Captain America: The First Avenger
Face it; Captain America is a cheesy superhero. There’s really no way to get around it. He has the worst costume of all major superheroes, his only gadget is a shield that inexplicably returns to him boomerang-style and when there’s a corny line to be said in the comic books, CA is there to say it. I questioned whether it was possible to make a decent Captain America movie, but Joe Johnston did it the only way it could be done. He bulldozes straight through the cheesiness, acknowledges it complete with a chorus line montage and then gets the audience quickly past it. Virtually everyone in the film makes a crack at the costume and the nickname, but Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) takes it and runs with it. That decision is what propelled the film forward and made for arguably the best superhero film of 2011.
Origin stories can sometimes be a little boring, mainly because the audience is waiting for our hero to get to the next action scene. But one of the areas where Captain America succeeded was by quickly establishing characters we instantly liked. Steve Rogers is not a cocky rich boy that got bit by a spider or has a rich dad, he’s a genuinely nice guy that’s had a hard life but still manages to hold onto his values and beliefs. In spite of his physical shortcomings, he wants to join the military because he believes in his heart that it’s the right thing to do. That fortitude is the quality that eventually leads him to being chosen to become Captain America and it’s also the quality that the audience can hold onto, even when he’s running through gunfire and tossing his shield around.
Although it was underdeveloped at times, there’s a sweet love story between Rodgers and Peggy Carter, played skillfully by Hayley Atwell. It’s not a driving force in the film, but it adds a depth to the final battle that would have been lost without the pseudo-love story. And as great as Chris Evans is as Captain America, the entire supporting cast surprised me with how much they brought to their characters. We expect it from Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving, but lesser known actors like Sebastian Stan and Toby Jones also gave memorable performances as well.
Not enough credit can be given to director Joe Johnston and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for structuring the film in a way that managed to avoid the many pitfalls the Captain America story makes available. Unlike THOR, which debuted a couple of months earlier, Captain America blends the supernatural elements of the film and the recognizable reality extremely well. We knew we were watching a fantasy, but it was just real enough to keep us grounded and entertained without going overboard.
And as enjoyable as the film is, there are aspects that can leave a lot to be desired. Red Skull is barely a half a step above a Bond villain, both in actions and setup and there’s a few ho-hum special effects that could have used a little more work. But in the end, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER has something that earlier superhero films didn’t have; heart. Maybe it’s the 1940’s setting or the patriotic sentiments, but this is a film that manages to be entertaining without being cheesy and makes for a fun film.