Captain America: The First Avenger Movie Review
Captain America Movie Review - Shields Up!!
Once again, with "Captain America: The First Avenger," Marvel Studios proves that it has the winning formula when it comes to making quality comic book films. It may have been from watching some of the previously made and extremely horrible "Captain America" films, which the SyFy channel was running a marathon of the week before the movie premiere, but I did go into this movie with some trepidation.
To begin, "Captain America", who always seemed a little too wholesome and apple pie for my taste, was never one of my favorite characters. Also, I did not initially care for the casting of Chris Evans to play Cap. After playing the immature and wise cracking "Johnny Storm," in the Fantastic Four films, I did not think that Evans was a good choice to play the more serious and straight-laced Captain America.
Fortunately, my concerns were completely off base. The new "Captain America" movie does a great job weaving together a superhero origin movie with a World War II period adventure film, and Chris Evans does a fantastic job in his portrayal of the title character.
Captain America Movie - Info
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips
Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt / Red Skull
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan
Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
Sebastian Stan as James "Bucky" Barnes
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Studio: Marvel Studios
Run Time: 124 minutes
Captain America Movie - Official Trailer
Captain America Movie - the Story
* * SPOILER WARNING * *
The movie begins in the present time somewhere in the Arctic, with two government agents (presumably S.H.I.E.L.D. agents) arriving at the site of a very large aircraft found frozen under the ice. After getting inside, the two agents discover a red, white, and blue shield frozen in the ice.
The film then jumps back to 1942, where we are introduced to Nazi officer Johann Schmidt, who is the head of the Nazi's science division called HYDRA, and along with a small army, is invading a castle in Norway. Therein, Schmidt recovers a mysterious cube filled with unknown energies, which he believes came from the Norse gods. Meanwhile, in New York, Steve Rogers is rejected for military duty for multiple health reasons, not to mention having the physique of a 10-year old girl.
During a trip with his best friend, Sgt. James "Bucky" Barnes, to a World's Fair type exhibition being put on by Howard Stark (father of Tony Stark), Rogers finds another recruitment center and attempts to enlist again. When Barnes tries to talk Rogers out of it, Dr. Abraham Erskine overhears them and is impressed with Rogers' character and conviction to serve his country. Dr. Erskine then recruits Rogers to be part of a squad of soldiers, from which one will be chosen to be the first in a "super-soldier" program.
During his training as part of the super-soldier program, Rogers meets a female British officer, named Peggy Carter, as well as Howard Stark, who are both working with Dr. Erskine. Although the officer in charge of the program, Col. Chester Philips, does not initially believe in Rogers, after Rogers proves his bravery by jumping on what he believes is a live grenade, he is chosen for the experiment.
On the night before the experiment, Rogers learns from Dr. Erskine that when Erskine was still in Germany, he was forced by the Nazis to use his serum on Schmidt, before it was ready, and while it made Schmidt faster and stronger, it also brought out the evil inside him. Thereafter, Schmidt became known as the "Red Skull." Dr. Erskine tells Rogers that he chose him because he knew the serum would similarly bring out the natural good inside of him. The next day, the experiment is a success, as the previously small-framed Rogers emerges tall and muscular after being injected with Dr. Erskine's super-soldier serum and being doused with "vita-rays."
The Story (continued)
The successful experiment is overseen by several military officers, along with U.S. Senator Brandt, and a U.S. State Department employee, named Fred Clemson. However, immediately afterwards, Dr. Erskine is assassinated by Clemson, who reveals himself to be an undercover HYDRA agent. Clemson flees, but after a lengthy chase, is apprehended by Rogers. However, Clemson immediately commits suicide with a cyanide pill to avoid interrogation.
Due to the fact that the secret formula of Dr. Erskine's super-soldier serum was only known to him, the program is shut down following his death. However, Senator Brandt recruits Rogers to don a red, white, and blue costume and tour the country as "Captain America" to promote the sale of war bonds to help fund the war. However, at a show for U.S. soldiers in Italy, Rogers learns that his friend Bucky was part of a group of soldiers that was captured by the Red Skull, and convinces Carter and Stark to fly him behind enemy lines for a solo rescue mission.
Rogers successfully infiltrates the HYDRA base where Barnes is being held, and after a short confrontation with the Red Skull, who escapes, Rogers is able to rescue Barnes and other soldiers. Rogers and the soldiers also return with some of the high tech weapons that Schmidt and his right hand man, Armin Zola, had successfully imbued with energy from the cube. Thereafter, Col. Philips allows Rogers to put together a squad to help him seek out and destroy the remaining HYDRA bases, the locations of which he learned during his rescue mission.
After Stark provides Rogers with an updated Captain America uniform, along with a circular shield made from a nearly indestructible metal, Rogers and his squad take out all but one of HYDRA's bases. In order to find the location of the final base, which Rogers did not know, he and Barnes board a moving train, which they learned is transporting Zola. Although this turns out to be a trap for Captain America, he is able to successfully capture Zola, who subsequently gives up the location of the final HYDRA base.
Rogers then leads his team to take down the final base. During the battle, Rogers boards a large aircraft in pursuit of the Red Skull, who is planning to destroy multiple U.S. cities using bombs and smaller aircraft powered by the cube's energies. In a climactic battle with the Red Skull, the Skull attempts to use the cube's energies, but is seemingly disintegrated into light that shoots into space, while the cube melts through the hull and falls to Earth. Rogers then crashes the disabled plane in the Arctic before it can reach the U.S., sacrificing himself, and is later declared killed in action. In the concluding scene, Rogers wakes up and learns from S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury that he was asleep for 70 years.
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Captain America Movie - the Good
Director, Joe Johnston, did a fantastic job creating the look and feel of the 1940s and the World War II era, while at the same time mixing in advanced technology that despite the time period did not seem out of place. It is evident that Johnston's prior experience as the Art Director on two of the Indiana Jones films, and his direction of "The Rocketeer," which also took place in that era, served him well here. The authenticity of the 1940s settings and costumes really hits home in the final scene when Captain America finds himself standing in disbelief looking around the present day New York Times Square.
As for the acting, the entire cast does a great job starting with Chris Evans. I was surprised by how well Evans owned the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America. He seemed to have a strong understanding of the character, and portrayed him true to form, without making him seem hokey or campy in any way. While he did not portray Rogers as completely humorless, there was no trace of the wise-cracking and cocky characters that Evans has made a career of portraying in the past.
Hugo Weaving tapped into some of his inner "Agent Smith" leftover from the "Matrix" films to perfectly portray the sinister and intimidating Red Skull. Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci provided their typical strong performances, as well as some humorous lines, as the gruff Col. Chester Philips, and the wistful Dr. Abraham Erskine, respectively. Hayley Atwell also did a fine job as Peggy Carter, who's character was a nice change from the norm, by never falling into the damsel in distress role, and actually one-upping Rogers on a couple occasions.
I also enjoyed Sebastian Stan's portrayal of Cap's best friend, Bucky Barnes, who is confident and formidable in his own right, and not simply a useless "sidekick." Also notable are Dominic Cooper's portrayal of a young and cocky Howard Stark, and Neal McDonough's "Dum Dum" Dugan, who flawlessly pulls off the character complete with mustache and bowler hat.
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The Good (continued)
While not a special effects extravaganza, whatever effects they used in the film to make Chris Evans look like an emaciated 90 lb weakling, about a foot and a half shorter than his actual size, was incredible. Also, unlike the prior campy film attempts, the new Captain America film actually managed to create a scary looking Red Skull.
As for action, once Rogers finally made the transformation to Captain America, there was plenty of great action filled battle sequences. There were also some impressive fight scenes, where Cap showed off his patented shield slinging abilities, which I went in thinking might look cheesy, but actually looked great in the film. I also appreciated that the movie appeared to rely on a lot of live action stunts, and not as much on CGI to deliver great action scenes. I especially liked the train siege scene, where Cap and Bucky zip-lined on to a moving train making its way through snow capped mountains. Also, the chase scene where Rogers, immediately after his transformation, jumps into action to apprehend Dr. Erskine's assassin was exciting, and nicely showed off the extent of Rogers' new abilities.
Finally, I loved all of the Marvel movie-verse references that were included, like the cosmic cube used by the Red Skull, which was seen at the end of the "Thor" film, as well as having Howard Stark (Tony Stark/Iron Man's father) play such an intricate role in Captain America's origin. I hope that Rogers' relationship with Tony's father is touched on between the characters in "The Avengers" film. Nick Fury's appearance in the final scene of the movie was also welcome, and for all those wondering, the post-credits scene is actually a full-blown trailer for the upcoming Avengers film, which looked absolutely fantastic.
Captain America Movie - the Bad
There was not a whole lot that I didn't like about this movie. However, like most superhero origin films there is a bit of a long exposition leading up to the point where Rogers is finally transformed by the super-soldier serum in to Captain America. Then after teasing us with a short action filled chase scene, where Rogers apprehends the assassin who killed Dr. Erskine, the movie falls in to a lull again when Rogers becomes a USO war bonds promoter. Luckily, the story and characters are strong enough and interesting enough to carry the film through its slower moments.
Also, I know that the super-soldier serum transformed Rogers to the peak of human perfection, with strength, speed, and durability to match, but the movie did not really explain how Rogers all of a sudden appeared to be an expert in unarmed combat and was able to throw his shield with such expert accuracy. I thought they could have cut out some of the war bonds promotion scenes, which seemed to drag for a while, and included some scenes after his transformation, showing Rogers actually being trained to become a "super-soldier."
"Captain America: The First Avenger" is a fun summer movie that doesn't come off as your typical superhero flick. The film delivers all of the necessary superhero origin elements, while at the same time providing a highly entertaining adventure movie, which has a sense of pulpy nostalgia with its 1940s era setting and Nazi bad guys. With a great cast that delivers across the board and fine directing by Joe Johnston, "Captain America" makes it three quality superhero films in a row for Marvel Studios, and I only wish "The Avengers" movie could get here sooner.
4 out of 5 stars
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