Review - Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America may have been the first Avenger, but he was the last Avenger to get his own movie. Well, I should say first movie that matters and is actually good. And by good I do mean good, as Captain America: The First Avenger has a great feel to it that manages to engage the audience while staying true to the source material.

Captain America is a character that if you asked someone on the street who he was, they would probably have only a passing knowledge. He doesn't carry the same weight as Batman or Superman, but he's probably more culturally important than either. The character was created when the country was at war and at the height of patriotism and while he's artificially superpowered the film does a great job blending the two characteristics.

Don't get me wrong; Captain America: The First Avenger is a comic book film. It's a comic book origin story that feels like a comic book playing out onscreen and follows a nice, tidy arc. Captain America isn't someone that's vengeful like Batman or tormented like Wolverine. He's a patriot whose strength isn't the Super Soldier serum but the qualities and characteristics that make him Steve Rogers. This is where the movie excels.

Chris Evans plays the role very well. The magic of movies digitally attached his head to a smaller body for the Steve Rogers pieces and, well, we've all seen how jacked he got for the "meaty" role of Captain America. Like Robert Downey, Jr. and Tony Stark/Iron Man, Evans played both aspects of the character exceptionally well. Captain America is much like Thor in that their dual-personalities are really one and the same (Stark has to "become" Iron Man). Evans seemed to be a suspect pick at first, but I felt he played this role better than he played the role of Human Torch (and he played that role pretty well).

Surrounding Evans were primarily Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones as the headliners. Atwell's portrayal of Peggy Carter gave Steve Rogers someone to actually fight for beyond the little guy. She wasn't included strictly as eye candy, which is sort of how it seemed Blake Lively was used in Green Lantern. Atwell add substance to the film and proved valuable in Rogers' character development throughout the film. Jones played the gruff role he's known for, acting as something of a mentor to Atwell.

Weaving is someone that's probably not getting enough credit for his roles. He's reaching that territory where when you're watching him on screen sometimes you forget it's him (Gary Oldman has this locked down). Red Skull is a comic book villain that's not really rooted in reality and I was pleased to see Weaving's portrayal of him. He wasn't over the top for the sake of being over the top. Rather, he played his part in the story as Captain America's true foil.

Captain America is a period character, created as propaganda for the period of World War II. The ONLY way the character would work initially was if he was depicted in his original environment. A "reimagining" of him with his origin in modern times simply would've been inappropriate and lame. Thankfully, Marvel enlisted the help of Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, all of whom have contributed to Captain America in the past. This isn't Brubaker or Millar's Cap though; this is the "Uncle Sam wants you" Cap created by Simon and Kirby.

The film even references this, presenting "Captain America" as a means of selling US bonds. It's something that embraced by Steve Rogers at first, but he gets the urge to actually get in the field and prove his worth. It's a nice nod to the character's origins by presenting him as a propaganda piece, right down to his famed punch. The progression of his uniform and shield was also organic and didn't feel forced, blending into the film nicely.

Speaking of the shield, director Joe Johnston incorporated it brilliantly. On display was hand to hand combat, blocking bullets and shield slinging, rife with the requisite ricochets. The costume itself was grounded in reality to an extent, not looking quite as spandex-y as Spider-man's. It's similar to the suit created by Christian Bale for Batman in that it blends function with form.

Early on in the film, there seemed to be too much technology, so much so that it was a little distracting and took away some of viewer's immersion. There's a nice reference to the "magic and science" mantra of Thor which ties it together and by the end of the movie all the technology that seems like it should be in present day makes sense during World War II.

Bucky Barnes. He's in the movie, but not in any of the roles you're probably most familiar with. He's got a frantic history, going from Captain America's sidekick to dead to the Winter Soldier to Captain America to dead again. Bucky's arc is primarily included to act as a baseline for the growth of Steve Rogers. There's one scene where he mans a sniper rifle, which could be a nod to his Winter Soldier role. There's no "next time" reference like there was in Iron Man with Rhodes and the possibility of War Machine.

A lot of people are going to rank the Marvel movies against one another. Captain America: The First Avenger has that same magic that Iron Man had, but was lacking in Thor. It's a likable movie that even non-comic fans may be attracted to and, despite its patriotic leanings, doesn't cram "America! F**k yeah!" like they could've done considering the times. It feeds into The Avengers relatively seamlessly, with an ending that's both intriguing and believable. The Avengers will be a fantastic film and Evans was definitely the right choice for the role.