Captain America – The First Avenger

Captain America – The First Avenger is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight and it competes with Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2 for being the best Marvel adaptation. It isn’t the smartest movie ever made, not is it terribly original, but what it does, it does very well. It is a crowd-pleasing action movie, which is good enough.

The first portion of the movie consists of the travails of Steve Rogers, portrayed by a digitally altered Chris Evans. Steve is small, weak, and beset with health problems, but his spirit is strong, leading him to fight for decency even when he knows he is going to lose. A research scientist notices this about Rogers and soon he is selected to participate in a top secret project to create a better army. He comes out the other end of it as Captain America.

Evans does good work, especially during this first portion. It’s difficult work, because Captain America, like Superman in DC Comics, is envisioned as being pretty flawless. Still, Evans does great physical acting, making his own body an obstacle in the first half, even after he has grown into it. He finds the humor in odd scenes, but still conveys the sincerity that is trademark Captain America. It helps that he is surrounded by a great supporting cast, including Tommy Lee Jones as a cynical general, Hayley Atwell as his tough broad love interest, and Stanley Tucci as the scientist whose formula transforms him. Hugo Weaving also does good work as his soon-to-be nemesis.

The film does suffer from a bit too much CGI. It is hard to take some of the stunts seriously, as you can see the digital enhancements. However, the look of the movie (aside from these awkward moments) is perfect. The Hydra agents, Cap’s motorcycle, and the shield all look perfect. Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky, looks exactly like a Jack Kirby drawing. There are plenty of Easter Eggs for the observant in this film (though not as many as in X-Men First Class, I gather).

Unfortunately, the movie suffers at the end from a tacked on coda. Just do what I do and pretend that nothing happens after the scene with the garbage can lid. It’s a better ending than the one we wind up with.

If you a looking for a movie where the hero is unabashedly decent and a good role-model, this is your movie. Aside from a bad turn in the last 5-10 minutes, it is good storytelling, serving a propulsive plot. I can’t think of a better movie to take your PG-aged child to this summer.

23 thoughts on “Captain America – The First Avenger

  1. I found X-Men: First Class as one of Marvel’s best (and I’d probably throw in Blade as well). I’m glad this one looks good. I’m curious as to how they handle Red Skull as I hear he’s not strictly a Nazi in this version.

  2. I’ve got moderate hopes for Captain America. I think Chris Evans has the potential to be a really big star. The last couple of Marvel movies (Thor, Iron Man 2) have left me kind of indifferent, but I think this one could be enough to get me excited to see The Avengers.

  3. I think the obligatory Avengers set-up at the end of the recent Marvel movies is really sickening. In a way, it was the worst part of Thor too.

  4. I thought the first Iron Man was the best of the Marvel crop so far (rather than Spiderman 2 or X2 that you list HP).

    I was ambivalent about paying to see this one but might give is a try based on your review.

  5. Finally saw it last night. Good movie but not great. Better than Thor but ultimately about on that plain. The first half is fantastic. The problem is that rather than have a single adventure they wanted to briefly cover the entire war and get him to the 20th century for Avengers. The pacing end up just off – no fault of the director I suspect. Although one can cover long periods of time successfully. (Look at Goodfellas or Inglorious Basterds) But you kind of frequently felt like watching a documentary rather than getting involved in the movie. The director apparently watched Raiders a lot for it but that’s a perfect example of what was missing from the movie. In Raiders you felt like you were along for the Ride. In Captain America you felt almost at times like watching a documentary.

    The first half though is very successful. And ultimately I really enjoyed the movie. The character is great. I just wish they’d done that movie in about 3 movies rather than 1.

  6. We saw it last night and I mostly agree with Clark. It’s moving along at a regular pace, then as soon as Cap gets involved with Hydra, it’s like a best-of reel of the Captains’ Adventures in Europe.

    Chris Evans is perfect.

    Susan, then you won’t be happy with the new Spider-Man. From he trailer we saw last night, it looks like the whole movie is just another version of his origin story, even though the Spider-Man that is ten years old has probably been seen by every single person over the age of seven.

  7. I hate origin stories. If George Lucas did anything right it was to use “in medias res”.

  8. “If George Lucas did anything right it was to use “in medias res.”

    Well, until he decided he needed to go back and create a whole trilogy worth of origin story.

  9. From what I’ve read, the idea that Star Wars was originally Part 4 is pure bunk. It became that later and then the mythology was born. It’s true that he used part of a larger draft of stuff – but honestly even Star Wars was only loosely related and the rest of the series barely at all. (This from Lucas’ collaborator and producer at the time)

    And if you think about it for a second this makes perfect sense. Star Wars ep 4. is purely an origin story of how Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi.

    All that said I do agree too much origin is annoying. Especially with the new Spiderman. I get why they fired the last guy (although Malcovitch as The Vulture would have been awesome) but I don’t get why only a few years after the last one they redo it. Even The Hulk “sequel” didn’t do that.

  10. The words “Episode IV” appear at the beginning of the movie, so how is it that it only became that later?

  11. “The words “Episode IV” appear at the beginning of the movie, so how is it that it only became that later?”

    Pretty sure they didn’t appear in the version I saw in the theaters in 1977.

    Jeez, I’m old.

  12. This interview with Gary Kurtz is probably worth reading for a bit of the history.

    Lucas came up with a sprawling treatment that pulled from “Flash Gordon,” Arthurian legend, “The Hidden Fortress” and other influences. The document would have required a five-hour film but there was a middle portion that could be carved out as a stand-alone movie.

  13. Looks like “Man of Steel” is going to be an origin story as well. Seems like Superman is one that needs it least of all; everyone knows his story.

  14. Plus it’s already been done. I can see doing an origin story if it’s never been done before, but Superman? Come on.

  15. Finally saw Captain America last night and liked it a lot. It might be my favorite of the recent Marvel movies. The tone is perfect, not overly serious, but not silly. The acting is pretty solid and the art direction is great. Chris Evans is a really good Steve Rogers. The ending didn’t bother me, and I didn’t stay for the post-credits Avengers teaser, as I had already seen it online.

  16. Geoff and Greg, I was born in 77. Yep, you’re old.

    It looks like DC comics is redoing Super-man and everything else as well. I recently read an article where Alan Moore complained that the super hero genre ran out of steam and all that is left is fan writers retelling stories. While I’d say that’s only 98% true, I sure wish there was a comic book left that I thought would be worth buying for my daughter.

    All that said, I am oddly optimistic for the Captain America movie.

  17. Sounds like Man of Steele won’t be a typical origin story though. It takes place after he leaves Smallville but before he arrives at Metropolis. I’m intrigued.

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