Continuing the trend of Marvel Studios adapting Marvel characters to film, we have Captain America: The First Avenger. In keeping with Iron Man and Thor, this movie is an exceptional picture of who and what Captain America is. What makes this movie different is that it is a true period piece, using it more for a basic setting, rather than treating it like another character in X-Men: First Class.
As seen here, Captain America is a man with a strong will, filled with compassion, and perseveres through any fight. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers perfectly, starting out as a very small man with more determination to serve than ten men would have. When asked by Dr. Erskine (played magnificently by Stanley Tucci) if he wants to kill Nazis, the miniscule Rogers replies, “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” It’s a moment that sums up Captain America and what he stands for better than any other single moment in the film.
Of course, being a World War II piece, there have to be Nazis. In this case, we have the techno-cult of Hydra, a terrorist group that acts like a cyberpunk version of the Thule Society. At the head of Hydra is the sinister Red Skull, played by the impeccable Hugo Weaving. Much like he did for his character in V for Vendetta, Weaving vanishes into the role. Red Skull is willing to do anything and everything to gain the technological power of the gods and use it for his own gains. To achieve this, he violates Hitler’s orders and attacks a village in Norway so he can get the mysterious Tesseract, “the jewel of Odin’s treasure room.”
That’s right, there’s a blatant tie-in with Thor here, one that you don’t need to see the other movie to understand. In fact, if you hadn’t seen Thor, but did watch Captain America, you would take something different away from the Tesseract scenes. Without Thor, it’s a Maguffin; with, it becomes a terrifying source of power, just as it’s supposed to be. Marvel Comics fans will take one look at it and see that it’s the Cosmic Cube.
As it rolls out, Captain America: The First Avenger reveals itself to stand somewhere in the middle of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Rocketeer (also directed by Captain America director Joe Johnston). Never does the movie force its way into the growing nexus of Marvel Comics in film, instead trying to pave a new path, and with it, find a way to be a better movie.
It succeeds on this front, proving to be a strong tale, focusing on one man coming to realize the strength he truly possesses. The serum Dr. Erskine gives Steve Rogers–and previously to the Red Skull–is described at bringing out the qualities of a man and making them stronger. Through this, Steve becomes a paragon of duty and a true symbol of inspiration, not just a guy in a costume trying to sell war bonds. The other element with Steve on this journey is Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell. Carter is part of an Allied research division developing new ways of fighting the Nazis and Hydra specifically. As a woman in the 1940s, she’s pushed away from most places where she can do her part to help the war effort, just as Steve has been shut out due to his small size. They find common ground in being ostracized from most opportunities to help others and it grows into what could be a romantic relationship, but doesn’t quite get there.
Tommy Lee Jones is also in this movie. I thought he would be in only a short sequence, but he is a constant figure, coordinating the fight against Hydra with Washington. I would expect nothing less from Col.
Nick Fury Chester Phillips. Despite appearances to the contrary, Jones plays Fury Phillips well, providing a voice of humor and sarcasm, even when questioning his enemies. He’s a strong figure and a good counter-balance to Captain America, just as Nick Fury Chester Phillips should be.
Like many other Marvel movies, Samuel L. Jackson shows up, but his scene is brief and his presence distracting from the real star of the scene, Chris Evans. Evans displays a great range of emotion and talent throughout the entire movie. The final scene, the final line, is no different. Just a single bittersweet line, delivered with a personal form of regret that one would expect to find from Joss Whedon.
There is more I can say about Captain America: The First Avenger, but it would be regurgitating the same ideas. This is an interesting science fiction period piece, one that will surely grab the attention of viewers and hold it for some time to come. I only wished it would have come out three weeks earlier, since it would have been the perfect thing to go see Independence Day weekend.