A few years ago, Marvel launched an ambitious plan to set up their team superhero movie, The Avengers. To do that, Marvel needed to set up all the heroes that make up the team, and Captain America is the last to get his turn. However, Captain America: First Avenger needed to be a good movie on its own, to bring the audience on-board. Did they succeed? Yes. And no.

All great superheroes have an emotional core that makes them resonate with their fans. For Iron Man, it's the story of a wealthy and selfish war profiteer whose life-threatening injury forces him to seek redemption. For Batman, it's a young boy whose parents' murder leads him to dedicate himself to fighting crime. For Captain America, it's a weakling who's transformed into the perfect man. What nerd wouldn't love to be turned into a muscle-bound superhero? That's where the movie succeeds.

In the beginning of the film, we see Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as a ninety-pound weakling going from recruitment center to recruitment center to enter the Army, but his laundry list of illnesses make him an instant 4-F. When a German scientist working on the Super-Soldier process notices him, he decides Rogers is the perfect candidate. I thought the best special effect in the entire movie was the pre-Cap Steve Rogers, where they grafted Chris Evans' head onto a skinny little body. It made his transformation into Captain America all the more gratifying.

Almost immediately after he gets his new body, Rogers is turned into a folk hero dubbed Captain America. Unfortunately, Rogers isn't a soldier yet - he gets put on the USO circuit. It's a clever twist that continues Rogers' frustration at not being allowed to become a soldier, while also giving him an excuse to get his costume. Eventually, Cap gets the chance to become the soldier he was meant to be, and battle the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a brutal scientist who arms his evil Nazi splinter group HYDRA with laser weapons. Why doesn't Captain America fight Nazis directly? That's the subject of another post. Suffice to say, we're denied the thrill of seeing Cap punch out guys in Nazi uniforms, but seeing him bounce his shield off guys in HYDRA uniforms is still pretty good.

The biggest problem with First Avenger is that it's more interested in setting up the Avengers movie and potential sequels for Captain America than telling a self-contained story. Instead of seeing a coherent storyline of Captain America's war against HYDRA, we get a brief montage of Cap charging into random battles, then a climactic battle between him and the Red Skull with nothing in between. Instead of an ending that resolves the story, the movie cuts off with "To Be Continued in 'Avengers'" all but flashing on the screen. It's a shame, because First Avenger is a lot of fun, but they hamstrung themselves with the need to set up other movies. Hopefully when they've gotten Avengers out of the way, they can give Captain America the fully-developed story that he deserves.
3 1/2 out of 5


AlexJCavanaugh said...

I really enjoyed it. Thought it was one of the better films of the summer and stood well on its own. I liked the innocence of the character - he's like a humble Superman.


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