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Movie Review: "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Updated on August 20, 2014
3.5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Captain America: The First Avenger
Poster for "Captain America: The First Avenger".
Poster for "Captain America: The First Avenger".

DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is the latest comic book superhero brought to life on the big screen (again) in this seemingly never-ending comic book movie phase that Hollywood has been stuck in ever since the start of the 21st century. Set in World War II, this is the story of Steve Rogers, a short and very thin man whose heart and mind are larger than life. He yearns to join the ranks of war and help defeat the vicious nazis but his physical state is holding him back from passing the medical portion.

That all changes when he meets the right doctor who eavesdrops on his plight -- A scientist who is working on a serum that would create 'super soldiers'. It can increase one's physical strength, speed, and endurance. Steve Rogers becomes the guinea pig for this experiment and what a successful experiment it turns out to be for him (but not exactly for the audience). At the same time, one of Adolf Hitler's top agents, the Red Skull, is developing his advanced weaponry technology to help the nazis take over the world.

Let's start with the positive. "Captain America: The First Avenger" is beautifully shot and, more than often enough, you can pretty much make out what is going on during the action scenes (i.e. no shaky cam B.S.). It's got high production value and it's edited very well. The first half of the movie focuses on Steve Rogers' predicament and his transformation into Captain America. This portion of the film is perhaps the best part about it.

As for the second half, everything just seems tacked on. So Captain America dons his new outfit and weapons, then he and his team go and bust every Hydra weapons factory across Europe. That's basically the rest of the movie in a nutshell.

Captain America or Captain Power?

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is a superhero movie that is set during World War II. However, because it is a superhero movie, that indicates that there is some science fiction and fantasy element lurking somewhere in the mix. In fact, there's way too much of it in this movie. Now, there's nothing wrong with "Captain America: The First Avenger" having a little bit of a sci-fi/fantasy idea to it, but they clearly went overboard with it here.

It would have been one thing if they just introduced the whole super soldier serum that turns Steve Rogers into Captain America and that's it, but following that, we have the Red Skull and his advanced weapons factories which come complete with big guns that shoot blue lasers and lots of futuristic-looking tanks and planes. All that nonsense just takes you out of the whole World War II setting and ruins it. Instead of Captain America, it feels more akin to an episode of "Captain Power" with "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" thrown into the whole mix.

Somebody should have told the filmmakers to chill out with the whole futuristic technology angle here.

Red Skull or Empty Skull?

What can really make or break your superhero movie is a cardboard cut-out villain. Unfortunately, that is what we're dealing with here in "Captain America: The First Avenger". The Red Skull is one of Adolf Hitler's top leading men due to his 'special weapons technology'. He wants to use this technology to help Adolf Hitler take over the world.

That's fine and all, but what's the problem? Well, the problem is... that's it. That's all there is to it. Yep, he just wants to take over the world. You could rename him as Dr. Evil and you'll still end up with the same predictable character. I was expecting him to do the "laugh" at one point. But Is there anything to him beyond that? Sadly, we never get to find out. In this case, we know way more about our hero than we do our villain.

Hugo Weaving does play the part very well with what he is given. His performance is somewhat reminiscent of Colonel Vogel, the villain from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", the look and voice is almost similar. It would have been cool if they had worked a realistic Adolf Hitler into all this, maybe not show his face, but we get to hear his voice or something. Make the connection between these two characters a bit more believable.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" on Amazon

World War II: Rated PG-13

This has got to be the stupidest depiction of World War II in all of cinematic history. Even "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a better depiction and that was a light-hearted flick just like "Captain America: The First Avenger". It's too bad this movie couldn't take a few hints from 'Raiders'. "Captain America: The First Avenger" gives us what I'd like to label as a 'PC' version of World War II.

First and foremost, the iconic Nazi symbol known as the Swastika is nowhere to be found in this movie. Mind you, just because the Red Skull's army is under his 'Hydra' umbrella, he's still working for Adolf Hitler, therefore he and his troops should be sporting the swastika symbol on their uniforms. It's as if the filmmakers were trying to avoid upsetting a certain demographic of people, if you know what I mean.

Then, to make things seem even more retarded, Captain America's team of soldiers consists of an entirely multi-racial cast. There's a Russian guy, a black guy, an Asian guy, and even a stereotypical American white guy. And just for the record, I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but shouldn't a movie set in World War II be expected to stay true to the actual history?

In "Saving Private Ryan", we didn't see any black or Asians helping us fight the nazis now did we? Black people were involved in World War II, yes, but they weren't a major demographic in that war. But I guess since the idiot filmmakers of this movie have already introduced super soldier serums, big laser guns, and futuristic armor, they probably felt that it was okay to change a few more things too.

Cap's Blank Romance

Could "Captain America: The First Avenger" be any more predictable than it is? Apparently so. They even tacked on a love interest for Captain America as an after-thought. Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) is a Science Officer working with the US military on the whole 'Super Soldier' project. Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter don't have any time together in this movie where they actually get to know each other enough to develop the so-called relationship that the story indicates.

It seems she never really paid the guy too much attention until after he was injected with the super soldier serum and became Captain America. After that, it was all a bunch of flirtatious dialogue and business talk -- Whoopie-doo! Captain America's blank romance in this movie is as flat as the villain's empty 'skull'.

What Should Have Been Done

It would have been nice to see World War II superhero movie that was a bit more realistic and not too heavy on sci-fi/fantasy elements. Could you imagine if Christopher Nolan did his own take on Captain America? We would probably get a Red Skull that looks like the flayed human from "Hellraiser", now that would be a mind-blowing Captain America adaptation.


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    • Ironman1992 profile image


      6 years ago

      I thought Captain America was ok, but I didn't like it as much Ironman or the Hulk.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting analysis. Although, I think you might've picked the wrong film to review here, as it seems you left a lot of things out. Don't get me wrong, I do respect your opinion, and I certainly agree that they could've emphasized the Nazis and Red Skull's part a bit more.

      However, the film does explain that although Red Skull is working for Hitler and the Nazis, the Hydra faction was a subdivision that he started in hopes to rise above the Nazis; hence creating his own terrorist faction to surpass Hitler's regime. In other words, he may have been working for Hitler, but he wanted to conquer the world for himself more than anything else.

      As for the multi-racial cast of Cap's crew, you have to keep in mind that Marvel Studios was trying to market this movie to appeal to many countries overseas, as even some of their top executives expressed concerns about that as well. Plus, the last time that i checked, we're not exactly the most popular country in the world, so it makes sense from a marketing perspective.

      As far as how the movie plays out AFTER Steve becomes a super soldier, you have to keep in mind that Marvel Studios has already explicitly said that they wanted to keep the movie open to possible sequels set up during World War II; ala flash back scenes, so they wanted to keep it open to where audiences COULD believe other stuff happened in the movie that wasn't shown. Of course, that could be another reason why Peggy and Steve's romance wasn't fleshed out more, as they're probably saving that for the sequel(s) ;)

      Of course, like you, I think that it's rather pointless, as I think all the Marvel films would've been better if they were geared to be more stand alone franchises versus trying to tie themselves together into one movie verse if that makes sense. However, it's not up to me, nor you, as it's all about just explaining who Cap is, so we can see "The Avengers" on screen. Sure, I'll be the first to admit this film wasn't as great as it could've been, but i thought it was a great movie for what they were trying to accomplish.

      Keep in mind, with Nolan's batman films, they're not geared to be any kind of elaborate set up for a crossover film, as Nolan even said that the movies operate on the assumption that Batman is the only superhero in his respected universe. Whereas Captain America has the obligation of trying to tie itself into Marvel Studios' elaborate movie verse, so you can't expect the same level of story telling that Nolan brings in with Batman.

      I know you're probably asking what does that have to do with anything? Well a lot actually. Take the Cosmic Cube aspect for instance. Supposedly, it's supposed to play a huge part in the upcoming Avengers movie, as it was briefly mentioned in "Thor's" end scene. Therefore, they had to cover that aspect in Cap's film. Not only that, but there have been reports that Nazis used to be fascinated with Norse mythology, so this obviously played a key role in many of Cap's earlier comic books, as the Red Skull did try to attain the Cosmic Cube. And with Marvel Studios wanting to link all their films together, then it's easy to see why this would be introduced into the film. Plus, it was later used as the inspiration for Tony Stark's father to try to create a new source of technology; which would later lead into the creation of Iron Man with Tony Stark.

      Of course, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The point is that you have to understand that Marvel Studios treats their movies like an actual comic book series. Meaning, they won't try to tell you a basic movie series with a beginning, a middle and an end...but rather tell you a series of movies that weave inter-seamlessly with each other that help broaden their respected universes. Whereas Nolan's batman movies, he even admitted that unlike comic books, every film series has to have an ending. Therefore, you can expect a stronger film series from him, as he's not trying to tie batman's history with Superman's story. No, he's just focusing on telling the story of Batman alone. Whereas Joe Johnston is obligated to tie his movie, "Captain America: The First Avenger", into the upcoming Avengers. It's not the same thing.

      Don't get me wrong, I think you make a lot of valid points, and I think you support your arguments rather well. However, I just thought I'd give my two cents on the matter. I do apologize if I'm coming off as rude, or condescending, as I can assure you that's not my intention. Anyway, keep up the good work, and I really enjoyed reading your analysis on this; even though it doesn't seem like we both saw eye to eye on the same movie.


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