Captain America: First Avenger (2011)


It's a tricky thing, connecting a new generation of fans to an original comic book character, but Marvel has had a slew of successes with Spider-man, Iron Man, the Hulk, and many more. Their latest big screen hero is Captain America.


WWII is booming overseas and there is nothing Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants more than to enlist. Unfortunately, he's asthmatic, too short, and underweight -- but that doesn't stop him from trying again... and again... and again. In spite of the odds and his disappointment in seeing his friends ship out without him, his spirit, determination, and enthusiasm is noted by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German-American scientist working with the military who agrees to give him a chance. Military training doesn't suit Steve very well, something that is noted by his commanding officer, Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), but he has the moral support of the beautiful Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to keep him going. And where he is headed is where no one has ever gone before -- into a chamber to have drugs pumped into his system that will turn him into a super solider, an invention by the ambitious young inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) in the hope of creating an army worthy of defeating their enemies.


But what none of them realize is that in Germany, a new threat is rising, one that may be even more dangerous than Adolf.... the Nazi science department is headed up by the intelligent and reckless Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) and he has just discovered a source of power that will enable his division to harness the greatest power on earth. While it is recommended that you have some previous experience with Marvel's comic book characters entering into this production, it is not necessary. Fans of these films will get some of the character trade-offs (such as Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man) but it's enjoyable even without previous knowledge. I would even venture to say that it's the most solid installment in a long time, with minimal problematic content and a truly likable hero. He doesn't swear (much), he doesn't act like a jerk, he's charmingly innocent, and he's one of the most selfless soldiers you are ever likely to encounter. When he tells off a guy twice his size for yelling at the screen during a pitch for war bonds, and is promptly beat up because of it, you like him. By the time he throws his scrawny frame over what he thinks is a bomb, intending to sacrifice his life to save everyone on base, it's official -- you love him.


British costume drama fans will see familiar faces here, not the least of which being Richard Armitage and Natalie Dormer, in short but enjoyable parts (well, one of them meets a bad end, but we can't have everything we want). The cast is solid and the build-up of the film is great; it has a good pace and a lot of terrific action scenes but never seems to drag or go on too long. I saw it with an enthusiastic audience that was cheering and laughing throughout, and they ended the showing with applause. I don't blame them, I liked it a lot -- and I liked that it's easy to recommend. There are a handful of profanities (most of them "hell"), but a couple minor abuses of deity and one muffled abuse of Jesus' name slips through. Sensuality is limited to Steve thinking something is innuendo when it isn't, and some short skirts and cleavage-bearing bodices on showgirls.


There is a fair amount of violence but other than one instance it remains fairly tame -- a lot of shooting, deflecting bullets, punching enemy soldiers in the face, vaporizing them, and so forth. A man crushes a tooth in his mouth and releases cyanide; he dies with foam coming out of his mouth. Steve is beat up several times, both in his "wimpy" form (he never gives up) and as Captain America. The grossest moment comes when he and another man are fighting on a plane; the man slips and goes through the propeller, spattering blood (it's not as graphic as it sounds); a man peels off his face to reveal a red, nose-less skeletal appearance underneath. Mention is made of the occult and Hitler's fascination with "magic" -- the box that creates energy is never explained, but Schmidt claims it is science (it has connections to another comic book series, Thor). Steve does try and manipulate his way into the system, which is illegal, but one can hardly hold his patriotism against him.


Unsurprisingly, this movie did really well during its opening weekend, which may have filmmakers scratching their heads as to the reason why. Permit me to theorize: it has a truly noble (and moral) hero willing to sacrifice his life for people he does not know, who is distinctly American in nature. There is so much anti-Americanism out there, particularly coming out of Hollywood, that it is nice to be reminded of American exceptionalism even if it is in the form of a comic book hero. Captain America may be a big-screen blockbuster but it's also what Americanism is all about: courage, determination, and never giving up. I think I have just found my favorite comic book hero.

Charity's Novels!

Get caught up on The Tudor Throne series before the final installment this summer!