The first time I watched Captain America: The First Avenger, I had zero expectations. I was won over by Iron Man, disappointed by The Incredible Hulk, flat out angered by Iron Man 2, and bypassed Thor altogether. Hell, I didn’t even see this movie until two weeks before The Avengers hit theaters. The Avengers hype was in full swing at this point and I was struggling to get on board. Maybe this whole MCU thing just wasn’t for me? At the time I was living in Los Angeles with some friends and all we did was watch movies during the week, so eventually this was bound to be thrown on the TV some random night. I always enjoyed the work of Chris Evans, who at the time really wasn’t in a heck of a lot. I adored Sunshine (the highly underrated sci-fi thriller) and of course who could forget his starring role as Jake Wyler in the amazing Not Another Teen Movie (you did remember that was him, right?)
Captain America: The First Avenger is set in 1940s New York City and tells the story of Steve Rogers. Rogers, a Brooklyn native, has his heart set on joining the armed forces, but is consistently shot down based on his small physique and a laundry list of health issues. He attends the Stark Expo in Queens (as seen in Iron Man 2, albeit many years earlier) with his best friend Bucky Barnes. His plan there is to try once again to sign up for the military as he thinks by doing so there they’ll be a little more lenient on who they let in. Bucky, who is ready to ship out the next day, frowns upon Rogers idea and encourages him not to keep trying to enlist under different names, which he warns is highly illegal. Rogers expresses to Bucky just how badly he wants to join and feels he could be doing so much more for his country. Overhearing this conversation is Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Dr. Erskine approaches Rogers while taking his enlistment physical and offers him a “chance” at becoming something more.
Rogers then ships off to boot camp where he meets Colonel Chester Phillips and Agent Peggy Carter (the former played by Tommy Lee Jones and the latter Hayley Atwell). Agent Carter immediately takes a liking to Rogers and motivates him along the way while Colonel Phillips sees him as wasting his time. After a brief competition to show off his determination and character as an individual (a scene incredibly reminiscent of Will Smith in the beginning of Men In Black just without all the humor, and hey! Tommy Lee Jones was in that too!) Rogers is selected by Dr. Erskine to participate in the super soldier program that he’s been working on.
Rogers is transported to a secret facility in Brooklyn where many government officials are standing by to watch the experiment take place. Rogers is injected with a serum and placed in what could only be described as a coffin-looking chamber where he evolves like a Pokemon into the Captain America we all know and love.
Unbeknownst to everyone in attendance, a Hydra agent has infiltrated the facility and sets off an explosion, devastating the lab and killing Dr. Erskine in the process. The devastation prevents further experiments from taking place, causing Rogers to be the only one of his kind. Convenient!
Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, Red Skull, the leader of Hydra, is testing weapons based off the technology of the Tesseract, aka the Space Stone of Infinity Stone fame. He plans to overthrow Hitler and the Nazis and take over the world himself. His weapons technology has the ability to vaporize people with a single blast!
After the whole ordeal at the lab, Rogers is shunned by the military as some sort of science project gone wrong. He wants to help in the fight against the Nazis, but he is instead cast as the lead in a traveling stage show who’s purpose is to sell war bonds. Rogers is forced to wear a rather garish costume, a uniform he would later adopt into his Captain America persona. Rogers feels underutilized and wishes he could be making an actual difference. Agent Carter reminds him that she believes he is meant for more.
Rogers discovers his friend Bucky and his unit have been captured inside enemy lines. Against Colonel Phillips wishes, Rogers and a platoon of men go and rescue Bucky and his guys where they run into Red Skull, who narrowly escapes.
When they arrive back at the base, Phillips is incredibly impressed with Rogers and his whole attitude towards him changes. He learns to trust him as a leader and embraces him for the super soldier that he really is. Howard Stark then provides Rogers with the notorious shield Captain America fans have come to know and love. Rogers and his team go on to assault various Hyrda bases across Europe, but when the group attacks a train transporting Zola, Red Skull’s #2 henchman, Bucky falls to his death (well, not really, but we’ll get to that at some other point).
After interrogating Zola, the final Hydra base is discovered and Rogers decides to take on Red Skull once and for all. He boards a plane that contains bombs designated for various cities across the United States. In the ensuing fight, the Tesseract is damaged and a portal is opened to space where Red Skull is sucked in before it closes for good. With time running out, Rogers is forced to down the plane to save the lives of millions.
Flash forward 70 something years where Rogers wakes up in a “hospital room” that turns out to be a sound stage. Naturally freaking out and feeling something is off, Rogers flees and discovers he is in the year 2012 in the middle of Times Square. Nick Fury shows up just in time for the credits to roll.
I should probably go ahead and say I absolutely love this movie. It has the strongest plot, message, and cast out of any of the Marvel films at this point. The film felt like it served an actual purpose, unlike some of its predecessors. Doesn’t hurt that it was directed by Joe Johnston, of Jumanji, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and October Sky fame. So what did I like?
He’s perfect for this role. They took a chance casting him and as I stated earlier, he really hadn’t been in a hell of a lot up until this point. Now obviously he’ll be known as Captain America forever.
I adore Hayley Atwell for many, many reasons.
World War II Setting
I’m a sucker for all things World War II. It was a surprise considering we all knew The Avengers was on the horizon and I wasn’t really sure how it would line up without having Cap in a nursing home. The movie did patriotism well, without going completely overboard.
Captain America as a Franchise
While the MCU as a whole is awesome, my one complaint is that nothing aside from Infinity War/Endgame feels essential. We’ve been building for 11 years to a grand finale, yet each movie comes with the knowledge that there’s always a follow up film on the schedule. We’re constantly waiting to see what happens next while not giving enough merit to what’s currently on the screen in front of us. Think about it. Iron Man as a character is deeply loved by the community that enjoys these films, yet arguably there’s really only one good Iron Man movie. The sequels felt like filler, plagued with bad writing and just enough Tony Stark banter to distract us from realizing what we were watching wasn’t that essential. The Captain America films I would argue are the strongest standalone movies in the whole universe. They advanced the plot forward, yet are good enough to watch without thinking about what’s next in the queue. They also tend to have the most crossover with other characters from the universe. I mean, let’s be real, Civil War is an Avengers movie with a different title.
Final rating: 8.0 out 10.
Next up for The 300s Marvel Cinematic Rewind, The Avengers.