Written by J.T. Johnson
With “Captain America: The First Avenger”, audiences finally get to see the final piece of the puzzle that will ultimately make up “The Avengers” next year. Every Marvel film since 2008’s “Iron Man” has had the primary goal of setting up their titular heroes while also setting up the universe of “The Avengers”. The only question that remains is whether or not the latest entry in the Marvel lineup is as strong as the previous films.
Ultimately, the short answer to that question is yes. This year, “Thor” had already shown another aspect to this ever expanding film universe. “The First Avenger” gives audiences a period film set during World War II.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a sickly kid who desires to take part on the frontlines of the war against Hitler. So far, he has been turned down for recruitment five times. This is where Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) enters the picture and finally gives Steve his chance.
Abraham thinks that Steve is perfect for the new super soldier program. It is headed up by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). The stern colonel doesn’t think that Steve stands a chance while Abraham and the beautiful Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) see the brave man behind the frail body. Once selected, Steve becomes the pinnacle of human perfection and the character known as Captain America.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is the leader of Hitler’s secret Hydra program. Johann thinks that there is truth to the superstitions and Myths that Hitler believes in. This leads the psychotic Nazi to discovering Odin’s Cosmic Cube and harnessing its power. Inevitably, only Captain America can stop him.
While watching the film, it is important to note that the tone of the film takes on the same pulp attitude of the early comic books. Captain America was used as propaganda during World War II and the movie’s story even pokes fun of this aspect. Perhaps due to its setting or the fact that director Joe Johnston is a former student of Steven Spielberg, the film also has a feeling similar to that of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
The story does suffer from a couple of flaws that while noticeable, they do not destroy the film’s effect. First, it tries a little too hard to set up Cap for his next appearance in “The Avengers”. While it is always good to see the connections between the films, it could have been toned down a little in order to help this film focus more on its main hero.
Secondly, the film’s narrative is a little rushed. It feels like the screenwriters were so eager to get to the ending that they forgot to focus on some of the action sequences. Due to this rushed feeling, some of the character development suffers in the process.
While there was a perfect amount of time spent on the budding romance between Steve and Peggy, there never really is a good setup for Steve and Johann’s intense rivalry. Steve is an American and Johann is a Nazi. That seems to be enough development to the filmmakers and they hope that it’s enough for the audience.
One thing that doesn’t suffer is the performances. Evans has played the cocky and rebellious Human Torch in two “Fantastic Four” films. This made some wonder if he could pull off the role of Marvel’s greatest leader. Here, he proves that he has what it takes to play a character that other superheroes can follow into battle.
Weaving has been known to play a good villain with characters like Agent Smith in “The Matrix” films. He’s great as Red Skull, but he is also one of the more underdeveloped characters. Also, for comic enthusiasts, his background and personality have been changed the most and that may irk some of the more hardcore fans.
Another performance of note is Jones as Col. Phillips. He is the archetypical no nonsense soldier that is a perfect fit for Jones. Also, the actor’s deadpan humor leads to some the film’s best comedic one-liners.
The film suffers from a rushed narrative and a thinner script than usual. Despite this, “The First Avenger” is another well done effort for Marvel. Finally, I should mention that there is once again a post-credit sequence for the audience. This time, it’s a special teaser trailer for “The Avengers”.