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Movie Review: “Captain America: The First Avenger”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 7/22/2011

Theatrical Release: 7/22/2011

Synopsis

The United States has joined World War II, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his part. However, the military has little use for someone as scrawny Steve is and with as many health issues as Steve has. He then feels frustration and guilty for staying safe and sound at home while his peers go off to fight for their country. Fortunately for him, a scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) has invented a super-soldier serum.

The serum would enhance one's physique, but it has not yet been tested. Dr. Abraham Erskine discovered the hard way, that the recipient of the serum's character is important, so he is searching for someone brave, kind, and morally sound. His search leads him to Steve Rogers, and after the serum is successful, Steve becomes a super-soldier known as Captain America. Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) leads a branch of Nazis known as Hydra, a group that searches for mythological and powerful artifacts. If Johann Schmidt and Hydra are successful with their plan, it will surely lead to Nazi and Hydra dominance over the world, along with the deaths of millions of people all over the world.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Steve Rogers & Captain America (+8pts)

The Show (-3pts)

Peggy Carter & Supporting Characters (+6pts)

The Montage (-3pts)

Red Skull & Hydra (+6pts)

Red Skull & Captain America's Final Moments (-3pts)

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Pro: Steve Rogers & Captain America (+8pts)

First there was the scrawny Steve Rogers in the first half of the movie. During this section, Steve was tiny, he was weak, and he had all sorts of health issues, but he was brave, he never backed down, and he was purely good, as he always did what was right. It was easy to admire the character, because I saw how hard he had it, but I also saw how decent he was, how strong his morals were, and his inability to give up. This made me desperate to see him get the serum, because if anyone deserved it, it was him.

Seeing what Steve had to deal with before made it incredibly satisfying to see him after he got the serum, as his physical ability was finally up to par with his character. This fueled my interest in the character, and it made the action sequences involving him as gratifying as they were awesome. The action sequences would have been cool regardless, but Steve's character story made it incredibly easy to root for him. Mix this with how entertaining it was to see him using his shield in action, and it made for an all around great character to watch on the big screen.

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Con: The Show (-3pts)

I thought the show that Steve performed in after getting his super-human abilities made no sense. It was clearly the filmmaker's way of explaining how Steve got the ideas for the costume, shield, and superhero name, but I did not think it worked. Why on earth would the military, who had just seen Steve in his super-human action, leave Steve on the sidelines? The serum worked, why not use him, even if they were unable to replicate the serum? If they had said they wanted him in a lab to test him, with the hopes of reverse engineering the serum, that would have made sense, but that was not what happened. The military's—really the writer's—genius idea was to have Steve traveling and performing a live, musical show, with the hopes of getting the general public to buy bonds and help fund the war. It made no sense to use a super-soldier in this way, it added very little to Steve's story, and it took up an unnecessary amount of screentime—especially when considering the montage we got later, but I will get into that later.

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Pro: Peggy Carter & Supporting Characters (+6pts)

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was another romantic interest that I thought the MCU did well—the other being Pepper Potts. She was more than capable of handling things on her own, she was a commanding officer in the military, and she quickly took a liking to Steve Rogers. I liked their dynamic when Steve was still his scrawny self, as she admired his character. Then Steve transformed into Captain America, and the relationship between these two characters changed as well. On one hand, I did not like the message that this told, as it was saying that Steve only really got the girl because of his transformation, but I found myself enjoying their romance in spite of this.

Upon joining the war, Steve needed a team. Only one of these characters was very memorable—Bucky (Sebastian Stan)—but the team still felt like a unit that had each other's backs, and I enjoyed watching them on their missions. Then, there were Dr. Erskine and Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Stanley Tucci brought his on screen charisma and humor to the role, and made for one of the movie's more memorable characters, despite the relatively minor screen time he got. Colonel Phillips was really Tommy Lee Jones playing Tommy Lee Jones. His straight-man, dry humor is always entertaining, and this movie was no exception. Steve's story and his journey to becoming Captain America and taking on Hydra was great, but the movie was certainly elevated by its strong cast of supporting characters.

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Con: The Montage (-3pts)

This movie made us wait awhile before finally getting to see Captain America in action. The first solid chunk of the movie consisted of scrawny Steve, and while it was certainly interesting and laid the groundwork for the rest of the story, it was not exactly exciting. Then Steve got the serum, but even then it took awhile for him to pick up a shield. Once we finally saw Steve taking on Nazis as Captain America, for some strange reason, the filmmakers decided to give us a montage of a bunch of action scenes out of context, rather than let us actually watch them. I do not think we needed to see Captain America taking on every Nazi base across Europe, but rewriting the story a bit to have him take on a couple on screen would have been a lot more satisfying. Instead, the montage made it feel like we got a ton of build up, only for the filmmakers to pull the rug out from under us once we were finally about to see what we went into the movie hoping to see.

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Pro: Red Skull & Hydra (+6pts)

Nazis always make for great antagonists. If Nazis were not a real part of our history, and I saw them in a movie, I would think they were the result of lazy writing, as it would seem like they were just evil for the sake of evil, and were therefore unrealistic. However, the fact that they truly existed—with some remnants even existing today—and the fact that their beliefs were so despicable, makes them incredibly easy antagonists to root against. For Marvel to come up with Hydra—a special faction within the Nazi forces—they came up with a fictitious group that were just as evil as Nazis, but that allowed them to lean further into science fiction territory. It was also led by the menacing and sinister Red Skull, who was evil personified, and who had a disastrous plan that only a superhero could stop. Red Skull and Hydra were not the most original antagonists, but I thought they worked really well for this story.

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Con: Red Skull & Captain America's Final Moments (-3pts)

I remember thinking this when I first saw this movie ten years ago—wow, I feel old now—and I still think it to this day. Both Red Skull and Captain America's final moments were unnecessarily confusing. They were a classic examples of filmmakers being more concerned with setting up future movies than they were with resolving the movie they were in the process of making in a satisfying way. For Red Skull, his final moment was just unnecessarily confusing and ambiguous. For Captain America, it seemed like there were plenty of other options than the one he went with. Neither of these ruined the movie, but these characters' final moments in this movie certainly could have been handled better.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (86pts)

I liked this movie, but I was not without my issues with it. To start, I thought both the Captain America play and the montage action sequence were pretty dumb. One was just the filmmakers way of unnecessarily trying to explain how Steve got the costume and the name "Captain America". The other came after we sat through over an hour of waiting to see Captain America in action, and when it finally came time to deliver, the filmmakers instead just whipped together a montage of various action sequences, which was kind of disappointing. Then there were the final moments of Red Skull and Captain America in the movie, which both could have been handled better.

Fortunately, I thought the movie's strengths mostly outweighed its issues. Steve Rogers was a character that was easy to admire, and seeing his life before getting the serum made it incredibly satisfying to see him in action afterward. The Captain America action that we did get was pretty cool, the cast of supporting characters were strong, and the antagonists of Red Skull and Hydra as a whole worked really well for this story. The movie had some obvious, yet minor, problems, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

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