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Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger
In 2011, Joe Johnston released Captain America: The First Avenger, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Joe Simon. Starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kenneth Choi, the film grossed $370.6 million at the box office. Nominated for multiple awards, including the MTV Movie Award for Best Hero, the Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Music, Best Production Design, Best Costume, and Best Special Effects, and the Scream Awards for The Ultimate Scream, Best Science Fiction Movie, Best Science Fiction Actress, Best Science Fiction Actor, Best Villain, Best Supporting Actor, Breakthrough Performance – Female, Fight Scene of the Year, Best 3-D Movie and Best Comic Book Movie, the film won the Scream Award for Best Superhero, the BMI Film & TV Award Film Music Award and the Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Composition in a Feature Motion Picture.
During World War II, Steve Rogers constantly gets rejected in his attempts to enlist in the United States Army. However, he volunteers for a secret government program which will transform him into the epitome of human potential. Turning into Captain America, Rogers goes to war against Nazi Germany and her forces, including the Red Skull who has his own plans to dominate the world.
A good film in which Marvel put part of its foundations for Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The First Avenger is wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable. For one, there’s the plot, a war film that involves a conspiracy by an organization that reaches farther than Hitler ever could in his plans to conquer the world with his master race. Said conspiracy is unearthed, along with its leader the Red Skull, about halfway through the film, causing Captain America and his Howling Commandos to focus their efforts on attacking Hydra bases rather than going after the Nazis. While the film doesn’t have much on the Nazis and the fight against Hitler’s Germany that made Captain America famous in the comics, its focus on taking down HYDRA still worked. It established the character’s legendary hero status, made it so he wasn’t responsible for winning the war, and helped to keep HYDRA’s weapons out of the war for the most part.
Further, Steve Rogers as Captain America makes for a good hero in the film. He’s a guy that wouldn’t take no for an answer when repeatedly rejected while trying to enlist in the army and when asked if he really wants to kill Nazis that badly, he flatly states that he doesn’t want to kill anybody, he’s just against bullies. What’s more is his determination to go against bullies is established in his first scene, when he’s asked if the casualty counts the papers are reporting gives him pause and he just answers that it doesn’t. There’s also the scene where he’s being beaten up behind the movie theater by a guy that kept tormenting others in the theater. He refuses to give up and states he can keep going all day long.
On the other hand, The Red Skull is a great villain and a good foil for Captain America. Rather than being full of good will and wanting to stand up for others, Red Skull is a narcissist who believes that he’s not bound by humanity’s rules and that he’s essentially a god. His introduction includes shooting a man guarding the Tesseract and ordering the tanks under his command to shell the guardian’s village for no reason other than he just wants the village shelled. Also, where Captain America sticks to the orders of his superiors, for the most part, and fights for the greater good of his country and the world, Red Skull betrays his superiors and uses HYDRA for his own goals and shows no concern for anyone other than himself, going so far as to killing one of his own men for just for surviving the raid of a HYDRA base and activate the self-destruct sequence at the base he’s at, even if his own men will be killed when it goes off. Where Captain America takes a stand to fight for the little guy because he hates bullies, Red Skull takes a stand to fight for himself because he is the bully.