“Captain America: The First Avenger” is directed by Joe Johnston and it stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America in this fifth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it’s the first if we’re viewing these movies on a linear timeline. This movie is set before all other MCU films, it taking place during a World War II where German scientist Johann Schmidt is using an ancient relic called the “Tesseract” to develop high-tech weapons for the purpose of world domination and now Steve Rogers, after having taken the super-soldier serum, suits up as Captain America to stop him.
Almost immediately, this movie starts out on different footing compared to previous entries in this universe. It’s obviously set during a different era, but we also have a hero in Steve Rogers who’s portrayed much differently. As opposed to Tony Stark and Thor who start out as incredibly arrogant and have to undergo some type of humbling experience, Rogers is already a humbled, yet headstrong person who has a heart of gold and wants to do the right thing. He’s a boy scout, but in the best possible way, wanting to serve his country despite his sickly physical stature, which is brought to life by brilliant CGI that still holds up today. And of course, Rogers’ willing to literally take a grenade to save a life still exists despite his change in physical experience after being given the super-soldier serum. If there’s one thing in this movie that I really appreciate, it’s the character of Steve Rogers.
With Steve Rogers also comes his best friend, Bucky Barnes. They have a legitimately good friendship portrayed onscreen and it’s all the more engaging to watch this friendship when you know just how key of a character Bucky ends up being in this universe. In this movie, though, he does end up joining a seemingly never-ending list of MCU characters who “die” only to come back later in the franchise, but I think that Bucky’s is one of the more important turning points in the universe and he serves his purpose well in this film.
Peggy Carter is also a likable character who has a returning role at certain points in this universe. In fact, I think that the bond between her and Steve Rogers is legitimately well done. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a romance, though. Sure, they kiss at one point and there’s obviously some attraction, but there arises a friendship, one that’s touching in this movie and heartbreaking in future installments.
This is also the MCU film where you really see it start to connect with other MCU films. For instance, we see a younger Howard Stark in this movie and you get a small look at his rise and how he not only became the famed tech mogul that he is, but also a key player in the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D. You also see things such as nods to “Thor” and “The Incredible Hulk” and this is when the MCU really starts to establish itself as the intertwined web of stories that we know it as now.
Director Joe Johnson also does a good job in making this feel like a 1940’s era movie. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this movie looks to be filmed with some type of filter or lighting that gives it a different look compared to other MCU movies, or movies in general. It may be distracting at first, but it’s grown on me and I think it adds its own old-style America feel to it. Johnston also directs the action scenes with skill as we see various set pieces such as a chase through the streets of New York and an all-out assault on a German laboratory. There’s no grand WWII battle scene or anything of that scale, but there didn’t need to be.
My biggest flaw towards this movie is the villain, Red Skull, which is a bummer seeing as how this is Captain America’s arch-nemesis. Hugo Weaving owns every scene he’s in, chewing up the scenery as a conniving German scientist, but the character motivation is just your basic “I will rule the world” scheme and there’s no depth to any of it. Even when he’s finally donning his iconic red skull instead of his human mask, he’s not a very interesting villain. And what’s even weirder is that we don’t even have an officially ruling on if he’s dead or not. In the movie’s climax, he ends up disappearing in a bright flash of light when the Tesseract begins to act up and we don’t know if he died or if he just got warped up into another dimension. I personally believe that he’s dead seeing as how he hasn’t made his return to the MCU as some would hope, but I don’t think we’ll ever have a definitive answer.
The device of having Rogers freeze in a block of ice and be thawed out in the present day is the best that could done seeing as how he has to be apart of the Avengers Initiative in the modern world. This is the final MCU film before “The Avengers” and this movie’s post-credits scene basically says that to the audience. Nick Fury has a mission for Rogers that involves saving the entire world and from then we get out first look at “The Avengers” with a small teaser.
All in all, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a solid introduction to the leader of the Avengers and it does everything it needed to in terms of telling its own story while still hitting all the marks in establishing a shared universe. This movie is actually the beginning of the what many will say is the strongest of the franchises within the MCU and it’s all the more exciting to watch when you think of how it’s expanded in the sequels.
Rating: Full Price!