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Should I Watch..? 'Captain America: The First Avenger' (2011)

Benjamin has been reviewing films online since 2004 and has seen way more action movies than he should probably admit to!

Poster for "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Poster for "Captain America: The First Avenger."

What's the Big Deal?

Captain America: The First Avenger is an action superhero film released in 2011 and is based on the Marvel comic-book character of the same name. It is the fifth film of Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU) and is the final film before Avengers Assemble which would unite all previously portrayed characters into one film. Unlike the other films, this is set primarily during the Second World War before linking up to the MCU at the end. Like its stablemates, it was a critical and commercial success and ultimately established Captain America into a franchise character of his own. A sequel was released during Marvel's second phase (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) while the third film was released in 2016, Captain America: Civil War. It also saw the debut of Agent Peggy Carter who would go on to star in her own spin-off TV show.


What's It About?

In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt and his troops occupy the Norwegian town of Tønsberg intent on stealing a mysterious object known as the Tesseract which possesses unknown and possibly limitless powers. At the same time in New York, Brooklyn kid Steve Rogers is repeatedly attempting to enlist but is turned away every time due to illness and existing health problems. With his friend Bucky Barnes, he gives it one last shot with Dr. Abraham Erskine and Erskine agrees to put Rogers onto a top-secret "super solider" project led by himself, Colonel Phillips, and SSR Agent Peggy Carter.

The experiment turns Rogers from a weak and gaunt individual to the very peak of human conditioning: stronger, faster, smarter. But shortly after the experiment is conducted, Dr. Erskine is killed by a HYDRA assassin and the formula is lost. Initially stuck in a propaganda role, Rogers adopts the name Captain America and reluctantly agrees to it. But upon hearing that Bucky Barnes was missing in action, Rogers uses Peggy and Howard Stark's technology and know-how to get behind enemy lines and begin taking the fight to the Germans. Schmidt, meanwhile, has his hands on the Tesseract and threatens to rule the world single-handedly with it...


What's to like?

The decision to use the real-life history of the character (which was used for propaganda purposes during WW2) to inspire the movie is brilliant, giving the film plausibility and a level of realism that Thor completely lacked. It's also refreshing to see such a film in a historical setting but still link up with the other Marvel films seen so far. It shows a real intelligence behind the screenplay and I thoroughly enjoyed this Boy's Own adventure with futuristic technologies and flame-throwing tanks amid tales of Nazi villainy and old-fashioned patriotism. It also looks the business, thanks to the heavyweight Marvel Studios production and unobtrusive CG.

Evans, previously the most annoying cast member of the swiftly forgotten Fantastic 4 films, matures very well into the role of Rogers, conflicted by his sense of duty and the difference between right and wrong. Attwell does so well that her character was given her own TV show but for me, Weaving deserves top marks for the Red Skull - Weaving has a knack for playing baddies and this is one of his best, beneath impressive makeup and lumbered with a panto-German accent. It's such a shame he's ruled himself out of returning in the future because he is a fantastic foil to Evans' goody-two-shoes character. So with a gripping story, stunning action sequences, and some fine performances, Captain America: The First Avenger is surely a winner - right?

Cap takes the fight to HYDRA in "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Cap takes the fight to HYDRA in "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Fun Facts

  • This was the last Marvel film to be released by Paramount. Disney bought the rights for each subsequent release, starting with Avengers Assemble.
  • Hugo Weaving has stated that he is indifferent to the finished product and he sadly has no desire to reprise the role in future due to the difficulty of the makeup process involved.
  • Toby Jones, David Bradley (as the Tower Keeper) and Jenna Coleman (as Connie) have all appeared opposite Matt Smith in Doctor Who.

What's not to like?

Well, not quite. The film feels like it leaves out some details that would have been nice. Take Rogers' Howling Commandos unit that he fights with during the war. We literally get one scene in a pub where they're all drinking and chatting and that's it. There's no explanation as to who these people are or how they first met Rogers which I would have liked. The film also takes a while to get going and the friendship between Rogers and Bucky also didn't feel as natural as it should. I felt that Stan was maybe getting short-shrift from the screenplay but as any Marvel fanboy will tell you, he gets more to do in the future.

If you're already familiar with the character then you might feel short-changed by the film which is almost entirely an origin tale. It plants many seeds for future Marvel projects but I never got the feeling that it tells an original story with the character. Maybe a bit more time spent during the war and less on the build-up to Evans' remarkable physical transformation. And while I'm thinking about it, how quickly did Carter fall for Rogers as soon as he stepped out of the pod? Nit-picking maybe, but that's my job, I'm afraid!

Hugo Weaving (left) & Toby Jones leads the baddies in "Captain America: The First Avenger"

Hugo Weaving (left) & Toby Jones leads the baddies in "Captain America: The First Avenger"

Should I watch it?

Yes, especially if you've seen the other Phase One films in the MCU. This is wonderfully written, well-performed escapism at its very best and reminds you that with a bit more effort and thought, Marvel could escape from making tired retreads of films they've already made. I was slightly underwhelmed by the likes of Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk but this is funnier, smarter, more interesting, and more exciting than both of those. This is probably Marvel's best non-Avengers films released in Phase One and that's mighty praise indeed.

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Great For: Marvel fan-boys, lovers of the original comics, action fans.

Not So Great For: WW2 reenactment societies, Hugo Weaving's agent.

What else should I watch?

Marvel has quickly developed a habit of releasing films once or twice a year now with little sign of the market getting bored. Fortunately, this means that nerds like myself have a multitude of movies to enjoy from the bare-knuckle brawling of The Incredible Hulk to the trippy Shakespearean excesses of Thor. Personally, I'd stick with Cap and his two sequels which make up a terrific trilogy, the brilliant space-opera that is Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man 3.

For a more authentic WW2 experience then I suppose you couldn't do much worse than the likes of Saving Private Ryan which is both engaging and emotive in a way that might surprise you. Of course, there are hundreds of WW2 films you could watch but many more you could stay away from - for some reason, Pearl Harbour and Escape to Victory sprang instantly to mind...

Main Cast


Chris Evans

Steve Rogers / Captain America

Hayley Attwell

Peggy Carter

Hugo Weaving

Johann Schmidt / The Red Skull

Sebastian Stan

James "Bucky" Barnes

Tommy Lee Jones

Colonel Chester Phillips

Toby Jones

Dr Arnim Zola

Dominic Cooper

Howard Stark

Technical Info

* based on characters created by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon

DirectorJoe Johnston


Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely *

Running Time

124 minutes

Release Date (UK)

29th July, 2011




Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

Benjamin Cox (author) from Norfolk, UK on June 08, 2018:

I've always preferred Cap to both Iron Man & Thor - his trilogy of movies are all brilliant but slightly different from each other whereas the rest simply seem to repeat the formula.

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on June 08, 2018:

This film was the first one to get me on board with the MCU. I feel like Cap is the glue of the franchise, and the after credits scene was so clever in the way that it got Cap to where he needed to be to join the Avengers in the next film. I just rewatched this one recently, and I liked it even more than I did before.

Benjamin Cox (author) from Norfolk, UK on May 02, 2018:

I must admit, I wasn't too impressed with Thor either. Steve's relationship with Bucky comes under greater scrutiny in "Civil War", although it does feel like a mini-Avengers film with so many characters in it.

Dina AH from United States on May 01, 2018:

Ah, this film changed things for me because I was quite intimidated by the MCU. Having watched Thor (and disliked it), I had dismissed these films and thought there was no space for someone who doesn't read comics. But, I did like the origin story of Steve Rogers, his friendship with Bucky Barnes, and his role in the war. I agree with you on the Howling Commandos not being fleshed out enough. I wish there was more of Bucky Barnes as well because that bond between him and Rogers comes up again in Winter Soldier and I wasn't entirely sold on it.

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