Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
It’s easy to forget a time in which Captain America wasn’t one of the most popular characters in the MCU. An extremely patriotic do-gooder who stands for truth, justice and the American way isn’t perceived as cool in today’s world, and the first instalment in the franchise didn’t exactly set the world on fire.
Steve Rogers (Evans) is desperate to fight in World War II, and has tried to sign up in various places under various names, consistently being denied due to his poor health. Overhearing this, a scientist by the name of Abraham Erskine (Tucci) makes him an offer he can’t refuse: be a guinea pig to test their new super-secret super soldier serum. Rogers accepts, and becomes Captain America, extra fast, extra strong and extra patriotic.
This first in the Captain America franchise is polar opposite to its sequels, and rip-roaring, swash-buckling adventure ripped straight from the days of yore. Errol Flynn would be perfectly at home in this movie, probably swinging from set-piece to set-piece and punching Nazis in the face like a true hero. It is perhaps a little out of place in today’s more cynical, less fantasy-driven world, but that’s not to say it’s without its merits.
It’s a movie filled hope and optimism, even with the world at its most broken. Rogers stands up for what he believes is right, no matter what anyone else thinks of him. These sometimes come off as a little too sincere or cheesy, but it makes up for the initially arrogant protagonists of Iron Man and Thor.
The best moments of the film are the quietist; the conversation pre-serum between Rogers and Erskine, or Rogers’ despair after a tragic loss on a train. You don’t always need explosions to capture the attention of an audience.
Evans is tailor made for the role. He manages to convey Rogers’ earnestness and conviction without coming off like a total sap. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, and makes you glad that Evans changed his mind after initially turning it down three times. He’s a strong presence in an above-average movie, and makes an impact, even if his surroundings don’t.
The rest of the cast is great too, but most are outshined by the incomparable Hayley Atwell, playing officer Peggy Carter, member of the army and Rogers’ love interest. It’s hard to look at anyone but her when on the screen, and it’s no wonder that Marvel decided to give her her very own Agent Carter spin-off television show, even if it was short lived. Her character pops up from time to time in the MCU, and it’s always welcome, a gift that keeps on giving.
The film is now roughly eight years old, and some of the special effects are starting to wear. Seeing Evans’ face superimposed onto a small body is, quite frankly, terrifying, the lines around his face blurring as witness the Uncanny Valley. It’s a small quibble, but after seeing a close-up shot of Thanos’ face, the lesser than special effects are striking.
Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is another problematic part of the film. Weaving has said that he didn’t enjoy the prosthetics used in order to make him into the villain, and it’s evident. He looks miserable, and you feel as though his distaste for the makeup prohibits him from really connecting with the character.
It’s not the best in the MCU (it may be too dated and cheesy for some) however it is far from the worst. However, Evans is the perfect Cap, Atwell is a captivating presence, and it can perhaps restore some of your faith in the human race, if you let it. It also has a pretty perfect ending, with one of the best final lines of any movie. I dare you not to feel heartbreak.