Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
August 3, 2011
“Why did I choose someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength.”
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.
Marvel Studios has spent the last three years bringing superheroes to the silver screen with unparalleled charm, wit, and integrity. Packed with a star studded cast, plenty of action, and a dash of comic book camp, Captain America is no exception. Director Joe Johnston expertly balances the feel of 1940’s America (as he did in his 1991 classic, The Rocketeer) with the campy science fiction of a comic book. The period sets have a nostalgic charm and the characters are larger than life in their heroics. Cap’s wit is simple, straightforward, and thoroughly American. And when it comes to big budget action movies, there’s no better villains than the Nazis.
(I hate those guys.)
Chris Evans shines as Steve Rogers, whose initial wimpy appearance is a startling achievement in special effects. He looks nothing like a soldier, let alone the iconic Captain America. But, as the story reveals, its Rogers integrity that sets him apart from the rest. Despite his small size, Rogers is desperate to help defend his country. He admits “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” Its this courage that causes Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to choose Steve Rogers for the Super Soldier Serum, a chemical mixture which gives an ordinary man superhuman strength.
Themes: Integrity, Responsibility, Heroism
Steve Rogers is chosen because he is an underdog with integrity. Dr. Erskine tells Steve “why did I choose someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power. And he also knows compassion.” Erskine also explains that the Super Soldier Serum enhances everything that is within a man. Because of his integrity and heroism, Steve Rogers becomes the iconic Captain America. But this same serum also transformed power-hungry Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) into the villainous Red Skull. It is this reason that Dr. Erskine makes Steve promise that no matter what, “you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
Marvel characters often learn that it takes more than superpowers to make a superhero. This has been a consistent theme for Peter Parker, Tony Stark, the X-Men, and even Thor. But no character seems to embody honesty, courage, and heroism like the iconic Captain America. When he dons his stars and stripes shield, you know what he stands for. (Just wait til’ you see how they explain the origin of his costume, its a riot.)
Your enjoyment of Captain America will greatly depend on your expectations and your willing suspension of disbelief (for more on this and Superhero movies, check out my review of Thor.) If you go in expecting the best movie of the summer, you’ll be disappointed. But if you enter with an open mind and try what Marvel’s cooked up, you’ll have a blast. Some aspects of the film (like the Cosmic Cube and Red Skull) are hard to swallow if you’re assuming a typical WWII film. Captain America goes far beyond the fantasy adventure in movies like Indiana Jones (there’s a line about “Hitler digging around in the desert”) and several plot choices may have newbies saying “… what?” But in the end, the Cap succeeds because America loves our underdogs. Especially ones who punch Nazis in the face. With a shield. A stars and stripes shield.
A word on The Avengers:
Ever since Marvel Studios began with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, we’ve been building up to The Avengers film which is finally glimpsed at after the credits of Captain America. I’ve been very impressed at how well each film has built off its predecessors; integrating S.H.I.E.L.D., giving cameos to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), introducing the Cosmic Cube, and finally bringing Captain America into the mix. While Cap can’t fly like Iron Man or wield the power of Thor, he’s the natural choice to lead the team. I’m very excited to see what Marvel Studios and director Joss Whedon whip up for The Avengers (2012).