Rejected multiple times for military service during World War II, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top-secret programme aimed at creating the ultimate soldier. When his qualities put him at the head of the pack, he undergoes an experimental procedure which gives him superhuman strength and endurance, but the experiment is interrupted by agents of HYDRA. Proving himself in combat, Captain America quickly emerges as the Allies’ best hope to defeat HYDRA and its megalomaniacal leader The Red Skull.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” shouldn’t have worked. The MCU had, to date, built itself up on the quippy cynicism of “Iron Man”, taking the world as it was. In the real world, the geopolitical reputation of America had taken quite a beating since the millennium [present day muffled sobs] and the idea that such a patriotically symbolic hero would be palatable, credible and even embraced at home never mind overseas seemed uncertain at best.
But if “Iron Man” provided the brains and “Thor” the heart, “Captain America: The First Avenger” had the courage to give the MCU a sense of purpose. The MCU Dorothy was finally ready to meet its Wizard Of Oz: the Avengers.
For such a purported archetype of Americana, the MCU’s Cap carves out a distinctly modern interpretation: he’s a good man, not born to strength and therefore careful how he wields it. He doesn’t like bullies and ‘could do this all day’ when taking his lumps. The MCU’s Captain America is very much defined by his shield – delightfully foreshadowed repeatedly throughout the first half of the film, from trash cans and car doors to nods to his original comic book appearance through to the finished article. Its this sense of universal honour and morality that enables the movie to lean as heavily into the World War II iconography as it does. Director Joe Johnston nails the boys’ own adventure tone of the piece masterfully, lending it a sense of sincerity and a knowing but ironic sense of humour – including a delicious reference to the ‘Führer digging for trinkets in the desert’ that enables it to sidestep some of the more complex issues the 1940s can bring up.
Chris Evans is simply perfect as the man out of time, instantly obliterating any lingering concerns over his previous Marvel role and while he may have expressed near-Ecclestone levels of disdain for the role, Hugo Weaving is a terrific Red Skull, more than enough to make you disappointed the character and the actor hasn’t yet returned. One of the best supporting casts yet assembled *ahem*, the recurring cast – who we’ll get to in later countdown entries – is great but it’s Stanley Tucci’s touching performance as Dr Abraham Erskine and Tommy Lee Jones’ gruff Colonel Chester Phillips brings so much world-weary gravitas he comes damn close to stealing the entire film.
Packing a surprising amount of future set-up into its refreshingly straightforward story, “Captain America: The First Avenger” kicks off what will become one of the – if not the – best and most clearly defined character arcs for the entire MCU and sets the stage perfectly for what comes next.
Finally, an honest-to-Gods Infinity Stone, although it’s not referred to as such – yet, and its reveal at the start of the movie is a nice backwards nod to “Thor”
James ‘Bucky’ Buchanan (Sebastian Stan), Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), HYDRA, Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) and the metal Vibranium.
Stan’s a confused General who’s disappointed by Captain America’s stature.
Cut down from a scene in “Avengers Assemble”, the post-credits stinger sees Nick Fury interrupt Cap’s training with a mission to ‘save the world’.
Stan Lee had nothing to do with the creation on the character of Captain America but the first story Lee ever wrote for Marvel was “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America Comics #3 in 1941, which also featured the first appearance of Captain America throwing his shield as a weapon. In 1964, Lee and Jack Kirby successfully revived the Captain America in The Avengers #4, reestablishing him as a major figure in the Marvel Universe.