Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring:  Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell
IMDB: Captain America

Why I wanted to watch it: I never read the comics and didn't know much about Captain America before watching the movie, but I have been enjoying the Marvel Studios films so far. A close friend was mine scored tickets from the local Preston and Steve radio show so I was able to see it yesterday, Wednesday 7/20! It was pretty cool to watch the movie a day before it showed at the San Diego comic con and two days before the general release.

Plot Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into the superhero Captain America.


When the comic book character Captain America was first created in 1941 he was essentially propaganda. The cover of the first issued featured Cap punching Hitler! Coming into this movie I was curious as to how it would address the propaganda aspect, especially since it was set in the WWII era. It would be easy to ignore this part of the character's past in a movie meant for modern audiences, but Captain America's past as a propaganda tool is not only admitted, but embraced as a part of history. The fantastic mock-propaganda scene in the movie was brilliantly written and the perfect way to handle this issue and then move forward with the character. While Captain America still fights Nazis, his real nemesis is Hydra, a division of the Nazis which rises against them and tries to take over the world.
I loved retro 1940s setting (and costumes!) and it felt like a throwback to the adventure serials of the 1930s thru 1950s, in the same vein of Star Wars or more appropriately in this case, Indiana Jones. With Nazis after ancient supernatural artifacts, it felt more like an Indiana Jones movie than the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! Oh an I even noticed a Wilhelm scream! Director Joe Johnston did special effects work on Raiders of the Lost Ark and the original Star Wars trilogy. Johnston also directed the retro action movie The Rocketeer as well as several others such as Jumanji and October Sky.

I liked the cinematography, especially the scenes shot in the mountains. The acting was good by the entire cast, and they hit the perfect tone as the film is humorous yet never silly. Tommy Lee Jones does his best John Wayne as the Colonel! Unlike most comic book movies, the most impressive special effect in Captain America was not in an action scene but that Chris Evans was really made to seem like a short 90 pound weakling. This was a great contrast to his tall, muscled self after the transformation. Alan Silvestri, one of my favorite film composers, conducts yet another solid score.

Captain America does a good job of show don't tell. We learn about the character mainly through his actions such as getting the flag and jumping on a (fake) grenade
. This told us about the character by watching him in action. His call to serve is because of the death of his parents, although this isn't told directly but inferred. There was a scene where the scientist tells Steve Rodgers about the Red Skull's back-story, but its need to know information with some cool imagery, and not everything is given away at the moment.

Besides the propaganda, I was curious as to how the movie would handle Bucky, Captain America's teenage sidekick. I won't give any spoilers, but the film re-invents the character in the clever way. The love interest, Peggy Carter, was perfectly integrated into the plot. Unlike in Thor, the romance did not feel thrown together like an afterthought and made you care if they would get together or not.
Tony Stark's father, Howard Stark, is a minor character in the film. Like Peggy, he fits into the story perfectly and isn't just put in to please the fans. Stan Lee has yet another good cameo which I won't spoil, so keep an eye out for it! Overall Captain America puts its characters first and action second, which all good action movies should do. You truly care for the characters which raises the stakes for the action scenes. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is an interesting villain since he makes the Nazis not seem quite as bad(!) and to some extent is the dark version of Captain America.

I saw Captain America in 3-D. I didn't have a choice since it was a free advance screening. I am guessing that it was in 3-D to prevent people from recording the showing. Apparently it was converted from 2-D but the visual effects were filmed in true 3-D. This makes sense as after awhile I forgot I was watching it in 3-D. However, I did flinch when Captain America threw his shield because it looked like it was coming right at me! Other people in the theater said they flinched at that part too. While the 3-D was fine, it was unnecessary for this movie. If you get the chance to see it, watch it in 2-D. Since I saw this in advance there was no after credits scene which was a bit of a disappointment. Apparently the general release will feature the scene so wait until after the credits! Edit: I saw it again this weekend and the scene is there. Enjoy the teaser for The Avengers!

While I really liked the movie, there were some things I didn't like or felt could have been improved. The opening scene should have been placed where it would be chronologically in the film. I can see why it was put at the beginning, but this made the final act of the movie less tense since you kinda knew what would happen.
This is kind of nit picking but the female lead is British yet in the U.S. army. This is acknowledged in the movie so I know its not a goof, but it is never explained. I know that this is Steve Rodger's story, but I thought it was going to have something to do with the plot. I felt like this was set-up for a reason and was expecting a pay-off that never came. Since her being British was never followed up on, why make her British at all? I am guessing that this was explained in a deleted scene.
The cosmic cube wasn't explained enough and I only know its name because I asked a friend who knew what it was from the comics. Apparently the cosmic cube is going to play a huge role in The Avengers (2012) so I can understand why the cube wasn't discussed much, but I think a little more explanation would have been nice.

Closing Thoughts: Overall Captain America is the perfect set-up for The Avengers, but also stands alone at the same time. Right now I would say that Captain America is the second best Marvel Studios movie behind Iron Man and ahead of Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor.


  1. This movie captures the the spirit of not only Captain America, but the spirit of a people who were ready to make the sacrafices necessary for freedom. I can understand why cynical critics would recoil at Captain America as a symbol in this move. But this is a testament to the movie, which shows the true depth of the character in a very realistic way

  2. Thanks for the comment Netherland! I agree that the writers did a good job of creating the character of Captain America unlike other films that just focus on action scenes.

  3. In the movie what capture me that most is the man before he became captain america. he has a solid brave pure heart. have you seen how he covered the fake bomb? he dedicated his life for the sake of his comrade. also he is talented, why? have you seen how he get the flag? nice right?

    Sig: Andrew | cheap shirts

  4. Hi Andrew! You make a good point that Steve Rodgers was mentally and emotionally prepared to become Captain America before his physical transformation. This isn't always the case in superhero comics or movies. Thanks for the comment!