Steve Rogers: You know for the longest time I dreamed about coming overseas and be on the front lines. Serving my country. I finally get everything I wanted, and I’m wearing tights.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
If anyone were to say Captain America could be taken seriously prior to this movie I would probably laugh. His costume looked incredibly silly and made him look like a human Bullseye. There was also another Captain America movie back in 1990 that really did not help in that regard. If anything it worsened my opinion of the Captain. But thankfully this movie (and by extension the sequels) proved just how enjoyable the Captain could be.
The story takes place in the year 1941. World War 2 is going on and young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his part and join the armed forces but is rejected due to various health and physical problems as well as his small stature. However his good will, heart, and courage convince a scientist named Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tuci) that he would be perfect for a new experiment to create a bunch of super soldiers to stop Hitler and the Nazis. Rogers undergoes the experiment and becomes taller and muscular but Erskine is killed leaving him the only super soldier. However no one knows what to do with him. Rather than send him in combat the government puts him in a colorful costume making him Captain America and tour the nation to promote the war in shows and dance numbers. Eventually he gets his shot in action and with the help of his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and British Agent Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) finds himself up against the nefarious Hydra organization led by the evil Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
The movie has some great fights and stunts but none of them particularly have a “wow” factor to them. But thankfully the movie has some enjoyable writing and performances to fall back upon to make this a good adventure. Joe Johnston did well in making the time period of a World War 2 movie on the western front look believable and this shines well not only through the look of the movie but also with the main hero. While Steve is not dull he’s not the most interesting. He’s very much the embodiment of a 1940s hero: Simple but likable and always looking to do the right thing. That being said with it being World War 2 on the western front there are hardly any Nazis and it’s mostly just Hydra Agents which is rather odd since the Hydra soldiers don’t have much to them. The writing also does well in playing with clichés but taking only the best of them and either discarding or glossing over the worst parts. It gives the movie a perfect balance of light-heartedness and heaviness.
The movie has a lot of cleverness in creating Captain America as well. Such examples include how they paint the wings on the side of his helmet and actually use the silly look of the 90s costume and work it into what the character of Captain America did in the 40s which was him being used to promote the good of the war which leads to the hilarious song and dance number Star Spangled Man With a Plan. To top it off the future movies would do well in updating the outfit to synergize it with the rest of the Avengers.
The core of every Marvel solo movie is the main hero and Chris Evans did great in giving the character of Steve Rogers a naïve and innocent charm that makes us root for him even before he becomes stronger. Evans’ performance gives a life to this character that makes it believable in the many bonds he forms over the course of the movies and his sense of decency and duty. All the secondary characters such as Bucky Barnes, Erskine, Howard Stark, and of course Peggy Carter play great part in Rogers journey furthering themselves as allies and friends in the process. Haley Atwell’s character of Peggy proved to be such a strong and compelling character that she would eventually get her own spin off (which was unjustly cancelled after two seasons). She very much proves herself to be an equal to Cap and not a victim or hostage in any way. There’s also Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips as Jones pretty much chews the scenery in every scene.
The effects used to make Steve look smaller are also pretty impressive. They’re not flawless compared to what they did with Hank Pym in Ant-Man but there’s definitely some effort.
One of the main problems I have with the movie is once again like most early Marvel movies, the villain. Hugo Weaving gave a good performance as Red Skull but the movie doesn’t give him much to do. On top of that as horrible as the 90s Captain America was and as much as they couldn’t show the Red Skull the make-up on the villain in that movie gave him these beady eyes and creepy flesh-like look. When they show Red Skull in this movie it just looks like a plastic mask whereas the make up for the Red Skull in the 90s looked creepier.
This movie isn’t big or epic but it did something that during the time would prove to be hard in making Captain America enjoyable. It gave us the journey that proved to be compelling on its characters and performances. This movie proved that Marvel can do big things and make good updates while still staying true to the roots of even the most silliest of comic book characters.