In preparation for Captain America: Civil War, the culmination of the trilogy starring Chris Evans as the Star Spangled Avenger, it’s nice to look back at where the films started. When you look back at Captain America: The First Avenger, you can see that this was the real start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Iron Man was the first film made in the MCU; however, release wise, Captain America was the final film before The Avengers. This may be why it is this film that really works to plant the seeds of the greater universe, while also telling its own self-contained story.
The film takes us back to WWII where a young and frail Steve Rogers struggles to enlist in the military. In the early scenes before his transformation, Chris Evans makes it clear that he is not some violent soldier seeking a battle–he is a man determined to stand up against bullies, and, despite his lack of physical prowess, he has the mind and heart of a hero. These are some of the most inspiring moments, and they really speak to what fans love about this hero. Captain America is not loyal to the American government, he is loyal to the ideals that America represents.
Back to my initial point though, what we fans love about the Marvel Universe is how vast it is. The First Avenger works to plant the seeds for the MCU that we fans recognize from the comic books.
We are introduced to a variety of heroes from all walks of life in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (or SSR), a familiar aspect of comic book lore where anyone has the potential to be a hero. The Howling Commandoes are a multinational group of soldiers who, while lacking superpowers, are anxious to fight back against the forces of evil. The scientists such as Stark and Erksine show us there is more than just strength, but also intelligence to combating the bad guys.
We see the early stages of the shadowy organizations the work within the MCU, with Hydra and the SSR (early SHIELD) taking center stage and showing the machinations and wars that are fought in this world between more than just governments.
Even more important to later films, The First Avenger brings the elements of the alien Asgardians, high technology, and shadowy organizations together in such a way that we see the beginnings of the Marvel Universe’s divergence from our own world.
The movie is not perfect–no film is. Some of the story does feel rushed as director Joe Johnston only has one film to cover the entirety of Captain America’s time in WWII. This leads to a timeline that feels like it takes place over a matter of weeks, but that should cover at the very least close to a year of time. While many fans may have enjoyed seeing a deeper coverage of Captain America’s activities to fight back against the AXIS powers, considering the greater plan of the MCU, it seems a necessary concession to make (and in hindsight, had the Captain America films continued taking place during this era, we may not have gotten one of the greatest films in the MCU so far, Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
The film takes a very pulp throwback feel, something that can be divisive among fans. While I and many like me appreciate the aesthetic of the older genre, it is understandable that this style choice may not appeal too many.
We also get a bit of a mixed bag with the Red Skull. Hugo Weaving is perfect in the role as he portrays the power mad and arrogant despot with just enough over the top acting to bring the character to life from the page. He is psychotic and narccistic, but that only makes him more of a threat as he is dangerous enough to actually pull off his plan. At the same time though, and this is a common complaint of Marvel’s villains, he is a one and done force. His abrupt departure from the mortal plane towards the films end really makes me sad we won’t get to see the man who has rivaled Doctor Doom and Magneto for the biggest bad of Marvel, go up against the Avengers, and makes me hope that he will be back in some way shape or form.
Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger is by far my favorite solo film in Phase 1 of the MCU. For many of us it captures the perfect feel of the comics it is inspired by and goes a long way towards establishing firmly to fans that we are seeing the Marvel Universe brought to life, and not simply a few pieces of it. For others it was just another step on the way to the moment we were waiting for, the Avengers Assemble. Either way it is worth a watch, if only for a reminder of how The Star Spangled man came to be on the road to Civil War.
+Sets up MCU but stands on its own
-Story feels a bit rushed
-Waste of another great villain (c’mon Marvel)
Nick Ramirez is one of The Geekiverse’s Marvel gurus. He is incredibly excited for Civil War. Tweet him.