I must admit that at first I had my doubts about Chris Evans playing Captain America. While I simply adore the guy, I thought that he was too young to play the part of the first Avenger. I didn’t think that he exemplified the characteristics of Captain America or looked like him. Besides, he was already perfect as the Human Torch so why not just get another guy? Well, consider those doubts erased because after seeing the movie, I declare that Captain America is not just among the best Marvel superhero movies released, but is actually among the best superhero movies released — period, and Chris Evans? He kicked ass.
The First Avenger starts off in the Arctic where a the military is called in by scientists who discover something buried underneath the ice. The “something” is actually a giant weapons carrier which has been deliberately sunk to prevent it from causing destruction in its target cities, mostly in the US. When the military explores the vessel, they find the shield of America’s greatest symbol of hope during the World War — Captain America. The opening scene is actually consistent with the cameo of the cap’s shield in Edward Norton’s Hulk movie in 2008.
The film tells the story of a gangly, sickly weakling named Steve Rogers whose heart is set on serving his country but is rejected over and over by the US Marines due to his health conditions and weak conditioning. After faking his identity and getting rejected for the fifth time, he talks with his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been given his marching orders by Uncle Sam, about attempting to enlist again. He is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a scientist who has developed a serum to create the perfect soldier, which should have been the Americans’ secret weapon against the Nazis who were slowly gaining strength. Erskine, still on the lookout for a likely candidate, found Steve bearing the qualities he wanted his hero to have — humility and a genuine desire to help people. After Rogers is drafted into the program, Erskine confides that the serum has previously been given to another person, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), head of the Hydra Unit of the Nazis. Schmidt, who blindly believes that his race is supreme among all others, wants to get out of Hitler’s shadow and take over the world. Erskine says that the serum, aside from making a person stronger, actually magnifies the qualities that a person already has and in effect makes Schmidt, (who becomes Red Skull), more sinister.
In the movie, the audience is also introduced to the young Howard Stark, the genius who was Tony Stark’s father, Col. Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones), who made no secret his reservations about Erskine’s choice for the program, and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as Cap’s love interest. These people could not have been more perfect for their roles. But to tell the truth, Evans was really the star of the show. He was charming and self effacing throughout the movie, far from how he played the Torch — brave and resourceful too, which he portrayed consistently through the film. Stan was a great sidekick although I would have liked his role to be in more of the scenes. I liked his friendship with Steve and how he always had his friend’s back. Tucci is incomparable, that’s all I can say of each and every one of his portrayals. Hugo Weaving was not as menacing as I had hoped and the enmity that should have been present between Cap and his arch nemesis was not as played out as much as I had wanted.
What’s makes Captain America stand out from other superhero movies is actually the excellent filmmaking and the smart screenplay. It managed to achieve a certain balance of drama and fun that was very realistic and inspiring, especially during the earlier parts when Steve was still being pushed around and laughed at for his obvious physical shortcomings. The effects and the stunts team need to be applauded this early because of the seamless attachment of Evan’s head to that of a skinnier guy. Even his face was thinned down to make him seem more vulnerable. The action scenes were like frames lifted from the comic book so the fan girl in me is still in awe as I recall them.
The film also paid attention to detail since the movie was supposed to be in 1942 at the height of the war. Everything was decidedly bigger and less techie. Switches were either flicked on and off and knobs and levers were on every machine. Bombs were the size of tora tora planes and needed to be transported by giant aircraft to get to its destination. There were also nods to the earlier editions of Cap’s costume (the ones his wore on tour) and his motorcycle which was, as I recall his preferred mode of transport in his missions.
My only problem perhaps is the representation of Red Skull’s burned face. Instead of looking burned and resembling a skull, it kind of looked like a misshapen clay head with no nose as the surface was so fine. I actually liked the 1990 version of Red Skull better (Yes, there was a Captain America movie then. Cap was played by Matt Salinger). I think I saw that movie when I was 10 so I don’t remember most of it. Anyway, aside from the skull and a slight lull (no pun intended) about 2/3rds into the movie after the train scene, I think that the movie is great.
To sum it all up, Captain America was a great exclamation point ending to the pre-Avengers Marvel films series. It was awesome.
Fair warning: After the credits roll, fans would receive a special reward for their patience in the form of the first teaser of the Avengers movie, which will be directed by Joss Whedon, who helmed TV hits Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and the Serenity movie. While it looks great, I am kind of nervous about how the film would turn out with so many big stars on board and so many supervillains to battle. Still excited though.