Closing in on the end of Phase 1 of the MCU, we round out the big names of the Avengers with the 2011 film Captain America, the First Avenger...
But it's not just Cap that's introduced, but the first of the Infinity Stones! An artifact left behind by the Asgardians? Hidden away in an old church in Norway decorated in viking iconography, and stolen by Heir Schmidt...
I don't know if it's accurate to say they were saving the best for last, but this is a really solid war movie. Oh, and a comic book movie too! With this installment of the MCU the series begins to edge toward not just making good comic movies, but making good movies in a variety of genres that then overlap with comics. Going forward we're going to see spycraft/thrillers, heist movies, team movies, redemptive stories, and out there gonzo inception level weirdness. Here, though, here we have World War II, and a beanpole kid from Brooklyn desperate to serve because he doesn't like bullies.
Like the original Iron Man, I've seen this movie a whole bunch of times, and while it's fun like Iron Man, it does it in an entirely different way. While Tony Stark is the wisecracking playboy, Steve Rogers is the straight man. He's almost painfully earnest. And going in, I did not have a high opinion of Captain America. He's a boy scout...he's just... well, kinda boring, at least in the comics I'd read. But scrawny Steve getting beat up in the alley? This was a kid I could root for. Scrappy, willing to get dirty, bloody, whatever in order to stand up for what's right. Especially when he stands back up after getting knocked down again and again, and says "I could do this all day." Because you know he would. Thankfully his friend Sgt. Bucky shows up to help him out.
But he finally gets in, as part of a special science experiment unit... and shows his true self when he jumps on the grenade tossed into the middle of the group of enlistees by Colonel Phillips.
Once Steve gets injected with the super serum, and Howard Stark (nice tie in with both the Hulk and Iron Man 2 films here) zaps him with half the power in Brooklyn, we're quickly introduced to Hydra, who will come back to bother our heroes again and again from this point on. From here the plot picks up quickly, and Captain America takes the stage... literally! That is until his buddy's unit is captured in battle with Hydra forces, and Cap heads out to bring them home. Helping him get at least part of the way there are Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark!
Side note: I'm finding myself writing more about the plot of this movie than the previous ones, because so much of what I want to talk about seems to revolve more around the events of the film?
Captain America rescues his buddy, and most of the unit while at the same time seeing the weapons Dr. Zola is creating for Heir Schmidt, who is revealed as the Red Skull, an earlier recipient of the super serum that had some unfortunate side effects. Captain America then spends the next bit of the movie destroying the Hydra weapons factories, capturing Dr. Zola, and in the process losing his friend Bucky. All that isn't enough to stop the Red Skull from setting his final plan into motion - the destruction of every capital & major city in Europe and the USA. Cap manages to get on the big plane, fight Red Skull, who gets zapped... who knows where? leaving Cap to crash the big plane in the ice of the arctic ocean before it reaches NYC. The Tesseract is recovered by Stark, but the plane (and Cap) are lost...
Until Cap awakes in a hospital room in NYC, with a ball game playing on the radio. Cap realizes it's a deception, runs out into SHIELD HQ, and finds himself in modern day NYC, with Director Fury there to collect him.
For a movie that takes place DECADES before everything else, this is the one that really sets up everything that's going to happen in the Avengers, though I'm not sure how many people watching in the theaters picked up on that fact. Especially those who left before the end credit scene... I still don't get those people...
One of the coolest things in this movie was making a buff Chris Evans look like a 90lb nothing. That was an amazing bit of cinematic magic that was a million times more convincing than when Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG got "aged" 10 years by Q-Riker into a completely different actor who looked and sounded NOTHING LIKE Wil Wheaton!
Back to the review - There's something immensely satisfying watching the soldiers punch, shoot, blow up, and generally destroy Nazis/Hydra troops. And while I could probably spend a happy 2 hours just watching that, the writers were very smart in the way the structured the film. We got to see cool snipits of the battles that Captain Rodgers and his band fought in, but we aren't bogged down in gratuitous stuff that doesn't actually move the story forward.
There were also a lot of moments that I'd literally cheer or laugh out loud at, from Agent Carter shooting at Steve as he holds his new shield for the first time, or the flag scene? Saving his friend Bucky! Hell, Punching Hitler over and over!
To wrap this up, The First Avenger is a stand up guy, and a necessary component of the team, and I'm really looking forward to bringing them all together in the Avengers!