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Captain America : The First Avenger (2011) - MCU Retro Review

04.11.2018

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel's Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it's untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

DIRECTED BY: Joe Johnston
WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.
STARRING: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/ Captain America), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Abraham Erskine), Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Chester Phillips), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola) and Hugo Weaving (Red Skull).
STORY: Steve Rogers, a consistently 4F-graded wannabe soldier, desperate to serve in WWII, volunteers to be an army guinea pig in an experimental program that turns him into supersoldier Captain America! Along with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, and O.S.S agent Peggy Carter, he leads the battle against Hydra, a diabolical Nazi science branch.

It’s hard to remember now, but CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was something of a troubled production as far as MCU films go. For one thing, the powers that be were very concerned over whether or not such a patriotic, American hero could ever work in the international marketplace without them being accused of jingoism. This is why it took so long for one of Marvel’s signature characters to hit the big screen, and with him such a big piece of the Avengers puzzle, it looked for a while like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER would have an uphill battle to fight to be considered a success.

In fact, despite good reviews, the movie actually faltered slightly at the domestic box office, grossing $176 million, a few mil lower than THOR, and it stands as the lowest grossing worldwide film in the franchise, with only THE INCREDIBLE HULK making less. Interestingly, the film outperformed the domestic box office internationally, and by the time THE WINTER SOLDIER rolled around a few years later, audiences had warmed to the character in a big way, with Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers arguably the heart and soul of the franchise.

It all started here, with director Joe Johnston giving this an old-timey adventure feel that was right in-line with his cult classic, THE ROCKETEER; although it wouldn’t have worked had the casting not been just right. Right off the bat, Chris Evans captures the heart and soul of the character, even when acting through some unconvincing BENJAMIN BUTTON cgi to play the pre-transformation Steve. He nails the upstanding, conscientious, heroism of the character without ever hitting a false note.

The same goes for the rest of the cast, including Tommy Lee Jones as his mentor, Colonel Phillips (I actually forgot Jones was in the movie before rewatching it) and Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskin. The most important players, though, are Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes. Now, here’s where I’m going to get controversial. I don’t think THE FIRST AVENGER actually handles those relationships all that well. Stan’s Bucky doesn’t have enough screentime to really evoke a deep friendship with Rogers, although the subsequent films would flesh that out a bit, even if I’m still not totally sold of Cap risking everything to save the Winter Soldier version of the character in CIVIL WAR.

As for Carter, I never quite bought the tragedy of their romance, as they seemed to have a flirtation at best. While I get why Rogers, who’d never had a girlfriend, would carry a torch for her (although the relationship with her grand-niece is a bit gross), I never understood Carter's infatuation with him as it carried over to the TV series she fronted. Nonetheless, one can’t deny Atwell nailed the Nazi-slaying heroine, which quickly became beloved by fans.

Another issue is The Red Skull. Hugo Weaving is good in the part, but he’s done away with too easily. After all, he’s the Cap’s biggest foe. Why did they kill him off so quickly? In some way I think he would have made a better big bad in the first AVENGERS than Loki, although perhaps I’m alone in feeling that. As it stands though, THE FIRST AVENGER is a solid entry into the canon, and while it’s dwarfed by the Russo Brothers work (it took them to really come up with a fighting style for Cap), it holds up quite well.

READ THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL REVIEW!

One of the best things about THE FIRST AVENGER is the pitch-perfect transformation sequence, which is widely considered one of the most faithful comics-to-film moments in the MCU to date. I also love Carter's reaction to the now buff Steve.

Peggy Carter: Wait! [she kisses Steve] Peggy Carter: Go get him. [surprised by the kiss, Steve looks at Colonel Phillips] Col. Chester Phillips: I'm not kissing you.

Abraham Erskine: Do you want to kill Nazis? Steve Rogers: Is this a test? Abraham Erskine: Yes. Steve Rogers: I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from.

Peggy Carter: How do you feel? Steve Rogers: Taller.

Col. Chester Phillips: General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons but are won by men. We are going to win this war because we have the best... men… and because they are gonna get better. Much better. The Strategic Scientific Reserve is an allied effort made up of the best minds in the free world. Our goal is to create the best army in history, but every army starts with one man. At the end of this week, we will choose that man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier. You may personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell.

 

The Tesseract AKA The Cosmic Cube, which Red Skull is chasing throughout the film, is the first Infinity stone, which would be one of the things that would unite Marvel Phase 1, 2 & 3. It's also in the post-credits stinger in THOR, which immediately (by a few months) preceded this in theaters. It would next be seen in Loki's staff in THE AVENGERS, which allows him the powers he gets in that film.

There are numerous hints to Bucky (Sebastian Stan) becoming The Winter Soldier, such as a sniper sequence in which Bucky saves Cap from a Hydra troop. When Cap rescues Bucky from Hydra initially, Bucky can be heard talking to himself in Russian.

Rogers wears an exact copy of the Golden Age Captain America suit when being used as a mascot to sell war bonds.

There's an homage to Captain America #1 (1941) in the film as they recreate Cap punching Hitler.

The Stark Expo is seen for the first time as Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) plays the "Stark" in question, demonstrating an early look at his hovering technology, which would later be a part of his son's legacy. The Stark Expo was revived in IRON MAN 2 by Tony Stark.

At the expo there's a tease of the original Human Torch AKA The Synthetic Man, which was created by Doctor Phineas Horton. Both of those names appear over a glass-encased tube showing off a red-colored costume. This serves as an ode to The Invaders (the team that consisted of Cap, Bucky, Human Torch, Toro and Namor in the comics and took place during WWII) and an ode to Chris Evans who played The Fantastic Four version of The Human Torch in both the 2005 and 2007 movies from Fox.

Kenneth Choi, who plays one of Cap’s Howling Commandoes (another reference), seems to be playing a descendant of that character in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, where he’s the principal of Peter Parker’s school. Cool, huh?

Our introduction to Steve Rogers, Bucky (soon to be The Winter Soldier), Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Peggy Carter (whose grand-daughter, Sharon, would romance Steve in later films), and Hydra.  

Look for Dominic Cooper as a younger version of Howard Stark, a role he’d recreate in the “Agent Carter” series.

Samuel L. Jackson shows up as Nick Fury in the post credits stinger, which takes place in present day.

And, as always, there’s Stan Lee.

Red Skull: The head of Hydra, hell-bent on world domination. Apparently disintegrated when he tries to harness the power of the Tesseract (in fact, early drafts of THE AVENGERS had him as one of the main baddies before being eliminated by Joss Whedon's re-write). 

Armin Zola: Red Skull’s initially sympathetic right-hand man, after THE FIRST AVENGER, we learn that he’s responsible for Hydra’s survival and eventual take-over of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Heinz Kruger: A double agent working for Hydra who assassinates Erksin (played by Richard Armitage right before THE HOBBIT.

Source: JoBlo.com

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