The first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) paved the way for superhero movies and set the standard by which any upcoming title should be measured. Iron Man (2008) went beyond any and all expectations as a starting point for what has come to be the most successful superhero movie-verse to date. Jon Favreau’s vision essentially set the tone for the entire MCU and without him achieving what he did with “Iron Man” we would probably not be anticipating the release of “Captain America: Civil War.”
The fact that Disney’s Marvel studios has convincingly created a continuity within film that can rival the comic book source material is simply astounding, more so when one considers how consistently good these films are as a whole.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, i.e., Captain America. Just as Robert Downy Jr. made Tony Stark his own, Chris Evans takes on the role as Steve Rogers and absolutely dominates the screen. It is difficult to imagine this larger-than-life hero being played by any other actor.
He begins as a scrawny little guy not fit for military service, but his ambitions are greater than the limitations of his body. He is truly the embodiment of good, and because of this he is selected to participate in an experiment which would make him into a super soldier.
A bright spot of “The First Avenger” is the inclusion of a villain that is not totally wasted or generic. Granted, he has yet to show up again within the MCU (although there are theories which suggests that he is now a prisoner on Asgard), but Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving was fantastic as the main baddie. He is essentially the polar opposite of Steve Rogers in every possible way, and Weaving’s performance is all at once convincing and terrifying.
Overall, “Captain America: The First Avenger” hits all the right notes. Great supporting characters include Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, who will later hold a major role in the sequels.
Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter is not your typical dispensable love interest. She is a strong female character that yet again brings out the emotional weight of this film, specifically during the final scene when Captain Rogers has to miss out on a date with Agent Carter because he’s forced to bring down a plane into a snowy tundra.
Needless to say, Captain America is born.
The action is well shot; the dialogue feels authentic; the character development is natural; we truly buy that Captain America is the incarnation of the American ideal. He is brave in the face of danger, kind and humble towards his subordinates and willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of something greater than his own life.
The only negative is that the plot is on the light side. Essentially we see a great montage showing the Captain becoming the mighty warrior that he is and then we get to the last act where he confronts the Red Skull and things end a bit abruptly. However, this is a minor complaint as the rest of the movie is so well done that this can be easily forgiven.
As a stand-alone film, “The First Avenger” is fantastic. As a tie-in to the MCU, it is indispensable. I still rank this movie in my top 5 MCU films, along with two of the other three films I will be reviewing, “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”