Steve Rogers is a 90 pound weakling who is desperate to do his patriotic duty and serve in World War Two. He tries to enlist multiple times continually ranked 4F. His spirit and idealism earn him the attention of of Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who is experimenting with creating a super soldier serium. Erskine, a German defector, previously worked on the same project in with a Nazi scientist, Johan Schmidt. Schmidt took an unfinished version of the serum and transformed himself into the monstrous Red Skull.The Red Skull has become so power hungry and mad that even Hitler pales in comparison. Erskine values Rogers’s goodness, because he knows it it will prevent him from become a villain like Schmidt. The Red Skull has harnessed the power of the Tesseract (the cosmic cube for comic readers) and threatens not only the war, but the world as a whole. Its up to Captain America and his crew to save the day.
Chris Evans made a good Captain America. He has build and personality to bring the iconic character to life. He’s able to portray Steve Rogers as an idealized hero without him coming out as a boyscout. Without the actor’s charisma Captain America could have easily fallen into Adam West territory. My biggest problem with the title character was his starry eyed optimism. As a skinny kid his drive to join the war is exceptionally naive. The story was begging for him to realize war is hell, loose some of his naivety, and rise above it to become a hero. What makes Cap such a great character is his perseverance. Despite the darkness of the war, and the horrors witnesses, he still maintains his hope. Within the context of the narrative it’s what makes cap important as a living symbol. Instead when he becomes a soldier, war is treated with the same romanticism he always imagined it with. The overal tone of the film The heroic Americans beat the Nazis. During the montage where Cap and the Howling commandos take apart the hydra bases I couldn’t help but imagine Team America’s “America! FUCK YEA!” playing in the background. Though as much as I complain it was still fun. I prefer this interpretation of the character over other versions where Cap becomes so bad ass and militaristic he almost borders on the edges of being fascist himself.
The supporting cast was fairly strong in this film. Tommy Lee Jones was perfect to play Rogers’s boss. He had the gruff good guy personality down. He may have been Tommy Lee Jones playing Tommy Lee Jones but it worked as a foil to the more youth full and “cuddly” characters around him. Though the characters weren’t explored fully, the Howling Commandos were fun background characters. Just like the Warriors 3 in Thor, I could see them getting their own short film, TV show or something. Hugo Weaving chews the scenery every time he’s on screen. He’s intimidating, and made good adversary for Cap. It seems after voicing Megatron, and playing Agent Smith Weaving is meant to play cartoon villains. An element of the character which I missed from the comics was his Nazism. The Red Skull would have seemed more evil if we would have seen him promoting Nazi propaganda about the Aryan supermen, and the inferiority of the slave races. WW2 has a lot of darkness to draw from, which remained largely untapped. The love story with Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, was are particular bright spot in the movie. It was simple, and honest. The romance was a bittersweet classic for a WW2 story. Steve says he has never danced because he’s waiting for the right partner. Peggy makes plans to dance with him when the war is over. He carries her picture with him, and she consoles him at the death of his friend. On top of it all Peggy is a badass. What little melodrama is there between them is played for laughs.
Like I said I went into this movie wanting to love it, so maybe I’m being a little overly critical when I say I was disappointed. The truth is I wasn’t disappointed. Everything on my check list for a good comic adaptation was checked off. Captain America: The First Avenger just seemed a little easy. Cap never has any trouble with combat. He is invincible every time he fights. There was no need for strategy, no hardship, no real drama, and no risk. It lacked any depth. The plots simplicity may have been intentional, calling back to an earlier more idealistic time and stirring up the best parts of our memory. This could have been an attempt to make a modern version of one of the serials of the 1940s. If it were filmed closer to that style, or if the montage of Cap and the Howling Commandos kick Hydra ass was shown as a newsreel it might have come across clearer. In the Avengers or Cap sequels a change to a darker tone could be drastic enough to develop Steve Rogers as Rip Van Winkle. This film may have not been perfect but for now it was a good start.
On a scale of 1 to Epic ( Epic=10) I give Captain America: The First Avenger a 7.7