BlokeBusting The Essentials #43: Captain America: The First Avenger
#43: Captain America: The First Avenger
Ice, Ice, Nazi!
A film by Marvel featuring an actor who previously played a Marvel character in a totally different role? That’s so crazy it just might work…
So this film was originally one that I didn’t enjoy much. Now I liked the comedy, I found the premise fun but it just didn’t stick with me and didn’t grip me the same way the other MCU films of the time did. And now, having seen Endgame and seen the ultimate arc of all the characters involved, it’s time to revisit and re-review. Let’s see how it holds up…
For the sake of all our sanity, I will be focusing on who I feel are really worth mentioning from the film.
- Steve Rogers/Captain America – Chris Evans
In case you all forgot, Mr Evans originally starred in the two Fantastic Four films from the mid 2000’s. And he wasn’t bad. He didn’t come off as great, but that might have had more to do with the script (more on that down the line). So when Marvel announced that they’d picked him to play The First Avenger, we all gave a collective “NANI!!!” in response. And in this film, he’s good. You can see the rough edges to his character and he does a great job of being the boy who just wants to help fight the war, even when the government just says “Put on a suit and look pretty!”. And with hindsight, this portrayal clearly had notes from a company that really could see the big picture. There’s moments that seemed so throw away but end up being the seeds of a big moment down the line. And the fact that there wasn’t a lantern hanging on them was a big feather in his “Cap”! So yeah, “Flame On” Steve, because you were very rightly cast.
- Peggy Carter – Hayley Atwell
Just more of this. More and more please. The fact that Agent Carter got cancelled so early (yes, I consider 2 seasons early) is still astonishing to me. If my daughter grows up to be even remotely like Hayley’s portrayal of Peggy in these films/shows, I will be a very happy father. She’s got style, class, a fiery temper and is more capable than pretty much anyone else at what she does. So yeah. Moving on.
- Bucky Barnes – Sebastian Stan
This character felt a little forced for me back then. And, with hindsight and foresight, it’s still a little ham fisted seeing him in this film. I know we accept that him and Steve have been friends forever and that he still only sees Cap as his buddy, but his character really does only seem to exist for Cap to have somebody to lose at the end. Which is kinda odd since he also loses Peggy (technically she loses him, but semantics…), so I still felt like his character needed a little more fleshing out. Now, down the line we see him get WAY more to do, and so this was probably the best way to do it at the time since a longer runtime might have scared people off back then. But still, a bit more Bucky story would be a big improvement for me.
- Col. Chester Phillips – Tommy Lee Jones
This guy is funny. It’s like they walked up to Tommy Lee Jones and simply said “You know that role in MIB you had? We want you to do that again but this time even more grumpy and straight-faced!”. Leslie Nielson said that the funniest moments come from acting totally straight in a comedy, and TLJ proves that here. “He’s still skinny.”, “I’m not kissing you”, “If you have something to say, right now’s a perfect time to keep it to yourselves.”. The man can deliver the lines flawlessly. I’m totally serious when I say that he is the funniest character in the film. And I am really glad they got TLJ to play him!
If you aren’t aware by now, which would be rather impressive, this film is an alternate WW2 scenario. Steve Rogers is made in a super soldier and then good ‘ol USA kicks some Nazi butt. Except there’s sooooooo much more than that waiting here. There’s so much detail that they squeeze in and so much groundwork set. It really is only on a re-watching after the fact that you can appreciate what they did with this film. And despite the war setting, it really doesn’t feel too much like a full-on war film. So yeah, well done Marvel!
Context Is Key
This film was obviously judged as a mostly stand-alone film when it came out. There were very, VERY few people who knew the scope of what Marvel had in store back then. And obviously we couldn’t see what had been put in front of our eyes until we started getting callbacks. So here’s my suggestion to you:
If you are going to watch these, watch them in order once. Then watch them in order again. After the second viewing, make your decision about the film.
There’s many people I know who don’t enjoy this film when it came out. There’s many I know who LOVED this film, and still do!. I fell into the camp of “Meh” when I first saw it, but I think you can feel where I stand on it by now. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that context matters with this film, as with many of the MCU entries. We can’t judge it by itself because it very much does not stand by itself. And I know that will be a recurring theme in the months to come, so I shall try not to repeat myself too much. “Dormammu!”
Right, let’s see what Bubba has to say before we pass sentence on this film!
I don’t think I had actually seen this since I watched it during the first couple months of this site shortly after going through the all the Superman movies. At the time, I thought it was decent but had a few cliche moments and felt that the Tesseract weapons were a poor excuse for PG-13 violence. This time around I really appreciated it a lot more and loved how much they called back to this original movie as time has gone on and Captain America has appeared in many more films. The friendship with Bucky, the “I can do this all day”, to the relationship with Peggy Carter. Captain America was really fully formed by the end of this movie. He’s evolved through the later movies, but they really hit the core of his character right off the bat. There were still some rough around the edges moments and Red Skull looked great but was lacking as a real threat.
This is the origin of the top tier Phase one character next to Iron Man. Chris Evans has really made the role his own and this is where it all started. It’s the lowest grossing MCU movie aside from the Incredible Hulk with $176M/$370M worldwide and it was the last Phase one movie to come out before the first Avengers. It helped make the Avengers into the cinematic juggernaut, it gave Peggy Carter a spin off series a few years later. It’s a great film with a retro feel to it as director Joe Johnston had cut his teeth on the Rocketeer in the 90’s. And as a hero, Captain America is someone who gets chosen because of his character and made into the hero that he always should have been. Plus, it has Cap punching Hitler in the face.
Nicely done Mr Wheat. And so, with all the subtlety of Cap’s stage punches, let us move to the 3 big questions:
- Would I recommend this film to others?
- Does this film deserve to be on the list?
- If so, where does it appear on the list?
Ok, in short order…
1) Yep. A great origin story, a fun romp and some fantastic ground work for the series. Next question!
2) Yep. See above!
3) Well, I’m sure you can assume roughly where this is going. So here’s the updated rankings!
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- The Crow
- Dr Strange
- Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
- Batman: The Killing Joke
- Superman 3
- The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
- The Fantastic Four (1994)
- The Punisher
- Batman & Robin
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Yep, bet that surprised you! Despite all the good about this film, the fact that it does require some outside context to fully appreciate it means that I just can’t give it the top spot. It’s still a lot of fun though!
So stay true to your ideals, keep your friends close and (until next time) always watch out for that little sneaky Hitler creeping up behind you!