is absolutely perfect as Captain America. We learn from the beginning of the film that Steve Rogers is a selfless and perseverant person, and Evans is able to play this with a level of authenticity that another actor may not have been able to bring (it’s hard to imagine that Evans was reluctant to take the role!). Stanley Tucci is flawless in his role as Dr. Abraham Erskine, the first person in the film to give Steve recognition for his golden attitude. The two have great chemistry as mentor and mentee, and Tucci does a convincing German accent, really showing off his flexibility as an actor. Hugo Weaving deserves recognition – but mostly because he makes a basic villain memorable. Red Skull is just your run-of-the-mill bad guy fueled by his hunger for power – although by making him a Nazi even more feared than Hitler, Marvel does turn him into quite a formidable foe. Still, The First Avenger is not a movie you should watch for its villain. See this one for the hero.
To watch this film, you really need to be alert and attentive – it’s a long movie. I would have liked it more had it been trimmed down a bit. Some of the scenes in the film feel excessive, and at times the plot can drag. A good portion of the film is an origin story, and on top of that Johnston includes a supervillain with a diabolical plan – both of which add up the time. Surely, some of the scenes could have been shortened.
The visual effects for the film are astounding. A lot of work was done on Steve’s pre-serum body, and it really shows. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought that Chris Evans was actually a twig. The CGI for Red Skull is also very well done – his face is terrifyingly lifelike. The overall cinematography, coupled with the consistently mature visual effects make for a stunning picture.
The bottom line for The First Avenger is that it makes you think, and it’s a film that can spark conversation – there’s just a lot to talk about (seriously, I had to cut so much out of this review). Above all, The First Avenger is a success for the MCU and it sets up a solid foundation for the Captain America franchise.