Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers
Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/ The Red Skull
Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips
Sebastian Stan as Agent Bucky Barnes
Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
Of all the Marvel Comics superheroes, perhaps Captain America is the most DC-like. While Marvel tends to used flawed characters like Spider-Man and The Hulk. by contrast, Captain America is a throwback all-American hero who rarely does anything questionable. But since Cap is literally a “man out of time,” it’s actually fitting for him to be so atypical.
I always thought Cap would be a difficult superhero to adapt to film. The reason is the World War II stuff. The unpopular 1990 movie tried having him in just one mission before being frozen solid for decades. To many, that just zips through Cap’s fighting in the war as if it were an afterthought. The alternative was to set almost a whole movie in WWII. Had that been proposed in 2000, it would never have been funded. What if this couldn’t sell tickets, leaving no sequels to take place right now. But by 2011, it became clear that these movies could practically profit on disc/instant video sales alone. And so we have an almost 100% WWII Cap movie.
Our story has a patriot named Steve Rogers who is eager to serve his country. Unfortunately, he is a scrawny little bag of bones and doesn’t meet the physical requirements. As luck with have it, a German scientist and ex-patriot named Abraham Erskine has come up with a super-soldier formula that he believes will enhance people to the pinnacle of human achievement, not quite superhuman, but up to a level that would ordinarily require training that the the average person couldn’t take. Although the experiment will be dangerous, Steve volunteers. His size actually helps with this, for it serves as the perfect test for how well the experiment works. The procedure works perfectly, but a spy kills Erskine, leaving Steve, henceforth nicknamed Captain America, our lone super-soldier.
This film proves to be both a superhero movie and war drama. At first, Cap is used as a war promotional sideshow rather than a soldier. Needless to say, this isn’t what he had in mind. He does a good job at it, but it’s not the same as fighting for your country. That is until some soldiers, including close friend Bucky Barnes, are captured by the enemy. Against orders, Cap mounts a rescue attempt with some volunteers. It is a success and of course, Cap is made a full-fledged soldier at last.
All this does well at showing Steve as a man who really wants to make a difference, regardless of what fate seems to intend for him. The brief period as an attraction serves as a nice homage to the old shows that promoted the war effort and encouraged people to buy war bonds.
Action is also done well, particularly the climatic last scene. It’s quite exciting. And the ending, in which Cap finds himself in the present time that seems almost alien to him, just brings it together.
Captain America: The First Avenger (an obvious nod to the following year’s The Avengers) is another great comic book movie. Like The Dark Knight, it is an example of how to incorporate drama into one of these movies.
Overall: 8 out of 10