Retro Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants nothing more than to sign up for the US army and do his bit in the war against the Nazis, the trouble is that he is too small and too weak to enlist. This all changes, however, when he meets Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who enrols him into a secret programme that makes him Captain America; a super soldier.

I reviewed Captain America: The First Avenger for Geek Syndicate last year, and on second viewing – and on reading back my review – I feel I was too harsh. I must have been in a bad mood that day, Sorry Captain America. The setting of the story is World War 2, which gives the story great scope for nostalgia, fantastic costumes and good old American flag waving. As well as this, we get some steampunk going on with all of Johann Schmidt’s (Hugo Weaving) various toys.

Chris Evans is not as one dimensional as I first believed, he is not given a whole lot to do in the film other than be nice and kick ass, but both of these facets of his personality are believable. He is not given a ton of motivation either – he just doesn’t like bullies – but that is enough to get him into the chair and the special serum coursing through his veins. There is an air of melancholy that suits the character, even if the audience is not incredibly sure where it has come from. Hugo Weaving has made a name for himself playing the villain, and his role in Captain America: The First Avenger is no exception. Weaving camps it up as Red Skull, but rather than arriving in hammy territory, his character has something of an Indiana Jones villain about him; campy and over the top, but still evil enough to pull it off.

These leading men are backed up by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who is Steve Rogers’s love interest and a no-nonsense soldier, Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips whose sarcastic one liners are a joy, Toby Jones as the cowering Dr Amim Zola and Dominic Cooper as the father of Iron Man, and one of the creators of Captain America, Howard Stark.

The inclusion of Howard Stark, and Odin’s treasure the Tesseract, makes the film feel like a prequel to Avengers Assemble, and this is essentially what it is. That said, it is still a rather fun ride. True, the back story of Steve Rogers takes its time in getting going, which makes the film feel a lot longer than it’s 124 minute running time, but the set pieces are well crafted and a lot of fun to watch. There is the element of reality, but it is submerged in fantasy and magic, which allows this world full of red skulled villains, vaporising weapons made from Odin’s treasure and motorbike riding super soldiers to exist.

Director Joe Johnston started out on 80s adventure movies, before moving on to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and he has created a film reminiscent of Indiana Jones. There is the same level of flag waving and adventure all wrapped up in a Nazi-hunting bow. Sounds strange but it actually works rather well.

Captain America: The First Avenger is not necessarily a film that we needed, but it is a lot of fun and goes further into creating the world of Avengers Assemble. The pacing is off at times, but the fights are fun, the villains campy and the leading man a real American hero. What more could we ask for?

Rating: 3.5/5

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