In a summer filled with Superhero movies and action driven plots, Joe Johnson’s Captain America: The First Avenger stands above the rest. Set primarily in the past, but bookended in the present, Johnson’s tale focuses on standing up to bullies and standing up for what’s right. A large emphasis is placed on the exposition and the characterization of Steve Rogers before he underwent his transformation; a drastically different approach from what is usually accented in the comics. The action and special effects are astoundingly dynamic, but what makes the movie phenomenal is the captivating emotional journey of the characters, and how well the motifs of superhero and World War II movies mesh together to birth this film.
One of the strongest aspects of the film was the all around exceptional performances by the cast. Despite unease by many on his casting, Chris Evans does a superb job portraying the titular Steve Rogers. Evans exemplifies an “all-American” persona, while giving the character empathy, emotion, and depth. Hugo Weaving provides an expectantly outstanding, yet understated performance as Captain America’s foil, the Red Skull. Hayley Atwell and Sebastian Stan round out the main cast as: Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes, respectively. Atwell presents Peggy as a strong willed, independent woman who transcends the traditional love interest role, and is a captivating and interesting character on her own. Sebastian Stan’s Bucky abandons the character’s original depiction as a boy sidekick adorned in a costume similar to his mentor’s. Instead, Bucky is shown to be Roger’s best friend, a soldier on the front lines, and Rogers’ occasional protector earlier on. Stan subtly shows Bucky’s transition from an eager Army recruit to a darker man who has dealt with the traumas of war, and plants the seeds for a potential ‘resurrection’ as The Winter Soldier in upcoming films. Outstanding minor roles performed by Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, and Toby Jones cause the film to fire on all cylinders and surpass expectations.
From the inclusion of The Howling Commandoes to the Easter egg cameo of the Golden Age Human Torch, Captain America does an impressive job of incorporating the expanded Marvel universe into what is essentially a period piece. The integration of Howard Stark and the Cosmic Cube into the plot helped link Captain America to Marvel’s other films Iron Man and Thor, whereas Dr. Erkskine’s Super Soldier Serum had been previously mentioned in The Incredible Hulk. The culmination of all these interconnected movies is teased after the final credits of the film when a brief preview of the upcoming movie The Avengers, is shown to the delight of all in attendance. Captain America: The First Avenger is the final piece of the puzzle leading up to The Avengers, and Marvel certainly saved the best for last. Without a doubt, I can attest that Captain America is the best film of the summer, and I believe it may even be in contention for the greatest Superhero movie ever.