Rounding out this summer season’s action movie fare is Captain America: The First Avenger, which brings a well-crafted, rousing story to film as well as being an integral part of Marvel Comic’s larger plans for the Avengers franchise. With films already released for heroes such as Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor, the distinction of being the first of such heroes is particularly notable before the whole team comes together. While Captain America doesn’t advance the sub-genre of the comic book movie to new heights or territory, it does create an entirely thrilling experience that leaves Marvel fans and the casual movie-goer both wanting more.
The movie begins in an Arctic snowy landscape of all places, with the discovery of a ruined aircraft half-buried in the ice. A discovery of even greater importance is found within the derelict hull, bringing the story of Captain America’s origins and his iconic shield into play as time shifts back to the grim days of 1942. Whereas the idea of a ninety-pound weakling becoming the very image of heroism and physical perfection is a familiar story archetype, the style and pacing at which young Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, becomes Captain America is a superbly-executed arc.
Rejected four times from recruiting centers throughout Brooklyn in the hopes of joining the Army and fighting overseas, Rogers already makes for a likable, sympathetic hero with the amount of bravery and dedication he possesses despite how puny and awkward he’s grown to be. Though the CGI does an excellent job of turning Evans into a skinny weakling, his demeanor is spunky and stoic, and this attitude is what catches the interest of German scientist Dr. Erskine, portrayed by Stanley Tucci. Much to the concern of the gruff Colonel Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and no-nonsense Peggy Carter, acted by Hayley Atwell, their newest recruit proves himself worthy to be the first test subject in creating America’s super-soldier, which brings both success and disaster in equal measure. While Tucci’s screen time is sadly limited, Jones almost certainly gets some of the best lines and retorts in the film while Atwell’s character strikes a fine balance between being empathetic and vindictive, though the romantic chemistry isn’t fully realized by the end of the film.
The opposition is personified by Nazi research officer Johann Schmidt, played by Hugo Weaving, otherwise known as the Red Skull. Both the character and actor fit squarely in their role as classic villains, bringing the focus of the antagonists away from fighting Nazis to a more sinister and ambitious organization known as HYDRA, though there isn’t a great deal of depth or complexity to this character. The cast is rounded out by supporting characters such as Roger’s best friend and war buddy Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Shaw, and Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, as the industrial billionaire pivotal to the tale of Iron Man.
While the use of special effects isn’t as wildly used as other summer blockbusters, there are still a great deal of well-used effects and moments that range from the illusion of Chris Evans as a scrawny orphan right up to scenes of cosmic proportions. A more subtle, but important visual style should be noted in the tone and somewhat grainy feel of the scenes, whether they’re set in 1940s Brooklyn or an exploding weapons factory. The pacing and story progression moves along at a zippy pace once Captain America gets into the fighting, although there is a particularly hilarious musical number that could have been campy, but fits nicely into the story right before this point. The only stumbling point was the ending moments of the movie, more of an attempt to set up the sequel rather than closing the story out on a satisfactory note.
Again, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid piece that doesn’t make any breakthroughs in story-telling or film-making, but will not disappoint in leaving audiences enthralled and riveted all the way through to the post-credits scene.