In hopes that this film would show themes regarding the realities of war in a superhero setting, Captain America: The First Avenger falls a little short, instead opting for a comical and cheesy origin tale with plenty of meh moments to go around.
Directed by Joe Johnston and set in WWII, it follows the story of a young man named Steve Rogers and his transformation into the first Avenger called Captain America.
Captain America stands as a character whose moral values align side by side with justice, humanity, and freedom; it was important that Steve Rogers have these morals before he became Captain America, as this was one of the cornerstones of his character. Steve is a frail and seemingly helpless young man with a fiery will to implement justice whenever he feels injustice has occurred. You know immediately from Steve’s introduction as a character that he has been facing bullies, rejection, and inadequacy his entire life, put simply, injustice and unfairness were a daily occurrence for him. These traits were portrayed extremely well throughout the film as he grows into Captain America.
However we arrive at a stalemate when his character and the story begin working together as a unit, neither could be interesting enough to make the film truly engaging. Though he is a fairly well rounded character, not much could be done about the formulaic plot involving Nazi’s, a secret treasure, and the threat of the world ending – this has been seen before in films and certainly didn’t take us down new avenues; sadly, not much beyond Steve Rogers development felt fresh my our eyes.
Chris Evans does a great job at playing a character that changes physically and psychologically, yet keeps his decency and aptitude for kindness as a constant and unchanging trait. Evans manages to act kind without feeling sappy and strong without feeling aggressive and simple without feeling bland.
Though Captain America: The First Avenger is generally the more emotionally simple of the superheroes, so much more could have been done in this film given the dark and grim setting; the urgency to move away from these dark wartime themes cost the story a lot of material that could have been utilized regarding the trials and hardships of war, even on a superhero. Hugo Weaving as Red Skull is narratively one of the more cliche villains of the MCU, being an embodiment of fascism and a tyrannical idealistic leader.
We get some very shotty visual effects throughout the course of this entire film, from the explosions to the backdrops, there are a slew of moments that made me doubletake and think “that didn’t look right at all”. However, despite some of the fuzzy CGI work in the combat scenes, the CGI layered and altered appearance of Chris Evans did not go unnoticed, he looked fantastic. His smaller stature does look odd at moments but as it was a new technology it still stands as one of the best I ever seen and possibly the best using a living actor seen today.
Chris Evans is great as Captain America, but the utter disregard for the setting is where it falls short, films like Wonder Woman (2017) utilise its setting effectively, and had Captain America done the same I may have had a more credible reason to be emotionally invested in his character and his origin story.
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