Set primarily during World War 2, Captain America sees Chris Evans’ young Steve Rogers rejected in his attempts to join the war effort due to various physical ailments.
Rogers just wants to do his bit and join his pal Bucky Barnes, who is much more the handsome, all-American hero than weedy little Steve, and luckily for him, Dr. Abraham Erskine over-hears an argument between the two and is impressed by Rogers’ will to help.
It’s not long before Rogers has signed up for a secret ‘super soldier’ program, and had himself injected with a special serum that boosts him to a position of peak physical fitness – and then some!
Rather than sending him out onto the field, Tommy Lee Jones’ sceptical Colonel Phillips would rather have him studied in the lab. Rogers eventually finds a compromise, being turned into a symbol of the American war effort, paraded around in colourful costume as ‘Captain America’, selling war bonds to the public.
Of course, when Rogers’ pal Bucky is captured by evil Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, who’s had a dose of something approaching the super-soldier serum himself), Rogers decides to take action.
Evans was so perfect for the role of Steve Rogers that Marvel chased him down even though he was already playing a different Marvel hero in the (non-Marvel produced) Fantastic Four movies.
America’s stock as everyone’s favourite country has fallen somewhat in recent years, but Evans, and the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, ensure that Captain America is a symbol for good in general, rather than a cloying pro-America one.
Evans also excels in the early portions as ‘weak Steve’, where the film uses impressive camera trickery and CGI to make Evans large, muscular frame appear small and weedy.
Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, a British agent working with Rogers, is a strong-willed and spirited love interest, and feels like a much fresher and feistier female lead than we might have expected from a film set within the macho, male-dominated world of the 1940s war effort.
Hugo Weaving as the nefarious Red Skull is also pretty spot-on casting, as Weaving can do sneering bad-guy in his sleep, and his Skull makes for a suitably insane and intimidating – if slightly hammy – villain (although his “demise” is incredibly anti-climactic).
The moment when Cap decides that selling war bonds just isn’t going to cut it for the world’s most perfect soldier, and sets out on a daring solo mission to free his pal Bucky, who has been captured by Schmidt.
It’s the first time we really see Cap doing his stuff, and as he frees the rest of the soldiers, even if the name is never mentioned in the film, it’s clear that we’re seeing The Howling Commandos forming as they make their escape.
Special mention must go to the fantastic Neal McDonough as “Dum Dum” Dugan, who not only looks the part, but manages to steal every scene he’s in as Cap’s gleefully capable go-to guy.
Peggy Carter: “How do you feel?”
Steve Rogers: “Taller.”
Dum Dum Dugan: “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Steve Rogers: “Sure, I punched out Adolf Hitler 200 times.”
Col. Phillips: “I asked for an army. All I got was you.”
Abraham Erskine: “Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
Johann Scmidt: “What makes you so special?”
Steve Rogers: “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”
The Avengers assemble:
Given that Captain America: The First Avenger is set primarily in the past, we only get a small glimpse of Rogers waking up in the modern day at the end of the film, so Avengers Assemble is our first real look at how he’s adjusted, providing plenty of humour at the expense of Rogers’ culture shock.
The events that transpire in the ‘40s are still playing on Rogers mind come Avengers Assemble, with the loss of best friend Bucky and love-interest Peggy still troubling him, while the tesseract – the mysterious and powerful object that the Red Skull means to harness – also reappears, so watching The First Avenger first will certainly help to colour in those aspects of Whedon’s team-up.
What did you think of Captain America: The First Avenger? Let us know below…