TBT – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Chris Evans, comic book, films, Marvel, review, superhero, TBT

If it wasn’t for Iron Man 2 then I could safely say that Captain America is my least favourite film in the MCU. I’m not saying it’s the worst but it’s one of the ones I enjoyed the least. Prior to the hero’s first outing under the Marvel films banner, he was a comic book character I cared very little about. I knew about his major stories but, as a British comic book fan, I always found the patriotism too much to handle. Plus, he’s so fucking good and pure. It gets kind of boring you know. I like my heroes to be at least a little bit flawed and not so judgey. Then, of course, Winter Solider went and became one of the best Marvel movies of all time and I had to rethink my opinion on the whole thing. I’m not saying I’m completely head-over-heels about Cap but his trilogy of films is one of the best series of films Marvel has managed to create. So, with that in mind, I decided to rewatch the film that started everything off. Turns out I’d forgotten just how fucking creepy the CGI of tiny Steve actually is. I’m still having nightmares.

Watching this film again now, it becomes much more apparent that this was merely a way to rush forward to The Avengers. The release of Joss Whedon’s sensation was fast approaching and audiences had not yet met the leader of the super hero team. Although that is not to say that it was terrible but it lacked the precision and detail that we had seen in the likes of Iron Man. It feels like more of a nostalgia event than a slick super hero adventure. I guess one could argue that Captain America has always been somewhat camper than his fellow Avengers and the sort of hokey feel is incredibly fitting. Whatever excuses you can muster there is no denying that this is feels the most cartoonish of all the Marvel films to date.

The First Avenger presents the origin story of Captain America (Chris Evans) who started life as a skinny boy from Brooklyn and quickly became a symbol for America during the war. After desperately trying to sign up for the army and being rejected, Steve Rogers has a chance encounter with a scientist who promises to make his dreams come true. With the help of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) turns Steve into the greatest soldier the world has ever seen. Steve is strong, fast and, most importantly, good-hearted. He is quickly paraded in front of the nation to bring hope to the people and lift everyone’s spirits.

Captain America isn’t the big break in army that Steve hopes and the closest he gets to stopping Hitler is punching an actor in the face every night. That is until he discovers his childhood best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and his entire division have been captured by the evil Nazi science division Hydra. When he single-handedly rescues the group Steve is allowed to bring together his best men to stop Hydra’s diabolical schemes. Unfortunately. the Nazi group aren’t just making military grade weapons. Under the leadership of the psychotic Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), Hydra have gone rogue and have their heart set on even more power.

I have to admit, I loved the 1940s setting for this film and would happily have held off on explaining how Steve came to join the Avengers in favour of more Nazi chasing. Some may find the mixture of classic 40s technology with science-fiction weirdness a bit off putting but I absolutely adored everything about the image of a super strong solider fighting a Nazi death ray. This is the kind of great twisting of historic events that has been used so effectively by the likes of The Watchmen and Inglorious Basterds. It’s great and I’d love to see much more of Steve and friends romping around in 1940s Europe.

The films narrative is fairly cohesive in comparison to many comic book movies and  has a fair few interesting twists. We see the progression of an honourable man turned from victim into hero and getting the chance he has strived for. It may be sentimental drivel but, in these hands, Steve’s story is worthy and inspiring. I even find that I can’t disagree with the fairly dicey romance plot because Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is so darn adorable and badass that I see why Steve would fall for her so quickly. The First Avenger isn’t the most engaging or original origin story but it does what it needs to. It sets Cap up as the righteous hero that we will see him be for his next 3 films and tells us that he really fucking loves his best friend. It’s not the most memorable plot but it’ll do.

Much like the film as a whole. It’s enjoyable and, certainly, I found myself liking it more this time than I did after the first viewing. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are both fantastic in their roles and Tommy Lee Jones, as the gruff Colonel, does what he does perfectly. The action is as good as any comic book fan would want and the setting is well realised. However, there is so much here that could be better. Domic Cooper and Sebastian Stan are shunted into the background and not allowed to flourish as such key figures should. Hugo Weaving’s villain is very one-note and clichéd that I’m kind of embarrassed for him. The dialogue is cringey in a way that transcends the whole “getting to grips with the era” thing and there are some weird directorial choices throughout.

This is by no means a terrible film but is a film that, quite clearly hasn’t pushed itself. It needed to do a job and it needed to do it quickly. It goes as far as it needs to and no more. In a manner in keeping with the idea of rationing, each aspect of the film seems to have been pushed only as far as it needed to tell this story with no sense of embellishment or added excitement. It’s as serious as Steve when he’s standing up to a bully but without the depth, sophistication or deft touch as many films in this genre. It will never be my favourite film in the MCU but, as it turns out, it paved the way for many of them.

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