The Big Damn MCU Rewatch: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) took us back to the 1940s and the second world war, and the arms race between Germany and the Allies. Make no mistake, this was one of the most creative periods in history in terms of innovation, and both sides really were investigating human enhancement as well as engineering improvements. It’s just that the Americans mostly used volunteers, and the Nazis… well, we all know what they did to the Roma and the Jews, plus dissidents from their own side, prisoners of war and countless Poles, Russians and others they considered beneath them.
Captain America is a what-if story, of course. What if there was an enhancement serum that really worked? Erskine’s choice of Steve Rogers makes sense if the serum enhances everything, as he says, every quality good and bad. Steve’s brave, smart, dedicated, stubborn… that one’s not necessarily a good thing as far as senior officers are concerned, of course. I love Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips, gruff and thoroughly exasperated, and I wish we’d had far more of the Howling Commandos. The tiny bit of Dum Dum Dugan in Agent Carter just wasn’t enough. I’d love to see a Howling Commandos series one day. Fingers crossed.
There are some amazing supporting actors in this film, with Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper and of course the incredible Hayley Atwell, but Marvel once again too a leap of faith in casting not only Chris Evans (who at least had done superhero work before as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four) but also Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, supposedly locking him in very early on a 9-movie deal. The two of them play off each other so well, absolutely believable as best friends ‘to the end of the line’.
Of all the MCU movies to date, CA:TFA is probably the most simplistic in its villains, and that’s almost certainly because Marvel wanted to ensure there was no room for debate. The Nazis were most definitely the villains in World War II. Captain America the character was created in 1941 by two Jewish cartoonists, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and the Nazis were unambiguously evil in their eyes. To portray Hydra as anything less in Captain America’s origin story would be a betrayal nobody would have accepted. Of course, Hydra becomes more complicated later in the MCU, shifting away from their origin as the Nazi deep science division to a different kind of fascism, but Steve as a character will always be the same person. “I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.”
Something else CA:TFA does brilliantly is share around the one-liners. Incredible Hulk was sadly devoid of them, Thor took itself a bit too seriously for the most part, and Tony Stark is pretty much the only one who gets to make quips in the Iron Man franchise, but CA:TFA perfectly captured the gallows humour of men at war.
Favourite moment: Peggy punching out the rude recruit. Peggy shooting Steve’s shield. Frankly, Peggy doing literally anything. PEGGY.
Kieran says the montage of Steve storming all the bases with the Howlies.
Best one-liner: “Is it too late to go to the bathroom?”
Kieran reckons it’s “Captain America, the man with the plan. And what is your plan today?”
Connor says it’s the kid who falls in the water yelling “Go get him mister, I can swim!”
Least favourite moment: Poor Steve having to perform on stage. The cringe factor was high, though probably not as high as it was for him!
Also Bucky falling off the train. Gets me EVERY TIME.
Kieran says Steve having to drive the plane into the water. It was stupid, in his opinion.
As usual for Connor, it’s the kissing.
Overall star rating: 9/10. Captain America: The First Avenger is very nearly flawless, if a bit gung-ho occasionally. As the final prequel before Avengers, occurring very nearly concurrently with IM2 and Thor in MCU continuity, it was perfection.