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Captain America: The First Avenger

 Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Haley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Sebastian Stan

Review of Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America (Steve Rogers / Chris Evans) rescues soldiers from Hydra including his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Shaw)
Captain America (Steve Rogers / Chris Evans) rescues soldiers from Hydra including his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Shaw)

First and foremost, I’d like to point out the obvious: Captain America: The First Avenger works because of Steve Rogers. Long before his transformation, he’s a likeable character that the entire audience is rooting for. He’s also multi-dimensional.

  • He longs to join the Army, dreaming of serving with his dead father’s unit. But he’s physically incapable.
  • He wants to join the fight against Nazi Germany. But he can’t pass the physical.
  • He’s attempted to join in multiple cities — telling us that he’s determined.
  • He’s motivated to stop the Nazis. Not by hatred. It’s as simple as, “I don’t like bullies.”
  • He’s intelligent. Once he’s in boot camp, his fellow soldiers are trying to use physical strength to fetch a flag. He uses his brain. And wins.
  • His reward for that is a ride in a jeep back to camp with the lovely Peggy Carter. And this is the longest conversation that the shy young man’s had with a woman.
  • He has heart. He’s the only person in his boot camp squad to jump on a “live” grenade.

Editorial review of DVD — €“ Captain America — €“ the First Avenger (2011), courtesy of Amazon.com

Captain America "captured" by Hydra agents during World War Ii
Captain America “captured” by Hydra agents during World War Ii

The Marvel Comics superhero Captain America was born of World War II, so if you’re going to do the origin story in a movie you’d better set it in the 1940s. But how, then, to reconcile that hero with the 21st-century mega-blockbuster The Avengers, a 2012 summit meeting of the Marvel giants, where Captain America joins Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk and other super pals? Stick around, and we’ll get to that. In 1943, a sawed-off (but gung-ho) military reject named Steve Rogers is enlisted in a super-secret experiment masterminded by adorable scientist Stanley Tucci and skeptical military bigwig Tommy Lee Jones. Rogers emerges, taller and sporting greatly expanded pectoral muscles, along with a keen ability to bounce back from injury.

Chris Evans

Steve's new muscles are appreciated by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)
Steve’s new muscles are appreciated by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)

In both sections Rogers is played by Chris Evans, whose sly humor makes him a good choice for the otherwise stalwart Cap. (Benjamin Button-esque effects create the shrinky Rogers, with Evans’s head attached.) The film comes up with a viable explanation for the red-white-and-blue suit — €˜n’ shield — €“Rogers is initially trotted out as a war bonds fundraiser, in costume — €“and a rousing first combat mission for our hero, who finally gets fed up with being a poster boy. Director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman) makes a lot of pretty pictures along the way, although the war action goes generic for a while and the climax feels a little rushed.

Hugo Weaving

Kudos to Hugo Weaving, who makes his Nazi villain a grand adversary (with, if the ear doesn’t lie, an imitation of Werner Herzog’s accent). If most of the movie is enjoyable, the final 15 minutes or so reveals a curious weakness in the overall design: because Captain America needs to pop up in The Avengers, the resolution of the 1943 story line must include a bridge to the 21st century, which makes for some tortured (and unsatisfying) plot developments. Nevertheless: that shield is really cool. — €”Robert Horton


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