Captain America: The First Avenger

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"I know you don't think I can do this... "

July 30, 2011

Marvel studios have managed to craft some great movies since regaining the rights to their comic properties. As time passed we only dreamed that one day we might get an Avengers movie on the big screen. Piece by piece the movies fell into place introducing each member of the Avengers team. Captain America has the biggest weight on its shoulders serving as not only an introduction but prequel to the big one. Is the weight too much for poor Steve Rogers to bare.

I've always been a fan of Captain America. He is one of the most recognizable of the marvel cannon with an iconic costume and an unwavering sense of justice. Cap (I'll refer to him as this from now on as its also the initials of our site) is the closest thing marvel has to superman a true patriot. I know its strange for a Englishman to associate with a symbol for America but Cap is more than that. The love of ones country is commendable but that brings with it the flaws of said country. The new movie has a line of dialog which sums up the character perfectly "I don't want to kill anybody. I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from" that is a statement that anybody no matter where they're from can get behind.

Batman will always be my favorite superhero but his success has tainted all other superhero movies. All our heroes now are dark and brooding. They all have flaws and aspects that make them human. But a super hero should be someone we look up to, someone who we aspire to be like. That's what Captain America and Superman embody so well.

I remember my first experience with Captain America. When I was younger they released a movie in the 90's that I absolutely loved. I liked stories about a man out of his time zone and liked the over the top villain and his unique look. Only the film was critically panned and we never got any sequels (I'll have to revisit it one day it probably was bad). Captain America just seemed to disappear from everywhere but the comics. I keep up following his stories but Cap never had the status he so rightly deserved.

When Marvel studios first announced a Captain America movie I was over the moon. He was one of my favorite marvel characters that most people knew the name of but knew very little of the character. Then the plot details started to emerge. The entire movie was to be set in WW2. As I mentioned before I loved the man out of time aspect to his story so I was a little disappointed. Then I started to be concerned, the WW2 setting was going to alienate viewers it meant Cap was going to have to work harder to gain its audience. I also worried about the whole inter connectivity of the marvel studios universe, the time period setting was going to limit connections which made me question why this was the best film to lead into the Avengers movie.

In a way Captain America: The first Avenger is a perfect introduction to the character. The only problem is the timing. This is the wrong movie to end the individual marvel studios movies on.

The story is a relatively simple one. Steve Rogers wants to serve his country by joining the army. Unfortunately Steve fails to meet any criteria with his sickly body. By chance Steve runs across a scientist that offers him the chance to become the worlds first super soldier by taking part in a new experiment. Becoming a symbol of hope for a nation Steve takes on the persona of Captain America (brilliantly explained with out being too vein) and takes on the forces of Hydra and their leader the red skull (who just happens to be worse than Hitler).

The story is great and really crafts a character you can believe in and root for only coming in on the heels of other superhero's everything seems somewhat tame and under whelming. Iron Man, The Hulk and to an extent Thor (not a fan of that movie) were so much larger than life Cap never stood a chance. Captain America should have been the first film released so that events we witnessed escalated from movie to movie.

I wasn't sold on Chris Evans playing Cap on first impressions based of his casting alone. Every role he had played prior was goofy and comical and Captain America needed a far more serious edge to him. I also hate the fact that Marvel productions have the need to reuse the same actors in different roles time and time again. Chris Evans was a perfect Johnny Storm a character who exists in the same Marvel universe (although Fantastic Four is not a Marvel Studios Production). That said Chris Evens truly shines in the role and embodies Captain Americas spirit perfectly. Despite being portrayed by the same actor Johnny Storm and Captain America are completely different entities, well done Chris.

The acting here was top notch and everyone put in stellar performances (which is more than can be said for the Thor movie). Haley Atwell as Peggy was a perfect love interest and made the inevitable ending all the more heart brakeing. Hugo Weaving is fine as the Red Skull and its great to see such an iconic villain done justice on screen he really is a far more menacing villain that those that have come before him (I'm looking at Loki) One person alone though stole the show and that was Tommy Lee Jones as colonel Phillips. I knew he was in the movie but I had no idea how significant a part he played. Every line he delivers is golden and he has some truly laugh out loud moments. Which actually leads me to point out how funny this movie is which is perfectly balanced with the serious tone of events (it is a wartime piece).

The special effects were impressive on the whole but there were a few moments that truly screamed CGI effect. The making Steve Rogers look weak and Sickly were good but a couple of the long shots took you out of the story.One other effect I have to question is when Captain America blows up a tank that is rendered 10 times a plausible size. I have no idea what they were thinking the audience I was with laughed out loud at how silly it looked and I cant disagree.

The main problems with the feature come from its Titanicesque story structure. All comic fans know where Captain Americas story is destined and I'm actually free to discuss this with out it being a spoiler as the movie address this in the opening moments of the film which I feel really is a mistake. The Captain America story begins in present day which I was actually quite shocked at. I expected this to be tacked on at the end as an epilog piece or even as the now famous marvel studios post credit sequence ( people have started to refer to as buttons). This means the whole film is a flashback informing the entire audience where the film will end. It really robs the impact of the final scene for those who don't know the Cap story. That being said due to the stellar performances of all involved you really wish the characters could fight fate.

There where quite a few references to the Marvel universe cannon unfortunately they came of more heavy handed than previously. I loved the subtlety of picking out the references in prior films but the connections were generally mouthed at the camera. From Tony Starks Father to Red skull raving about Odin and the Gods it was disappointing. At least there were a few nods to the comics with the Howling Commandos backing up Captain America on his missions (including Dum Dum Dugan, what a great name). The thing about this group is they are meant to be lead by none other than Nick Fury, its a shame a younger incarnation wasn't present.

The First Avenger also includes a button after the credits but be forewarned its not what we usually get. I was somewhat disappointed even with the awesome content we do get. Before this one we got extra scenes that add to the mythology of the film we just watched while also setting up the larger universe,.Here we got a trailer for the Avengers movie. Theres nothing wrong with it, it was a great teaser but it felt like the wrong place for it.

As I mentioned before this is a good movie and a perfect origin to Captain America its just a poor lead in to the Avengers Movie. Cap is the heart and Soul of the Avengers to be sure but this movie just lacks the same energy of the modern outings. This movie in time will stand as one of the greatest superhero films. The period setting will stop the film from feeling dated and it will have a great DVD life with constant replay ability.

All Marvel studios Movies deserve to be seen on the big screen. The care which has been taken to set up a connected continuity is to be commended and after next years Avengers movie its an event that will never be repeated again. At least not with the same magic and awe. This is a chance to be a part of cinema history and I don't intend to miss a second of it.

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