- Damien Francis
Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed: Joe Johnston
M: Action Violence
The First Avenger takes a look at one of the earliest eras of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Captain America took on the Nazis and their science research division, Hydra.
A film that is part origin story, part period piece and part superhero adventure.
The movie is quite good, telling a solid story and origin of potentially one of the MCU’s most beloved characters. In such an early time in the MCU, it is easy to see some of the problems they had before settling into their current rhythm. However, as both a stand-alone film and setting up future events, it delivers in both areas.
The strongest part of the film is by far Chris Evans as Captain America. As ‘just a kid from Brooklyn’, Chris Evans delivers as the selfless hero, Captain America. Despite being transformed from a scrawny man into a near-perfect super soldier, he remains the same person inside and his heroics don’t really come from his new abilities and more from within himself. His new abilities simply allow him to achieve those end results he couldn’t perform before.
We are also introduced to Peggy Carter, who is a brilliant addition as she is more a character in her own right than simply his love interest. James Buchanan Barnes, AKA Bucky, is also a great addition as the friendship between himself and Steve Rogers feels real and grounded.
The villain, Red Skull, (played by Hugo Weaving) is also very charismatic and his red face is certainly memorable. Both he and his second in command, Arnim Zola, are quite decent villains with respectable goals and truly evil intents. As both are Nazis they are already evil, but they outdo the typical Nazi by going even further and seeking to even remove the Nazis from their plans. The introduction of their organisation, HYDRA, is recognised by the skull on an octopus logo and the mantra of ‘cut off one head, two more shall take its place’ really begins to make you feel like they might never be stopped. Although nothing as truly awesome as other superhero villains, they are not the worst and tread somewhere just above average.
The action is quite good if a bit generic at times. There are certainly those great moments of Captain America kicking and punching enemies and seeing them fly backwards or using his shield in its first display of improbably physics.
There is no fight scene that really stands out as something special. Instead, the wartime action is the highlight, with the reality of death in war and grittier guerrilla tactics taking precedence over slick action scenes.
The origin story is unique as it looks at the first 'superhero' through the lens of WW2. While it does take a while to get off the ground, it uses those early moments to strengthen the character of Steve Rogers. The story does still feels like it lags a bit before finally gearing up when Captain America officially sets his sights on stopping the Red Skull and HYDRA. However, it doesn't drag on too much either and feels reasonably balanced.
In comparison with the rest of the MCU, this movie sets up several important features for later use, the Infinity Stone being the largest universal continuation, Bucky as Steve's best friend and even the Red Skull and Arnim Zola. This movie is quite significant for both the wider MCU and the next slate of Captain America films.
The humour is lower by Marvel standards, with only a few pieces here and there. Its focus remains on story, Captain America and the war. This isn’t a detracting feature and instead the less humour in this film actually helps it feel a bit more real (which seems to be what they are trying to go for) and less ridiculous sci-fi/fantasy as the rest of the Marvel pantheon.
The only points that don’t help the film is the use of an Infinity Stone McGuffin and the subsequent shift in story to revolve around it. This is the official first introduction of an Infinity Stone in the MCU (the Tesseract, or Space Stone) and while it is quite cool to see the blend of science, magic and futuristic weapons in WW2, it just feels a bit too much and takes away from the attempt at feeling like a real war.
As mid-credits and post-credits scenes go, Cap has both a very important, but also a very generic scene. The first exploring his introduction into the new world and the latter it merely a trailer for the Avengers film, which is slightly disappointing.
The ending is quite powerful without resorting to cliché storytelling tropes as sacrifice takes the main focus.
As the 5th entry into the MCU and the first Captain America film in the same universe, it holds its ground quite well. It rarely slips up and delivers a solid movie. Not the MCU’s best, but nowhere near its worst.
7 out of 10 stars.