AVENGERS WEEK: Captain America – The First Avenger (movie review)

CAPTAIN AMERICA (reviewed as a single movie)

Captain America was better than I hoped it would be. It is not a perfect movie, but it is a fun movie, and an inspiring movie, and a sincere movie.

It is a period piece. The only way they could have done it, really. Captain America, if it was going to succeed, could only have been set during World War II, if it was going to be done straight. It could have been set during more recent wars, but it would have been a much darker and more cynical movie. Instead, what we get is a movie about a guy who wants to do the right thing, and won’t stand down when the right thing needs to be done.

It could be a terrible movie. It could play this sincere, courageous character as a joke, or at least with a wink and a nod. Instead, somehow, it manages to strike he perfect balance. Like Christopher Reeve, who played the “boy scout superhero” without any cynicism, you believe in this scrappy runt who just wants to do good.

And when the scrappy runt proves himself without powers, you’re excited to see what he does when he has powers.

The movie is brilliantly shot and the period feels perfect. The story does get clunky, and parts of the finale are confusing, but the characters carry you through. I may hate Superman III or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, but I can still watch them because of Christopher Reeve; Captain America is far easier to forgive.

I highly recommend the movie. It is a movie about doing right. It is a movie about being a hero. In a genre dominated by brooding characters like Wolverine or Batman, and even Spider-Man and Iron Man, it is a breath of fresh air.

The bonus scene after the credits happens just before the credits roll. And the bonus-bonus scene after the credits is a trailer for The Avengers. That is the weakness of Captain America. It is all, really, a lead-in to a bigger movie. But, it is a ride worth taking, in spite of that weakness.



This is probably the most important chapter in the Avengers mini-series. Its story is about Steve Rogers, who will (possibly) be the central member of the Avengers. Its story is about the beginnings of SHIELD (one constant thread in the series). Its story is about Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s father. Its story is about the tessaract, one of the macguffins of The Avengers movie.

Iron Man, the first chapter of this series, set things in motion. This chapter sets the stage for the finale. And with that view, it works better than it would when considering it as a stand-alone movie. If you watch this movie knowing that you are watching chapter five of a series, and that you are watching one more movie setting up a character so the finale doesn’t have to spend too much time giving you the backstory, it works better.

However, that storytelling risk may not have been worth taking, if The Avengers doesn’t follow through on the character. This is true, of course, with all of these Marvel movies.



Steve Rogers is a hero before he has any powers. He is not driven by vengeance, like Batman. He is not driven by rage, like the Hulk. He is not driven by a sense of responsibility because of tragedy, like Spider-Man. He just wants to do right.

He is a victim of bullying who does not want to see anyone else get bullied. He is willing to sacrifice himself for others. He wants to be a part of something bigger than himself. He wants to do good.

And in our world, he would be an anachronism.

And for all these reasons, this is the first of the Marvel movies that, after watching, I couldn’t wait for my son to see. The only problem, and this is a flaw for the film, is that there was nowhere for the character to grow. Well, he grew physically. And since his next appearance is in an ensemble, there may not be much growth for him in The Avengers. For this movie, though, I’m okay with it. I enjoy seeing him struggle to overcome the dangers and evils in the world around him.

UPDATE: They keep both the good and the bad in The Avengers for Steve Rogers. He is earnest and sincere and heroic, and even shines more as a leader than in his own movie. But he also doesn’t have much of a character arc. He does get a great line about Thor when he finds out who/what Thor is. But it is hard to tell if it is inserted by the writers as a wink and a nod or to mock old fashioned ideals. Doesn’t matter. I laughed and found it funny.

~ Ben

Next Review: THOR

Links to the other Avengers movie reviews:

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