Bennett is reviewing all of the movies in the current Marvel Comic Universe leading up to the release of Age of Ultron. Check in on the other MCU movie refreshers:
This is it. This is the last big movie until we reach our checkpoint of the first Avengers movie and the end of Marvel phase one. This movie’s purpose should be to get us totally pumped for the biggest team-up in superhero movie history. All of this pressure could have turned Captain America: The First Avenger into a super expensive billboard for the big release. I would not have blamed them. It could have been a smart strategic move; however, they did not take that path.
The fact that they did not take the bait is probably the most impressive part about this movie. It exists within a universe that Avengers would never be able to return to, the 1940’s. As crazy and disconnected as some of the events that occurred in Thor seemed, Asgard is still reachable in some way. It is not out of the realm of possibility. 1940-war torn Europe is a bit of a harder sell, and the choice to have Captain America’s origin stay true to the original time period gives the first Avenger some breathing room to begin to establish his character. You immediately see his unshakable resolve and desire to do right by all. It is his understanding of being bullied that allows him to make such a remarkable difference once he is physically capable of doing so in the theatre of war.
This is one of the two essential characteristics of Captain America that makes him such a likable character and the natural leader for the Avengers later on down the road.
However, this movie does lack the other essential characteristic of Captain America. He is a man out of his time. Here, we see the opposite, in which he is very much existing in a reality that seems completely normal to him. This change is better seen in Avengers and The Winter Soldier, however it really is the marriage of these two concepts that sets him a part from other characters altered from powerless to powerful (Spiderman, Batman), or characters who are in a world that is completely foreign to them (Thor, Dr. Manhattan). It is unfortunate that we never really get to see these two characteristics show equally within Captain America’s character, and maybe I bemoan the omission slightly more because it is this latter characteristic that makes Captain America such an interesting character to me.
We have to wait for this revelation, and we are going to camp out in the 1940’s for a while. This is the first time I have watched the movie since I watched Agent Carter, and it really did reinforce my general disappointment with the show. Atwell gives a brilliant performance bested only by Stanley Tucci in this movie, and her strength despite being a woman in the 1940’s American military is truly empowering.
Not only does her performance in Agent Carter feel much more stiff, the message does as well, as it gets lost constantly trying to show the juxtaposition of the treatment Carter receives and her excellence amidst an incompetent group of buffoons chosen to head up America’s premiere strategic defense institution. Captain America beautifully reinforces her necessity in the operation that she carries out alongside the equally competent man, Steve Rogers. The excellent production design of Captain America‘s 1940’s is also a stark difference from its television counterpart, rendering Agent Carter‘s attempt at the period a mere caricature of the former.
None of this could have been achieved if Captain America had proved to be an unsuccessful venture to the past. Successfully laying the groundwork for Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, and possibly Age of Ultron is no small feat, but this movie completes the task in a very respectable manner. The fact that this movie continues to hold up as a standalone film while also being a set piece for the films to come is a testament to the staying power of a script that can feel very campy–and not always in a good way–at several points. Captain America smartly bends to some of the inherent campiness that comes from including the Red Skull, Hydra, Zola, and the Howling Commandos, but is still able to utilize these potentially detrimental forces for the advancement of the story. A huge responsibility was given to the cast and crew of this last project before The Avengers, and they delivered with a strong addition to the universe that is about to be changed forever.