Captain America: The First Avenger

Despite its underlying propaganda, The First Avenger is a well-made superhero film that will ultimately spawn a mega franchise from creator Marvel.

Uncle Sam would be proud. Holistically, this film looks like one mass recruitment campaign to get men enlisted into the US armed forces. Then again, this is nothing new. As a superhero, Captain America personified the might of the US military during the actual Second World War to intentionally create a sense of patriotism against the ‘Axis Powers’ led by Stalin and Hitler. Picking up on that idea, the well-known source of this concept is Marvel comic books and brings to cinematic life, a spectacular and glorious vision of how invincible a US soldier can or should be.

Almost entirely, the film is a flash back after a rare metallic shield is discovered in the present day Arctic region. Rejected by the military during WWII, scrawny and frail Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gets a second chance after a selfless act of bravery. As a result, Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) allows Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to administer Rogers with a serum, immediately super-sizing the latter into a ‘Super Soldier’. Shortly after, Erskine is killed by an assassin deployed by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). As Hitler’s advanced weapons expert, we learn that Schmidt has assembled an army to possess and control a mysterious cube with infinite power, after being injected with a flawed version of the serum perfected for Rogers. Now christened ‘Captain America’ and literally draped in stars and stripes, Rogers and Stark Industries must stop the evil Schmidt from destroying America with weapons of mass destruction.

Cinematically, the film is in epic form and relives the bygone era of the 1940s with a strong retro vibe. Having said that, I now find myself educated that a fraction of WWII consisted of technology that still does not exist. Ray guns, behemoth tanks, one-manned submersibles and even futuristic gunships that look similar to those used in Avatar? I wasn’t alive in the 1940s, but I am pretty sure that other films with a 1940s or WWII narrative must have somehow omitted the use of this technology. Sarcasm aside and for argument sake, as a viewer I can suspend reality for the sake of the Marvel universe. In an alternate history this could be plausible. X Men: First Class was clever in establishing that thought process right from the start. Shooting from the hip with pomp and propaganda, Captain America: The First Avenger expects (rather than assumes) viewers will believe the world created for this film. It is at this point where you should stop and think for a minute. If you are not a Marvel OR superhero fan, you will find this film unbelievably ridiculous. As a casual moviegoer, you may find the dialogue corny, the action over-the-top, the hero invincible, and the villain and his minions a joke. As a reviewer I normally judge films with either a sense of practical logic or its relevance to the genre. During this film, the superhero fan in me took over and I succumbed to its seduction.

As an actor, Evans has justified his upgrade from a supporting role in Fantastic Four to the titled lead in this film. He has outgrown his brash ego of the Human Torch to a lovable underdog whose real driving force is his spirit of patriotism. Like Peter Parker is to Spiderman, Captain America’s alter ego in Steve Rogers is a simple man who uses his gift for the greater good of his nation and shoulders that responsibility with the heart of a true hero. On the other hand, considering that every superhero must face an ever daunting and equally super villain, Hugo Weaving has failed to radiate either hatred or fear as Red Skull; this, arising from my high expectations of Weaving.

Known for CGI infused Jumanji and Jurassic Park III, director Joe Johnston pulls off an otherwise decent superhero flick and has laid a strong foundation for things to come. Call it a prequel, re-boot or pilot – in its entirety, this film is a big teaser for a multi-billion dollar franchise, starting with 2012’s The Avengers. The ending scenes of both Thor and The First Avenger has Nick Furry (Samuel L. Jackson) hint at just that. For superhero fans, 2012 will have plenty of such movies. While Superman and Spiderman are all set for a re-boot, the Batman franchise concludes with The Dark Knight Rises. In all this, The Avengers is rumoured to become the motion picture event of the year. The credibility of that rumour strongly rests in the success of The First Avenger. And just as the title predicts, this is the ‘first’ of many more to come.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.