The holidays allow for a lot of Marvel Movie Marathoning. Up next, probably the most interesting of all the MCU’s wealth of characters, “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Admittedly, as a kid I read about the all American hero on a frequent basis. In the ‘80s, to me he was nothing special; a guy with a shield, dressed like the flag who was very agile. Not many surprises were left for him to discover on the page. However, in his first film, Chris Evans, as Steve Rogers the weakling yearning to join the US Army during World War II and kill Nazis is inspiring.
Director Joe Johnston ably shows a character before revealing all the goodies. A fantastic special effect of downsizing Evans to a gaunt 95 pounds allows the motivation to become a hero all the more convincing. Following a series of being bullied and being rejected for service, Rogers is given the opportunity to become a lab rat for a “Super Soldier” experiment that will award him with instant fighting skills and strength. Stanley Tucci plays the doctor looking for the right candidate. Why Rogers? Because he sees he has the heart of a man only wishing to do well unto others. The experiment is a success before it becomes sabotaged, but Tommy Lee Jones, representative of the Army, is not entirely convinced, and Cap only elevates himself to the role of a character logo, forced to sell the idea of buying war bonds across the country and entertaining the troops overseas. A rescue mission finally comes calling, and the boy in blue dons the shield and shows the world who he is and what he stands for.
Chris Evans is great in this part as a guy always on a path of “do good.” Never emoting cockiness, never in service for himself and never one to surrender to illogical and immoral mindsets. This is how Captain America should always be portrayed, a man who stands for the good of country and as the MCU films continue on, the good of the world and, well heck, lets just say the good of the galaxy. With his perfect haircut and clean shaven face, Evans never shies away from that platform.
Tucci is so good in a role that will never define his career. His brief appearance shows no hint of him being in a comic book movie. That’s a huge compliment. He takes the role of a German doctor seriously. He’s the scientist but film allows a nice scene for him with Evans showing that he is more so a friend. When his part exits the film, you miss him.
Finally, the MCU gets the female role right following the dismissive nature of characters like Pepper Potts (“Iron Man”), Betty Ross (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Jane Foster (“Thor”). Special Agent Peggy Carter played by the awesome discovery of Hayley Atwell makes the role her own. She performs the role like it is written, never relying on the title character for her cues. Atwell shows determination to stand out as a woman among a sea of men and never regarding herself as any different from those said men. She has some great scenes with Tommy Lee Jones debating the purpose and importance of Rogers. By the end of the film, you are not just paying attention to the fate of Evans’ character, but Atwell’s as well. Peggy Carter is written so well, you could write a TV series about her. Wait….hold on…. anyway I digress. Hayley Atwell remains the best female character of the MCU above those we’ve seen already at this point, as well as ahead of those to come in future installments.
The villain is really just a villain with Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull. The character looks great; looks just like the source material. He’s one bad dude, but not much to him. He stands to be more powerful than Hitler, yada yada yada.
Joe Johnston directs a film with salutes towards director Steven Spielberg. Try to convince me that the opening scene is not reminiscent of the opening to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Indiana Jones seems to sprinkled about as well. Johnston doesn’t try to get cute with experimental camera shots and blurry CGI action. I think because he follows a paint by numbers approach to this film, it is all the better. He offers lots of good back story to Steve Rogers role, he gives a large cast of characters their own moments to stand out (like Bucky Barnes and the Howling Commandos) and he keeps Captain America likable and a guy to cheer for; a guy to be thankful for.