Review: Captain America – The First Avenger (2011)

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Hollywood shows up its inability to always successfully transfer comic book heroes to the big screen with this messy and unfulfilling effort.

Having been deemed unfit for military service, young patriot Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has a chance encounter with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who, impressed by his desire to serve, recruits him into a top-secret project to create the oft-mentioned “super soldier”.

Those familiar with the character will know what happens next. Erskine is killed by a Nazi plant played by Richard Armitage (continuing the Hollywood tradition of British actors playing villains) and the formula for the super-serum dies with him, leaving Rogers’ a one-of-a-kind soldier.

It’s at this point that the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely starts to go wrong because rather than make use of Rogers’ enhanced abilities, his C.O. Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), chooses instead to head out to the Italian front without him. Thus deprived of his ability to serve, Rogers is talked into joining a nationwide tour to promote war bond sales for the U.S. government. As part of this tour, the character of Captain America is created for Rogers to play and the tour becomes a massive success.

Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has taken the Nazi top-secret scientific research division, Hydra, independent of the High Command with a plan to, you guessed it, conquer the world. It turns out, that Schmidt had forced Erskine to give him the super-serum first before it was ready and his skin was burned off as a result, leaving him severely disfigured and being nicknamed the Red Skull.

Rogers just happens to be in Italy trying to entertain the troops when the unit his friend from Brooklyn is in is captured by Hydra. Sergeant James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Rogers go way back and when Rogers learns of his capture, he disobeys orders and goes to rescue him with the help of Phillips’ assistant Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) the soon-to-be father of Tony Stark who goes on to become Iron Man.

Naturally, Rogers, clad in his Captain America costume, pulls off the rescue and, naturally, no charges are brought against him or Carter for disobeying orders. Finally convinced of his abilities, Phillips promotes Rogers to captain in the U.S. Army and Stark creates a new costume for him complete with his recognisable shield. Assembling a crack unit made up of Barnes and some of the other prisoners he rescued, Rogers leads them though a series of battles against Hydra, slowly destroying their bases until only their base in the Alps remains.

Rogers goes up against Red Skull beats him and, in an effort to save New York from being bombed, diverts the plane he’s on to crash in the Arctic where he remains frozen for nearly 70 years until revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here as the story doesn’t really matter as it’s pretty much what we’ve seen before in these kinds of underdog-makes-good kind of movies. However, one of my biggest gripes against the script is that the equipment used by Hydra is beyond even todays technology, let alone that of the 1940’s and saying that it’s powered by an ancient device left behind by the Gods simply makes it even less believable. Now I know that the key to enjoying a super-hero movie is the suspension of disbelief, but energy pulse weapons, modern-day looking APC’s and a massive bomber that looks like a B2 batwing, but has rotors on it for extra thrust, is just plain ridiculous.

What is really disappointing is that the whole movie is spent in WWII rather than the modern-day and this annoyed me as one of the more intriguing things about the Rogers character is his 1940’s innocent belief in the infallibility of America coming up against the modern-day world opinion of his country which makes his role as the embodiment of the best of the American way even harder and, for the U.S, much more necessary and relevant.

Watching him deal with that as well as the fact that everyone he ever knew is now dead, would have made for a much better character drama, which is what Marvel characters are really known for; real life people dealing with extraordinary abilities and/or circumstances.

All in all, a very dissatisfying movie and a waste of a really good character in what is little more than an extended teaser for the upcoming Avengers movie.

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