A few months after Thor, audiences were introduced to the last member of the main Avengers line up, Captain America. Why they missed the 4th of July weekend for release I don’t understand, but I digress. While Thor had potentially as many pitfalls crossing mediums, expectations were a little higher going in after seeing how well the studio handled the former.
The costume was the biggest concern for many fans. While it’s evolved in the comics, looking more like chainmail with padded armor, there’s still an inherit goofiness to the look. The writers wisely tackled this head on, making it part of film. Initially making it a USO costume/joke, then showing how it became a symbol before upgrading it. Otherwise, the story played out exactly as expected.
Captain America is a lot like Superman. It’s not the powers that make the man, it’s the morals and strength of character. Captain America is a symbol, Steve Rogers is the hero. His integrity and gravitas is what defines him. It was vital to show this. His power set was simple enough that audiences have seen it hundreds of times before. He needed something more to show what made him a legend. Seeing him constantly sign up and be rejected by the army, jumping on the grenade, rescuing his fellow troops, this is what made him Captain America.
Wisely the film is a period piece, as Cap’s origin is firmly rooted in World War II. Joe Johnston directed, having proven his talent with the similarly set Rocketeer. Chris Evans did a fantastic job as Cap, nailing all aspects of the character. I believed he was scared but determined boy before becoming a battle tested leader. Hayley Atwell was amazing as Peggy Carter. I’m sad she won’t (likely) be returning in future films, but looking forward to her short on the Iron Man 3 DVD. Tommy Lee Jones was himself, which fit with the tone. Hugo Weaving embodied the Red Skull. I’m interested to see how/if they’ll reincorporate him. Weaving has said in interviews that he doesn’t want to return, but will because of contractual obligations.
The First Avenger subtitle was added to assist with marketing the film overseas. America’s not too popular in the global theater, so seeing the hubris of naming a character as such (regardless of the fact he’s been around since 1941) was likely to deter foreign audiences. The gambit paid off as the film became a domestic and international hit.
I enjoyed the Marvel references hinted throughout; the original Human Torch, the Howling Commandos, Armin Zola’s introduction. Another smart bit of writing was the montage. Something the comics often do is flashback to a particular incident in the war. Leaving this gap makes it possible for the films to do the same. The changes to Bucky were also a smart choice, though Brubaker invented a solid purpose for him. Cap was the face, Bucky was the killer.
The one aspect many hated was the ending. I’ve heard complaints the movie felt like a set up to Avengers, not really standing up on it’s own. I don’t see it like that, but then again, I knew what I was getting into. Cap was frozen, only to be found by the Avengers decades later. I thought the movie would end with him being frozen, so I was happy to see a little more of him in present day. To me this is the same as when people complained that Fellowship of the Ring didn’t have a real ending either. The ending tag in retrospect was possibly the worst, though at the time it made my head explode as zero footage from the Avengers had been shown yet.
I really enjoyed Captain America and can’t wait to see the sequel. I have some reservation about introducing Falcon, as the character is inherently goofy. This falls somewhere in the middle for me ranked against the other phase one movies.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone should have done the soundtrack.