A superhero film set in during World War II, a hero with a big heart, and the drive to help anyone that he can. In a nutshell that’s what I love about Captain America: The First Avenger. I would stop there, but I can’t end this review in just 37 words. The First Avenger tells us the story of Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), a man who wants to “help the little guy”. He tries to enlist in the Army and fight in the war, but he’s too frail, sickly, and weak to do anything. Luckily, he gets a chance; a chance at being the world’s first Super Soldier. He becomes the Star Spangled Man with a plan, a symbol of peace, Captain America!
The First Avenger gives a look at Marvel past. Every film after this is set in the present or relatively close to it. We have a great supporting cast with Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Tommy Lee Jones (Col. Chester Phillps), and Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark); as well as solid antagonists in Hugo Weaving (Red Skull) and Toby Jones (Arnim Zola). The star of the film is, of course, Chris Evans, Steve Rogers himself. He embodies the role of Captain America the same way Christopher Reeves did with Superman or Hugh Jackman Wolverine. He brings this earnestness to the character others probably couldn’t pull off. He’s the nicest guy in the room and wants to help the best he can. A person everyone wants to be.
Seeing the MCU from a different point of view is a good shift in tone from the previous films. The movie is shot with a light grainy sepia tint giving it this older vibe that really works. While there’s a lot to love about The First Avenger there’s still a few things holding it back from becoming one of the great superhero films.
The film knows that we need to get Steve to become Captain America, fight the Red Skull, and arrive in the present day for upcoming Avengers film. We need to get all of this done within two hours. So the film tries to cut corners, and while it doesn’t ruin the film it never reaches its full potential. For example, there’s a montage where Captain America and the Howling Commandoes are fighting Red Skull’s army. We see the numerous adventures of Cap and company flash before our eyes, and while it’s done well we never really feel like the good guys are winning or the bad guys are losing. I would have loved to have an entire trilogy set in this time period. Captain America fight off Hydra, Baron Zemo, and the Red Skull would’ve been plenty of material for three films. Further establishing the battle between Cap and his greatest enemy. Instead, we get this montage that glosses over the tales that probably should have seen. Thankfully, once the third act kicks off the film gets back on track.
Captain America: The First Avenger might not be a groundbreaking masterpiece, but it’s still a fantastic film. The hero is inspiring, the actors are all great, and the story is one pretty much anyone will enjoy.