a critiQal film review Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Plot: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers (Evans) volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals.

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After looking through the movies available on NetFlix®, I came across a film I had seen but never actually reviewed: Captain America: The First Avenger. While the sequence to watching Marvel superhero films (at least some of them) falls in a specific order, I wanted to go back and put in my two cents on this last film prior to the years-building release of the superhero group movie, The Avengers (2012).

Marvel’s plan over the few years leading up to the big release of The Avengers (2012) was to release individual superhero films before combining the heroes together, thus generating hordes of fans already following their favorite heroes. While there were a few misfires (Hulk (2003), for example), the plan really got off the ground with the blockbuster success of Iron Man (2008). While the ol’ tin can got a sequel (Iron Man 2 (2010)) – and Hulk once again tried to gain success with a reboot (The Incredible Hulk (2008)), other heroes Thor and Captain America each got their own films as well – namely, Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger.

With Thor (2011) garnering more box office success – and with Marvel’s decision to simply reboot Hulk again in the group film – there was a lot riding on the success of a film about the superhero of the group who is most like the common man: a military man whose injection of a super-soldier serum helped him become one of the most recognizable heroes on the planet. But, with so much riding on what may be the toughest hero to portray on-screen in this digital age (after all, his abilities aren’t nearly as flashy as those of his fellow Avengers – and to top it off, most of his story takes place during WWII), did Captain America: The First Avenger manage to meet (or even exceed) it’s high expectations?

Of course, by now, everyone knows the answer to be a resounding “YES!” But what got viewers so enamored in the big-screen debut of this military man from WWII? That was the question.

Chris Evans steps into the title role, and despite some initial misgivings (The Human Torch from Fantastic Four (2005) playing this iconic superhero?), manages to turn down the hijinks and turn up the grit and determination called for in the role. Sure, he’s not exactly straight from Platoon (1986) or something along those lines, but that’s not exactly what the role calls for anyway. He manages to play solider without belittling it, yet clearly not trying to portray a down-in-the-trenches soldier either. It’s a thin line to walk, and Chris Evans does it surprisingly well.

His fellow actors also put on a decent show. Tommy Lee Jones takes on the gruff commander-type as if he was born into it, and Stanley Tucci is a standout as the Doctor who sees something special in this scrawny kid from Brooklyn. Hugo Weaving is a decently evil Red Skull (despite some accent stumbling every now and again), and Sebastian Stan and Hayley Atwell perform well as the best friend and the love interest, respectively.

The story of the heroic rise of Captain America starts out simply enough, with a scrawny Brooklyn kid with a heart. Wanting nothing more than to do his part for his country, the small-yet-scrappy Steve Rogers tries to enlist several times, only to be rejected each and every time. It’s not until he meets a strange doctor, who sees something in this puny kid, that he is accepted into a special program to create a super soldier – a move which changes his life forever.

Starting out as the puny kid, Captain America’s story is a story that anyone can relate to, making this superhero film the most personable yet. While the other superheroes may have been given some unique gifts at birth (Stark’s intellect, Thor’s godhood, Banner’s scientific prowess), it’s Captain America who started out with no special gifts other than a heart of gold. This makes him much more of an everyday guy than any of his counterparts – and someone viewers can instantly start cheering for when he is injected with the super soldier serum.

What captures the viewer’s attention most, however, is the subtle special effects of the film. While the latter part of the film manages to wow with it’s bigger explosions and dissipating ray guns, it’s the beginning that will wow the viewers the most. When viewers first meet Evans’ Steve Rogers, he’s incredibly scrawny and small – looking for all the world like a little kid playing at being a man. Since Evans’ physique is later to become impressive, viewers will stand in amazement at how the special effects wizards manage to make him look so darn puny for quite a few scenes. It’s amazing, and much more eye-popping than the in-your-face special effects of the latter part of the film.

All in all, Captain America: The First Avenger exceeds expectations with it’s impressive combination of solid acting, a storyline viewers can get involved in, and amazing yet subtle special effects that will make the viewer scratch their head in wonder. After watching a man in an iron suit take to the sky in flight, and a god of thunder raining lighting down on his foes, you may have think you’ve become jaded to special effects – but Captain America‘s ability to make a guy like Chris Evans look like a puny kid will still manage to amaze you – and that’s just the start of this impressive first foray for Captain America: The First Avenger.

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