MOVIE REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger

Wil Avitt
Wil Avitt's picture

Captain America: The First Avenger tells the story of Steve Rogers, a young guy who wants nothing more than to serve his country by fighting in World War II. The only problem is he's been classified 4F (unfit for military service). Steve's best friend, James "Bucky" Barnes, is a sergeant in the US Army and although he feels for his friend, he knows he wouldn't last long in battle with his frail frame. Bucky tries to talk Steve into giving up on the Army, but can't help but support him every time he tries to enlist (using different aliases in different recruiting offices). It is during one of these conversations that Steve's determination is noticed by a German scientist who is looking for candidates for his super soldier program.

Steve, still scrawny and 4F, is accepted into the Army and sent to Basic Training where he trains with the other super soldier candidates. Steve tries and tries, but he can't keep up with the other guys and Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) wants him dropped from the program. That is until Steve proves his bravery by jumping on a hand grenade when the rest of his squad runs away (the grenade was a dummy, of course).

Soon Steve is off to the SSP to get all super soldierfied. Steve is supposed to be the first in an army, but when a Nazi agent sneaks into the program and assassinates the scientist responsible for the program. With Steve as the only super soldier there's ever going to be, the Army classifies the super soldier program a failure and files Steve away with the USO as a morale/recruiting tool. It doesn't take long for Captain America to become a national celebrity. That is, with everyone except the men overseas on the real battlefield, who consider Captain America and his punching out Hitler theatrics both laughable and insulting to the real life effort they're making and dying for. While doing a show in Italy, however, Steve learns that Bucky's unit has gone MIA behind enemy lines and takes it upon himself to go find them, wearing his silly blue tights and carrying his prop shield. When Steve returns with the missing soldiers, Captain America the entertainer dies and Captain America the soldier is born!

Ok, Captain America had a solid plot an amazing cast (though I must admit, when looking for an actor to play Dum Dum Dugan, Neal McDonough wouldn't have been the first thing to come to mind but the former Tin Man does a great job) and it looks spectacular, but it has some faults too. It tends to drag. Maybe it's just me (drained from all the craziness over the past 2 weeks) but even during huge battle scenes I found myself looking at my watch. It also suffers from some production design flaws. The science fiction elements, like Steve Rogers' rebirth chamber and the equipment and costumes used by Hydra, look too modern and too new and it takes you out of the WWII period the costumes and other sets try so hard to establish. The special effects are nice. It is hard to pick out where they use a CG Cap and where they put the dude on wires. All in all I would give Captain America: The First Avenger a C+. It was a good movie, but it didn't blow me away and it wasn't as awesome as I was hoping and expecting it to be. After Thor and Cap I'm going to venture out on a limb and say Marvel Studios is getting complacent and allowing the quality to slip back to their failed TV movies of the 70's, 80's and 90's. But that's just my opinion, and I hope they prove me wrong with Avengers.

Will Conservatives Like This Movie?

It is hard to have a movie about a character named Captain America and not have it appeal to the patriots who populate the conservative wing of American politics. That said, the movie wasn't overly patriotic, which I consider a flaw. It isn't anti-American by any means, but I would have liked to have seen it be a bit more "America is Awesome!" They rarely even refer to Steve as Captain America, they usually call him Captain Rogers.