Things are moving forward and the team is almost complete but first, the figurehead of the team has to be introduced. Just like the average person considers Superman to be the face of the Justice League (yes, I know this will probably start some arguments), Captain America is often considered the face of the Avengers, which is funny because neither character was a founding member of their respective establishments. When I heard they were making a Captain America movie, I was concerned since the last movie I saw with the character was an absolute awful movie from 1990. Still, every other movie in the MCU had been good so I was hopeful that Captain America: The First Avenger would turn out just as good.
The plot: In the Arctic, scientist uncover a large aircraft buried in the ice and when two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are called in to investigate it, they discover the frozen body of Captain America and make a call to Col. Fury. Flashback to 1942, Nazi forces led by Johann Schmidt, the leader of Hitler’s Hydra division, enter a town in occupied Norway and locate a mysterious relic called the Tesseract, an object that contains untold power. In New York, Steve Rogers tries enlisting in the army but is rejected due to numerous health issues. After getting into an altercation with a guy outside a movie theater, Steve is saved by his best friend Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes, who arranges a double date that night as he is shipping off to the war the next day. Going to the world fair, the group sees a demonstration by Howard Stark but when Bucky and the girls decide to go dancing, Steve decides to try his luck with joining the Army again. At the fair’s recruitment center, Steve is approached by Dr. Abraham Erskine, who had overheard Steve’s conversation with Bucky earlier, and offers to give him a chance to join the war, which Steve readily accepts. In his hidden base in Germany, Schmidt is working with his associate Dr. Arnim Zola to harness the power of the Tesseract, which they plan to use to power Zola’s machines. Back in the U.S., Steve is recruited into the Strategic Scientific Reserve as a part of their Super Soldier program and put through the basic training program. The unit’s commanding officer, Col. Phillips, argues with Erskine’s choosing Steve to be the first to take part but after seeing Steve willing to sacrifice himself to save others, he relents. The night before the experiment, Erskine tells Steve about Schmidt, who had used an earlier, unperfected version of the serum and how it transformed him and makes Steve promise to remain a good man, regardless of what happens. Steve is taken to a shop in New York City by Peggy Carter, a British agent assigned to the S.S.R. and after making their way through the security checkpoints, they enter the secret lab where the experiment will take place. After injecting Steve with the Super Soldier Serum, they close him up in a metal cocoon and douse him with “vita-rays”, successfully completeing the experiment and making Steve both taller and more muscular. As everyone is congratulating Steve and Dr. Erskine, an assassin sent by Schmidt sets off a bomb and uses the distraction to shoot Erskine and steal the last vial of the serum. Peggy manages to wound the assassin but he manages to shoot his way out of the lab and into his waiting car. Peggy shoots the driver, causing the car to crash and forcing the assassin to steal a cab, which he drives straight at Peggy, who shoots at him but is saved by Steve before she is run over. Steve chases after the assassin on foot and eventually catches up to him when he attempts to flee in a small submarine but when Steve tries questioning him, the assassin uses a suicide pill to kill himself, with his last words being, “Hail Hydra!” In Germany, some of Hitler’s advisors arrive at Hydra’s base to question Schmidt’s actions and Schmidt ends up testing Zola’s weapon out on the advisors, telling Zola that Hydra can no longer grow under the Nazi regime. Back in the U.S., Col. Phillips says the S.S.R. has been retasked to take the fight to Hydra and takes Stark and Peggy with him but refuses to take Steve. Senator Brandt, one of the backers of the S.S.R., decides to use Steve to help sell war bonds due to his sudden notoriety in the papers, calling him Captain America. When Captain America ends up performing in front of some soldiers in Italy, he meets up with Peggy, who tells him that his audience was what was left of the 107th, which Captain America recognizes as Bucky’s unit. Finding Col. Phillips, Captain America asks if Bucky was on the casualty list but refuses to believe it when Phillips says that Bucky is dead. Disobey orders, Captain America decides to infiltrate the nearby Hydra base, with Peggy and Stark helping him by flying him behind enemy lines. Sneaking into the base, Captain America rescues the prisoners but when he doesn’t see Bucky with them, he directs them towards the tree line while he goes looking for Bucky. Schmidt sees the prisoners escaping and sounds the alarm, but when he sees Captain America fighting his soldiers, he decides to set the self destruct for the base. Captain America finds Bucky where Zola had been torturing him and frees him, taking note of a nearby map of other Hydra bases, but as they are leaving, they are confronted by Schmidt and Zola. Captain America and Schmidt briefly fight before they are separated and Schmidt reveals how the experiment changed him, pulling off the mask he wears to reveal his real face has been changed into a red, skull-like visage, leading to him calling himself the Red Skull. As the factory explodes around them, Captain America and Bucky manage to escape and the meet up with the other escaped prisoners, leading them back to the Allied base camp. After being debreifed and relaying the locations of the other Hydra weapon factories, Col. Phillips asks Captain America if is ready to wipe Hydra off the map and Captain America agrees to assemble a team to handle it. Asking some of the freed prisoners to help, they all agree, as does Bucky, who seems surprised when Peggy shows up looking for Captain America and ignores him. The next day, Steve goes to see Stark for some new equipment and Captain America notices a shield made out of a rare metal called vibranium that he decides to use. With his team assembled, Captain America begins assaulting the Hydra bases but when they are on a mission to capture Zola, Bucky ends up falling to his death as he and Captain America are fighting with some Hydra soldiers. After questioning Zola, Phillips learns the Red Skulls plan and the S.S.R. decides on a plan of action against the Red Skull’s last base. Captain America makes a frontal assault on the base and ends up being captured but his capture was merely a diversion as the rest of Captain America’s team, as well as a squad led by Phillips and Peggy, attack the base. The Red Skull manages to get into one of his super aircraft that he plans to use to attack the U.S. and prepares to take off but Captain America manages to get on board and fights his way towards the cockpit, where the Red Skull is waiting for him. The two proceed to fight and the container with the Tesseract ends up being damaged. When the Red Skull picks it up, he ends up being enveloped in a bright light and disintegrated and the Tesseract ends up buring through the floor of the plane and falls into the ocean. Captain America radios in that the Red Skull is dead but he is unable to land the plane and is forced to crash it it into the ocean before he gets to a more populated area, telling Peggy that he is going to have to miss their date. Later, the war is won and Captain America’s team toast his memory while in the Atlantic Ocean, Stark manages to find the Tesseract but no sign of Captain America. Back to the present, Captain America wakes up in a 1940’s style hospital room but when he recognizes the game being broadcast on the radio as one he had attended years earlier, he realizes something is wrong and breaks out of the room. Heading out into the street, Captain America is shocked by what he sees and is approached by Nick Fury, who informs him that he has been “asleep” for almost 70 years. Later, Captain America is using a punching bag at a gym and is approached by Fury, who has an assignment for him that will save the world.
Captain America: The First Avenger was well received by the critics, holding a 79% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critic’s consensus is that “With plenty of pulpy action, a pleasantly retro vibe, and a handful of fine performances, Captain America is solidly old-fashioned blockbuster entertainment.” This movie was the last movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be distributed by Paramount Pictures, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk (which was distributed by Universal Pictures) as all future movies would end up being distributed by Disney Studios, starting with The Avengers. The movie wasn’t as big a hit as they hoped for the lead in to The Avengers but it still made over $370 million off a $140 million budget.
I know I am in the minority on this but I like this movie. The biggest thing about Captain America was not so much his super powers but his character, and this movie did a good job of showcasing that. Chris Evans did a great job as Captain America, which was funny considering that just a few years earlier he was playing Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies. Hugo Weaving, Haley Atwell, and Tommy Lee Jones were also good as the Red Skull, Peggy Carter, and Col Phillips respectively. The story was pretty good and really showed they type of character that Steve Rogers was, though I know some of my friends felt it was boring. One thing that mildly irritated me was Captain America forming the “Howling Commandos” as opposed to Nick Fury but since the MCU is more or less patterned after the “Ultimate” universe, it didn’t bother me too much (my apologies if you don’t understand the comic references here.) The special effects and action scenes were really good but the one thing that did bother me was when they “shrunk” Chris Evans to showcase the difference between Steve Rogers before and after the experiment just how big his head was compared to the rest of his body. It looked a little weird at times. Other than that, this was a great movie to watch and really gets you ready for The Avengers.
Rating: 4 out of 5