REVIEWS

Review: 'Captain America: The First Avenger' is the Best Avenger Yet

by
July 24, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Captain America: The First Avenger, the final stop on the road to next summer's The Avengers movie, is the best Avengers movie yet. A slick and stylish period piece, it takes us back to the World War II era of steam and metal with explosive results, a solidly told story of one man's physical rise to the greatness found within him, and the beginning of what is sure to be a blockbuster comic book franchise. Directed by Joe Johnston, the film has a look, story, and character all its own but never feels out of sorts with the other pre-Avengers films. In essence, it is the perfect lead-in, the ideal set-up for bringing this character into the modern world of Marvel films while never feeling like it's serving that purpose alone.

Donning the blue suit, patriotic shield, and about a hundred pounds of genetically altered muscle is Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. At the start, Rogers is a 90-pound weakling whose solitude and patriotism makes him desire to join the army. It is 1942, and the United States is well on its way into a World War against the Axis. But Rogers, physical disabilities and all, is not cut out to be the soldier he desires. Enter Dr. Abraham Erskine, a German scientist who has defected to help the US battle Hitler's army. He has concocted a serum the US military hopes to use to create an army of Super Soldiers. But first, the serum must be tested on one, and Rogers, hand-picked by Erskine, is chosen as this test subject.

Needless to say, the serum works, and Rogers transforms into a perfectly sculpted creation complete with massive biceps, super speed, and the ability to bust through walls. Of course, this kind of soldier can't be used on the front-lines, and it's here where Johnston and the screenwriters involved go in an unpredictable direction. The US Army makes Rogers a marketing tool, a symbol to speak to the American public and sell war bonds. It's an incredible misdirection in story, a swerve of sorts to have this man who only wishes to fend off the world's bullies finally blessed with the physical abilities to do so but denied.

In fact, this one side-step in Captain America isn't even the first of many Johnston and crew take to make the film feel different from standard comic book origin stories. Most of them have become drab, commonplace, the kind of paint-by-numbers story arcs that make films like Green Lantern come and go with minimal interest. Captain America isn't all action, nor is it all humor though the film carries with it ample amounts of both. Instead, the story is on the front-line here, and as impeccably written as it is, it fends off the superhero ennui effortlessly.

Johnston's sense of style is on full display with that story, as well. He brings a hazy sensibility to each shot, a nostalgic tone that gives Captain America the feel of something older yet still epic in nature. This tone is perfectly laid out in the way 1940s New York City is brought to life, the Modern Marvels of Tomorrow exhibition seen early in the film - which also introduces a familiar face to the future Avengers movie -  and the isolated lair of the film's villain, Red Skull.

Speaking of which, and this is something Captain America does far greater than most comic book films, the villain here is spectacular. Red Skull, diabolical and, yes, a bit one-dimensional, is an incredibly created arch nemesis for our hero, an excellent match in terms of physical and mental strengths that is made all the more menacing by Hugo Weaving's superb performance.

But Weaving doesn't have the only acting chops that come to life. Evans, first and foremost, was born to play a superhero. While he has had his fair share of attempts before - Captain America is his seventh comic book film - his performance as Steve Rogers is seamless. The special effects that create the pre-serum Rogers is amazingly constructed, but Evans work amidst the effect makes it all the more life-like. Even later in the film when Evans is forced to bring on the emotion, he never backs away and gives the role the best he can.

Of course, that isn't always enough to counter-balance certain setbacks the film runs into. Most importantly, Captain America deals much with mythology of the comic books most may not understand. Johnston and crew dance around certain aspects, especially those that may come up again in next year's Avengers film, but it may leave some audience members scratching their heads. The same could be said for some of the relationships in the film. Rogers' relationship with British SSR officer Peggy Carter, played firmly by Hayley Atwell, is fine. However, a few of the connections between Captain America and the men in his team never feel whole. When the explosions start and the bullets fly, the sense of tension you might expect isn't completely there. During one particular moment, we should even feel sadness, but without the fully realized connection, the moment comes and goes with a mere shrug.

But the positives in Captain America: The First Avenger fully outweigh the negatives. Johnston's nostalgic feel brings the perfect wrapping to an already sturdy package built on great characters and dynamic action. The 1940s aura, the Captain America aura alone, projects a patriotism that some might find corny. "Some might find" nothing. It is corny, but it all works in the grand sense of Johnston's film. But goofy as it may be, The First Avenger proves beyond a doubt that as a hero, as a symbol, and as an Avenger, Captain America is as good as they come.

Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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  • ImaginaryVisionary
    I disagree quite a bit with this review.  While I did like the film I thought it was kind of a mess and that Evans essentially carried this movie on his shoulders.  He was a surprisingly good cast for this role.  Take him out of this movie, and Captain America as he was written in the script would've been just as flat a character as Bucky and the rest of Captain's team.  I also found Red Skull to be just as poorly written.  Compare him to Darth Maul (I realize he's not a comic villian) and Red Skull doesn't seem nearly as menacing.  They could have done a lot more with that villain, and they left him flat.  The most menacing thing about him was how they dragged out presenting his appearance, but once he was revealed he failed to instill any sense of fear in the audience or the characters in the film.  Captain America seemed un-phased by him.   I think Johnston was a poor choice for a director to be honest.  He makes decent films, but we're talking Captain America here!  This film should have a top notch director, not the guy who directed The Wolfman and Jumanji.  Personally I think Johnston did a better job with character direction and setting in The Rocketeer...and it's a pretty similar character and identical setting.  I think he could have done a better job making the film feel more nostalgic to the time period, and could have also done a better job at bringing out the courage, and patriotism aspects of Roger's character. What I will give him credit for is blending the time period with the futuristic sci-fi elements of the film.  On paper that should have seemed ridiculous but it worked in the film.   I do think this film is better than Thor, but I thought Iron Man (I & II) and the newer Incredible Hulk film were both better than this movie.  
    • lolidiot
      you're a fool....read your last statement...its redundant. why say you dont think its better but you also think its not better. idiot.
      • Mike P.
        What?  He said this movie was better than Thor, but not better than Iron Man 1, 2 and the Incredible Hulk.  You can still not like something, and at the same time, it can be better than something else you didn't like. Read and think before you post, man.
      • WhydoU
        I really like this site and would have for it to turn into AICN..  So can you PLEASE keep your posts subjective and refrain from name calling no matter how much you disagree with someone's post !! Which also includes my post in case you plan on now also calling me a name.  Thx
        • splinter
          I can agree to a great extent , Red Skull could of done a lot more, overall i really enjoyed the movie and think it is right up there with the others, Cap is my favorite super hero so of course i will say it is my favorite movie but i think they should of took a page out of the batman series, joker was menacing and re invented thus making that arch enemy status , i do not think red skull really got the chance to be that in this movie, Chris Evens i tip my hat to you ,As to your statement at comicon last year " i hope i dont let you down" you did not , !!!  amazing job. i am looking forward to the avengers and am stoked to see what comes to the table.
          • Aero027
            I thought the last statement I made was pretty clear.  Cap American was better than Thor, but not better than either Iron Man flick or the second Hulk. I agree with splinter above.  I'm excited about the Avengers movie, and one aspect that I'm the most curious about is how they're going to fit Cap'n America into the present because his brand of Patriotic heroism is kind of out of place in modern culture, especially in Hollywood, and even with the rest of the Avengers.  The Hulk was chased by the gov, Tony Stark isn't exactly friendly with the US gov either.  It's pretty common place today for our hero's to actually be anti-hero's (Batman, V for Vendetta) who stand up for a moral right and quite often the idea of country or nationalism is incorporated with the villain.  So it'll be interesting to see how they tie Captain America into modern culture and the values of the rest of the team on film.
  • Ironmen
    Saw it and loved it.  2nd only to the first IRON MAN.  End was very sad (inna good way)
  • http://www.facebook.com/Tyban Tyler Bannock
    I loved it. Had a nice old school Indiana Jones feel.
    • Jim
      It felt like Crystal Skull.
      • http://www.facebook.com/Tyban Tyler Bannock
        That's a joke. Did you even watch the movie. I felt like I was watching The Rocketeer mixed with some old school GI Joe Cartoon and Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom. It's not supposed to be shakespeare. It's just a nice big summer movie with alot of action.
        • Danimal
          totally agree with that...my only complaint,***SPOILER...SORTA...BUT NOT REALLY*** is that all of that cool stuff you see in the trailer, is just thrown into a montage in the middle of the movie....it's like they just played the trailer with cheesier music in the middle of the movie...pissed me off quite a bit. I have to say I definitely enjoyed X-Men: First Class a lot more. But I admit there were some pretty badass scenes in this movie.
    • ImaginaryVisionary
      I want to agree with this, and in a small way I do because I thought this when I left the theater, but I think it lacked in the atmosphere of the era by comparison to Indiana Jones.  If they could have pulled that aspect off a little better it would have added to the film tremendously.  
  • John
    I completely disagree.  This movie was forgettable, boring, and uninspired.  If it weren't for Chris Evans, I would have walked out.  Everything felt strained, and anyone who has watched Iron Man 1&2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk knows there is going to be an Avengers movie next summer that takes place in the present.  So that meant that there was no real danger to Captain America the entire movie.  Because of this I felt that almost every character interaction was useless.  Captain America's friends, that amazingly diverse for World War II group of heroes (a French guy, an Asian guy, an African American, the dude from Band of Brothers and someone else) seemed to be there only for the purpose of selling toys and appeasing fanboys.   Just a let down all around.  To say that this movie was better than Thor is to say that Transformers had a good plot.  This movie was corny, boring, and even for a period piece, truly lacking in stylishness whatsoever.  This is not "the best Avenger yet,"  This movie made me worry that The Avengers might not be as awesome as I had hoped it would be.  
    • Octopus9498
      I was looking for a good word to describe this and you hit it on the head: uninspired. It was great, wasn't terrible, I just didn't leave the theater thinking it was anything more than an ok movie. There were some pretty cool things in it but overall it was definitely uninspiring.
    • Marvelous
      I have one problem with your assessment: There was never any real danger for any of the Avengers. As soon as Marvel announced that they were planning on making an Avengers film, that meant that their line up wasn't going to bite the big one in any of their respective films. I think if you applied your reasoning to the other films too, then they all fall flat as well. As far as Captain America is concerned as a movie, it was good and put together very well. I actually cared about the characters. I want more time spent with them eventually if they choose to revisit the period piece again (which Marvel has said it is considering), but Steve Rogers remained the same Stever Rogers he was in the comic books: a good man.
    • cooper
      If we're going into the danger for any of these films we should also remember the fact that The Avengers movie is coming out before Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Hulk movie, and Captain America sequels so now im not excited for The Avengers so much anymore...i think Marvel really didn't think this through concerning the Avengers story-arc because we might as well already know that whatever happens in the Avengers it isn't going to be dramatic like the loss of one of the main team members because we already know marvel's plans for the future of all of these films
      • splinter
        I can see what your saying, and how it could be seen that way honestly i was more worried if Chris Even and the development of Cap. but a character is defined by the influence and i think they missed that. not entirely but it could of been enhanced more even with the Red Skull
        • ImaginaryVisionary
          Considering these characters live on for decades in the comic's...the fact that they survive in these films to live on into sequeldom shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, or ruin the film.   I once again agree with Splinter above, the main drop in this movie was in character development, which could've been enhanced by more integration of the supporting cast, and making Red Skull more of a threat, because his influence would've challenged the Captain America character and he wouldn't have seemed like a regular everyday GI Joe doll wrapped in a flag.  This is where I think Evans deserves a lot of credit, because the script did not help that character.  Evans put a lot into Steve Rogers based on his acting alone that wasn't in the dialogue.
    • Marx_naruto_sanji
      I agree that this movie felt strained and uninspired... i think it is because cap always has the upperhand vs. red skull, like "Oh there is cap, let's go".. i expect it better than thor but i was wrong (for me).To give credit, the best parts are scenes with hayley atwell and stanley tucci where the former gave the film spice, romance and she keeps the movie fresh and the latter further emphasized cap's personality as being a father figure to cap. As for bucky, i have an antagonistic feel towards his character instead of a sidekick but that's just me. As a movie, cap was good. Comparing thor as a film, it understood that it needed a villain capable of inflicting great damage to the hero which tom hiddleston as loki was great adding the complexity that they are brothers. Also the friction between odin and thor was very believable thanks to Anthony and Chris performance. Also i give praise to natalie's performance, she is a great scene stealer. All supporting and major characters in it felt very natural, distinct and important to the point that you can say that "oh that one is the suave one (fandral), that one is the femme fatale (sif), thor is arrogant, etc." Also I could argue that thor is definitely funnier than cap. which keeps it fresh and alive even though thor as a hero was shown at the start and end of the film. With this arguments, i like thor better than cap. Superhero movies are not meant to be realistic (well not to much) but to be entertaining.
  • Standavis8
    Captain america was great!   For me individually, the whole point of a superhero movie is to see the characters come to life in live-action.  Cap has always been a bit corny, in the way that standing up when the Stars and Stripes passes by in a parade, like singing the National Anthem at a ball game and saying the Pledge of Allegiance is corny.  Heck, call me corny,too! Cap's friends, BTW, are The Howling Commandos, which have been amazingly diverse since Sgt Nick Fury was a white guy in the 1960s.  What's wrong with throwing the fanboys a bone?Lastly, knowing that the lead character survives the various dangers takes nothing away at all, anymore than knowing the outcome of any story detracts from a book-to-film effort.  Jaws, anyone? If you're old enough to remember, Roy Schieders police chief survives the shark, but knowing that certainly didn't detract from the tension of the closing scene.The culture shock Steve Rogers will have to contend with could have made CA II a viable sequel even before jumping in with The Avengers.  Can you imagine Cap trying to contend with gay marriage, Lady Gaga, Barack Obama and the War on Terror? 
  • Hattori Hanzo
    I said it before and I'll say it again, this take on Captain America sucked. If this mess is the best they can come up for such an iconic and major character then The Avenger movie is doomed. 
    • Logan
      Sorry they disappointed fucken Spielberg! Go ahead and reboot it for us. I'm pretty sure you'll do a better job.
  • Sanka
    Who financed this American cheesefest;  Sarah Palin and The Tea Party?  
    • go USA
      Really? Do you have any sense of nationalism in you, or do you hate our country as much as some of the other extreme liberals? Its ok to be nationalistic about our country. Many people died for it and this film captures the nationalism that has been lost in recent years, having pride for our country even though it may not be considered "politically corect" to you hipsters is quite all right. People like you have me worried about the future of our awesome country. This movie was awesome and it had m
      • Ryderup
        Many has died because of it too. This "awesome country" - haha.
        • http://www.facebook.com/gshauger Geoffrey Shauger
          you're a moron
    • rocKKicker
      its a movie called Captain America, did you not expect this????!? go USA said it perfectly.
  • Anonymous
    Awesome movie. Just as good as The Dark Knight...
    • Danimal
      haha ^^^ and THAT'S how you start a war on a movie blog site
    • Octopus9498
      AAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAAA!!! Whew. You had me for a minute there.  I actually thought you might be serious....what a joker!
    • http://www.facebook.com/gshauger Geoffrey Shauger
      HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHH!!  Oh wait....you're serious
    • Anonymous
      Is it so impossible to believe? Captain America was just as good a Captain America movie as The Dark Knight was a Batman movie...
    • Sam Doyle
      Batman Begins was better than TDK, just sayin'. A dead Heath Ledger doesn't make a movie a master piece (on that note, am I the only one who thinks Jack was a better Joker?). Not saying it was bad, just that Batman Begins was the better film. On another note, just saw Captain America, it was boss, everyone quit bitching. But then again, Hipsters gonn' hipster. 
      • Have Hope
        Laugh all you want, this movie was A LOT better than the overhyped expository-filled TDK. And yeah, as the guy said above, Begins was a better film than TDK
  • rocKKicker
    people who are disecting this movie for whatever reason forgot that its a superhero movie, not a grammy nominee (even though i personally feel that it was that good). for what it was, it was fantastic.
    • ImaginaryVisionary
      Well, grammy's are for music first of all.  Oscar, golden globes is what you're looking for.  But, while I agree with your statement that it is what it is, a super hero movie, and I can accept it at that....each genre of film has a standard, and the goal is to not fall too short of that standard.  Think Daredevil and the Punisher vs. The Dark Knight and Iron Man.  The best = Dark Knight, so as a super hero film, while few will ever be as good as the Dark Knight they've at least got to hit above average like Iron Man, Spiderman, and X-men First Class in order to really be a good super hero movie, let alone a good movie (because, fanboydom aside, lets face it Super hero movies test the inconceivability limits of most movie goers).  Personally I don't think Captain America was too far off the mark, but I think it was a pretty average super hero movie when it could have been up there a little higher.
      • Sam Doyle
        You, sir, have said enough. You are confusing your opinion with fact. You took one of the best comments I have read on this site ("for what it was, it was fantastic") and replied with the same garbage that makes up the rest of the comments on here "Duuur, my opinions on movies are the only opinions on movies". What about people who do not like The Dark Knight, are they then not allowed to like any other comic book movie because YOU say it's not better than TDK? No, that's not right. Of course you think that they are allowed to like them, if people didn't like movies that you dislike, you would have no one to scoff at and share your elitist film views with. 
  • Richie
    Looking forward to seeing this. Think it'll be out in Ireland this week
  • Anonymous
    Captain America wasn't that great. Aside from Chris Evans and the first act of the film which I enjoyed, the plot in its entirety was boring and simplistic, the Red Skull did nothing, and there was nothing cool, flashy, or awesome that Cap did to make me get excited. I felt like the film was rushed so that Marvel could get Chris Evans started on filming the Avengers asap.
    • Logan
      Rushed? What movie did you watch? Wolverine was rushed. If you could do better, go ahead, impress me. Put the comic down. It took Marvel 50 years to make Cap look awesome on paper. They only had 2 hours and change to do this for the big screen.
      • Anonymous
        Please enlighten me as to why you believe this was a good film. And it took 50 years to make such a Cap movie because of money and technology, not because they were waiting 50 damn years until a good story came along.
  • equustel
    I loved it, precisely because it wasn't flashy and didn't try to make the character overly "cool." It felt honest and true to Cap's roots, and the period setting was just too much fun. Howard Stark FTW!
  • http://twitter.com/SkyNetCyberDyne Vinnie Cipollone
     I give it a 6/10  it was meh, all superhero movies are just cash crops. Quite sad.
    • Anonymous
      So what are porn movies? Art?
    • http://www.facebook.com/gshauger Geoffrey Shauger
      Where as other movies don't care about profits...any other brilliant insight?
  • http://www.facebook.com/gshauger Geoffrey Shauger
    Iron Man and the hulks were better...congrats...your review couldn't be any more wrong...oh wait...it was better than Iron Man 2...I'll give you that
  • Sirjohn
    Wow, such immaturity and lack of respect for others opinions, Personally I loved this movie, it was done well...  portrayed the small kid turned into super soldier, gimmick turned Hero..  hero lost then found... Wow they did an origin movie based on the start of said comic book character and got it right!  was it exact?  maybe not, did it portrait the origin of Capt America...  yes, entertaining?  yes...  it is a movie people not real life!  get a grip and grow up, so some people didn't like it....so!  is that going to stop you from living your life???  Chill out!!!
  • Jwdreisc
    This movie worked on some levels. Enough to be overall successful and entertaining. My main complaint comes from the pathetic action sequences. Most were point a gun and shoot, then block bullets with the shield ad infinitum, without a single moment where the audience thought, "wow that was cool!" The "action" montage that comes from left field in the second act was laughably poor.
  • Christophereo
    First of all, the hostility has got to go. Everybody has their reasons for loving or hating this movie. I liked it very much except for a few things. Steve Rogers head on that skinny body looked more creepy than Red Skull. And the climactic battle didn't do too much for me. All the rest was entertaining enough. Noticed that Alan Mencken co-penned the signature song "Star Spangled Man" so at least one Oscar nomination for this.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9emWB_rrMt0 Crapola
    I thought it was okay, some fun stuff happened.
  • JennyB
    Two things I learned about Cap:    1.  He can't get drunk.    2.  He's a virgin. ...He's probably not even from Brooklyn at all, but from Utah...
    • JennyB
      ....I was amazed though, that they actually got Werner Herzog to do the voice of Red Skull...
  • Nate
    Finally saw it last night. I give it a 7/10, could've been an 8 or even 9 but the main thing that I felt missing from this movie was the fact that the second half of the movie seemed rushed with bad editing. All the action scenes just seemed to happen without any real sense of danger. There wasn't any real build up to each fight and especially the climatic battle. In reference to the Indy films, (except for Skulls) each Indy fight scene had a certain build up to it, where you fear for the character. That was what's missing from CA for me. I hope that there's a directors cut coming out that addresses this issue. I don't understand why all the hate for the CGI though, was it the best? No, but it was convincing enough for me for it to not to be a distraction. Overall this was a fun film to watch and good addition to the Marvel movies, a bit better than Thor and better then what I expected.
    • Anonymous
      In my mind, I let the CG go because it sort of felt like Sky Captain and the world of Tomorrow...  I liked but didnt love it.    
  • Anonymous
    I liked it, on part with Thor & Incredible Hulk and better than Iron man 2.  IMO the best part of the movie was all the stuff leading up to his *cough* Performance-enchancing injections.  It really captured the feel of the era and how & why he wanted to contribute.  I also liked the fact that he was used as a marketing/morale tool and you could really sense his frustration in wanting to contribute.    
  • Wilbs1714
    Location, location, location... I think location as far as when it should have released could have mattered much more to Captain America.  Talk about patriotism, it should have been set for July 4th, it has an Independence Day theme written all over it.   
  • ...............
    Wow maybe I didn't see the same movie as most of you because I really didn't hate it and come to think of it I really didn't love it either. Because of its constraints with Avengers plot the only movie you can compare it to is Thor. Incredible Hulk didn't have to fit into the Avengers plot line and neither did either of the Iron Man films. Thor and Capt.'s films both felt like they had to rush through introducing the character to you then place them neatly at a starting point for the Avengers movie. The only thing I'm scared of is the fact that Avengers will have that G.I. Joe feel to it....meaning they'll have to combine 7 or 8 plots into a limited time span. I think the movie (as a stand alone movie) could have been alot better but it could have been worse. I will say I liked it better than Thor though.
    • JennyB
      You pretty much nailed right there. Yup, these movies are like the most expensive television series ever. If you're at peace with that concept, then these movies have turned out really good if you ask me :)
    • Jesse
      I agree that the movie was pretty lacklustre, but my excitement and positivity for the Avengers has not wained at all. If x-men can successfully portray the struggles and successes of several "super-heroes", then I'm sure the Avengers will be able to make it work with its cast.  But yea, I'm still trying to shrug off the disappointment of Captain America. The first half was great, second half, a big mess. The last scene where he wakes up and the bonus scene/trailer after the credits were far better, and got the nerd in me way more excited, than the entire second half of the movie. 
  • Dan w
    Every shot in the movie was either a close up or shot from a low vantage point. Every scene was a few seconds long and it all felt like a jumbled mess of a movie where things were happening and there was no flow to what was happening. All the action in the movie you see in the trailers. I was upset that I even paid money to see this.
  • NeoSlyfer
    What I disappointment, i was expecting way more from this instead i got a bad taste in my mouth as to why i spent money to see this. First off it's not 3D, secondly it didn't need to be. The movie was bland, the enemies were forgettable, Hugo Weaving can act but this is the worst i have seen from him since late. Chris Evans just did what he was paid to do stand there like a poster boy, because that is what Captain America is, a poster boy for the great US of A. The story was forgettable and the Director didn't take any chances with this movie to try and wow the audience. It felt like a made for tv movie upgraded with barely stellar effects. Regardless if most think it was an good movie I didn't like it. As a fan of the comics i was severely disappointed I give this a 3 out of 10. Wait for it on cable or the DVD.
  • Have Hope
    This film was better than TDK and Iron Man 1, two films that get unrealistic praise
  • Borj8
    we have to thank marvel cause they made the movie...i enjoyed it and it was worth watching!!!

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