By Carter Friend
Captain America: The First Avenger had a lot riding on it, seeing how it was the last Marvel movie leading up to The Avengers. All of the previous movies – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor - were met with commercial and critical success, some more than others. For Captain America, Marvel had to put the final pieces in place for the upcoming crossover (a difficult task due to the fact that the vast majority of the film takes place in the 1940’s) while still having it be a solid, standalone feature. Somehow, they managed to do just that. Captain America: The First Avenger is a refreshingly fun superhero movie and one of Marvel Studios’s best efforts to date.
The film tells the story Steve Rogers and how he became the superhero known as Captain America. Despite the obvious fantastical elements of the film, it actually feels more grounded in reality than a lot of superhero movies. Part of this is because the film is set during World War II and deals with actual historic events, but another part of it is that all of the characters just feel very real and despite whatever kind of powers they may have, audiences can connect with them as human beings. The whole cast was terrific and really played off of each other well, providing us a chance to really root for them. Another thing that was great about this film is that it was always entertaining, there was never a dull moment. This is something that Iron Man and especially Thor were able to accomplish as well, so it’s nice to see it wasn’t lost here. The film definitely had its dark, dramatic moments, but it never once tried to be too dark as so many comic book films do these days. The prime example of it not being overly dark: the big musical number in the middle of the film. I know it sounds bad, but trust me, it works. Joe Johnston was an iffy choice for director in many people’s eyes, but he really delivered a thrilling, dramatic superhero blockbuster. The whole film was very well-paced, albeit the climax did feel a tad bit rushed. It seemed that they were trying to wrap things up a little too quickly, but it’s just a minor complaint in an otherwise terrific film.
As I mentioned above, the cast was really one of the highlights of this movie. There wasn’t a single dud to be found. Let me start off by saying I was terribly wrong to have ever doubted Chris Evans. I suppose that since I had only really seen him to lighter, sillier roles before that he would not be able to take on the role of Captain America, but I was way off. He brought all of the character’s courageousness, earnestness, and genuineness in his performance in a way that I would have never expected coming from him. Evans knew he had taken a risk by accepting this role, that’s why he almost didn’t. However, it payed off tremendously and as bold of a statement as it is, I dare to say that his casting was as inspired as Robert Downey Jr.’s in the role of Tony Stark. I could not have been more pleased with his performance. The same must be said for Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. Now, unlike Evans, Weaving’s casting was one I was on board with since day one, and for good reason as it turned out. He was just so deliciously evil, and probably my second favorite Marvel film villain to date, behind Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor. Hayley Atwell, who played Agent Peggy Carter, played a very strong female lead and unlike so many male-dominated superhero movies, she really had a commanding presence in the film and was given a lot more to do than just provide support for the leading man. She and Evans had great chemistry together, providing Marvel’s first great on-screen romance. Other highlights from the cast include the always outstanding Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, who provided the most laughs in the movie, the very suave Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, and the quirkily evil Toby Jones as Arnim Zola. Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky Barnes, was perfectly fine and there was definitely star potential there, but he never really got a moment to shine in this film. Bucky is a great character, and if he ever gets to be explored in future movies, I hope that they delve deeper into his character. The same goes for the Howling Commandos, who were used pretty minimally. Overall though, the cast was very impressive and had an electrifying dynamic which played out very well on screen.
Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger was a hugely entertaining film that combined thrills, romance, and drama into one neat little package. And even though it was converted post-production, the 3D actually enhanced the moviegoing experience (a rarity these days) and highlighted the film’s already impressive visuals. Despite a slightly rushed finale and the fact that some side characters were underused, this is one of the best films Marvel Studios has made yet. It may not quite that level of sheer perfection as say, the first Iron Man, but it was pretty dang close. Just be sure to stay after the credits for this one…it is oh so worth it.
The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5