Steve Rogers has always been an icon for popular culture, ever since he punched Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics in 1941. Since then, Marvel’s patriotic creation has been through many changes. From Joe Simon through to Ed Brubaker, Captain America has been an interesting icon to follow. A few filmmakers have challenged themselves at portraying this character on the silver screen before, including his war serial in 1944 and the awful 1990 adaptation which strangely stars Red Skull as an Italian fascist. It has been 21 years since his last outing and fans have desired something new.
Since Marvel Studios successful Iron Man, Avi Arad and many others decided that a combination of films were to be produced, that would lead onto an epic Avengers trilogy. First came Tony Stark, followed by Bruce Banner and Thor. It made sense, allowing three productions of each main super hero, before culminating into one massive trilogy. Thor was deemed a success financially and somewhat critically, but it was up to Joe Johnston to lead with Captain America – The First Avenger.
A lot of names were tossed around for the portrayal of Steve Rogers but Marvel finally landed with their Captain America. Chris Evans, known for the enigmatic Johnny Storm in Fox’s awful Fantastic Four series was picked up by Marvel. It was an important role for anyone to play, due to the character’s iconic status. Joe Johnston was also picked for directorial duties, whose previous work has included The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Jurassic Park 3. Was Captain America – The First Avenger to be completely set in the Second World War? Was it going to focus on Rogers time in the Avengers? Well, questions were soon answered and costumes were finally revealed.
A weak, admirable Steve Rogers wants to join the forces which fight against the evil threat of the Nazis and their splinter group Hydra, lead by the sinister Red Skull. During his training, he is chosen by scientist Dr Abraham Erskine as an experiment for the Super-Soldier serum. Soon after his strong dosage of the serum, Steve Rogers later becomes a national hero known by all as Captain America. From there on in, he joins his friend Bucky Barnes and the Howling Commandos to finally defeat Hydra and Johann Schmidt once and for all.
The film boasts incredible casting, such as Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones and even Toby Jones. Weaving plays the menacing Red Skull brilliantly, which comes as no surprise. The actor manages to portray villains well and here he leaves no room for error when playing the leader of Hydra. His posture never falters, along with his threatening persona. Tucci is an inspired choice as Dr Erskine, who provides much of the humour for the beginning of the film. The difficult Colonel Chester Philips is Tommy Lee Jones, whose disapproval of Rogers comes off quite convincing.
Toby Jones is the Skull’s right-hand man, Arnim Zola. Look out for the reference towards his comic counterpart during his introduction. Jones manages to set himself aside Weaving effortlessly. The casting choices are pretty much perfect. Dominic Cooper stars as an incredibly assuring father to Anthony Stark, along with Sebastian Stan who definitely requires his own film as Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.
Thankfully, the action including the star-spangled Avenger never falters throughout. Each shield swing is convincing, which almost comes off as a surprise. Hydra’s goons are disposed of with style and fighting grace, whilst Rogers looks perfect in his costume. Perhaps one particular montage scene could have been extended, to at least focus a bit more on what Rogers is capable of. Note that this is only a minor concern, as the film maintains a credible amount of action. Especially during its climax, as brutal fisticuffs are exchanged between Schmidt and Rogers respectively. The Howling Commandos may have been robbed of some action, but then again this is Rogers’ story.
Captain America – The First Avenger boasts its own unique style, which thankfully never gets too camp. It was a huge worry for a film which tackles such material, however Jonhston knew how to manage it to a certain degree. Hydra is one example of this, as their ridiculous costumes fit into the fabric of the film. Captain America’s costume is altered throughout to fit the specific circumstances and yet each change is welcome. The design of the vehicles works well too and certain technology manages to pass off as being somewhat believable even then. This is due to the 1940’s comic book aesthetic though, as these bizarre uniforms fit within the period.
CGI is aplenty throughout the film, even appearing during instances where many wouldn’t notice. The first twenty-minutes boasts an incredible use of CGI, allowing all to witness a convincingly weak Chris Evans. Look out for the neat reference to a particular Golden Age character during the beginning, too. His gaunt frame is unique, as Evans provides some real acting chops during these sequences. All in all, Evans comes off as the perfect pick for Steve Rogers. He possesses the look of an all-American hero, with the brains and brawn to get the job done.
There isn’t much to fault on Captain America – The First Avenger. The vast number of characters don’t get lost throughout the story and Steve’s romance and friendships are believable throughout. Towards the end of the film, the drama is laid on thick and yet it works. It tugs at the heartstrings ever so slightly, fitting well with the heroic traits of the character. The climax is a satisfying end to the film, even if it only ties a few loose ends.
Chris Evans is a charming Captain, which only makes fans clamour for yet more of the Super Soldier. Jonhston brings to the table a believable hero, which fits well for the upcoming Avengers. There’s some heart to this film and it can be seen quite clearly, from the well-thought out beginning to the emotional revelation towards the end. It is a wonder as to where the character can go from here, other than leading the Avengers. Hopefully some focus is put upon Ed Brubaker’s concepts, as a sequel featuring more of Bucky Barnes would fit nicely. Marvel Studios has yet another film to be proud of, now here’s to waiting for the ever ambiguous Avengers film.