Dateline v. Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Rated PG-13: For Violence

Running Time: 124 minutes (2 hours and 4 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Science Fiction, Superhero, War

Released on July 22, 2011 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures

"Captain America" Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Director: Joe Johnston

  • Chris Evans as Steven "Steve" Rogers / Captain America
  • Tommy Lee Jones as Chester Phillips 
  • Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt / Red Skull
  • Hayley Atwell as Agent Margaret "Peggy" Carter
  • Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes
  • Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
  • Stanley Tucci as Doctor Abraham Erskine
Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War continues with the origin story of everyone's current favorite Avenger, myself included.

The film has been accused of being like Thor, nothing more than just a filler episode made explicitly to set-up all of the important ingredients for the then-forthcoming crossover film. With God on our side, we will see if "Star-Spangled Man with a Plan" really did fare greatly in his first solo outing. We also place a deep emphasis on "first" because that Captain America film from the 90s totally did not happen. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and movie court is now in session for the case of Dateline v. Captain America: The First Avenger!

And remember, this post is filled with spoilers. Beware!


What is the movie about?

At the onset of the Second World War, the ill-bodied Steve Rogers, played by Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) has been denied entry into the United States military, but his best friend Bucky Barnes, played by Stan (I, Tonya), manages to enlist.

Despite his physical limitations, Steve's persistence to fight for the greater good catches the attention of one Doctor Abraham Erskine, played by Tucci (Some Velvet Morning), who enlists him into "Project: Rebirth", a top-secret experimental procedure that will hopefully give a man like Steve enhanced abilities to fight in the war. The project is headed by Chester Philips, played by Jones (Jason Bourne), and Agent Peggy Carter, played by Atwell (Black Mirror Series 2 - Be Right Back), and genius Howard Stark, played by Cooper (Preacher), aids in the transformation process.

In Germany, the leader of the Nazi science division HYDRA, Johann Schmidt, played by Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge), is on the verge of discovering a world-ending power source in the form of the mythical "Tesseract", a bright blue, glowing cube-shaped weapon of mass destruction of cosmic origin. With the fate of the world in the balance, Steve must don the identity of "Captain America" and turn the tides of war in their favor!

What we think of the movie?

The Defense:
  • Chris Evans' take on Captain America is one for the books!
Chris Evans is Captain America, the same way Robert Downey Jr. (Short Cuts) is Iron Man, and Chris Hemsworth (Blackhat) is Thor. We have seen Captain America grow as a character through all of his appearances, and it is all thanks to this film's comicbook accurate and heartfelt depiction of the titular superhero, made irreplaceable by Evans' committed performance, and the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's understanding of the hero.

With Evans, we see a simple, down-to-Earth hero-in-the-making wanting to make a difference not because he wanted to rectify the mistakes of his past, but just because he feels like he should. We see a hero who pretty much starts from nothing, and eventually claw his way up to the top thanks to his newly acquired  powers and his never-changing heart. Evans' effortless chemistry with Hayley Atwell is heartwarming, despite the screenplay's treatment of the relationship being rushed and underdeveloped. Nevertheless, seeing both Evans and Atwell interact on-screen will surely bring a smile to anybody's face.

  • Besides Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, and Hayley Atwell are not far behind.
Evans is not the only one pulling all the stops with his magnetic performance as our main protagonist. Every other geek's favorite actor Hugo Weaving's hammy take on a typical God Complex-fueled megalomaniac in the Red Skull is equally memorable. While the screenplay does not give the Red Skull that much screentime to shine, Weaving just inserts enough effort to pull-off a role that is hopefully not a one-off performance. I actually enjoyed the moment when he tells his right-hand man Arnim Zola, played by Tony Jones (Infamous), that he is failing to stop Captain America and his friends from interrupting their operations is pretty cool, and irresistibly over-the-top.

Tommy Lee Jones, for a typically cliched role of a skeptic superior, as Chester Philipps is also relatively funny. While we really do not get to see more of Jones' acting talents outside of him quipping about Steve's pre-transformation appearance and stature, and also displaying his deadpan sense-of-humor by telling Steve that will not be kissing him like he did with Agent Carter, Jones' made a one-note character scene chewing.

Hayley Atwell gets the honor of making a love interest role compelling, which was originally not that effective for me at the first time I watched this film, but it became really even more meaningful when I watched all two seasons of Agent Carter. This also applies for Dominic Cooper as the younger Howard Stark, since he gets so much more to do in the show than in this movie, considering that this is a Captain America movie. And for a very small but pivotal role, Stanley Tucci does a great job as Steve's role-model and mentor Doctor Abraham Erskine.

  • For a superhero movie of its time, it has a surprising emotional punch.
Both Thor and Green Lantern, two superhero movies at the same year that Captain America: The First Avenger was released, never really made quite an impact on me, especially Green Lantern, and we all know why. This film, however, managed to stand tall amongst two somewhat derivative origin stories.

Captain America: The First Avenger is, what I consider, the second best Phase 1 film before The Avengers, and the film's distinction of being the only one among all of the Phase 1 films to end in a rather somber note. The film's exploration of Captain America's struggles with helping people in the face of disabilities adds an extra layer of sadness for audiences, and later installments' exploration of Captain America's struggles with adjusting to a world where he is no longer familiar with only makes the process of re-watching this entire flick all the more worthwhile.

There are a few other emotional scenes that adds more dimensions to the titular hero, including Bucky's presumed demise after falling from a private transport train. But there really is one scene that truly stood-out, and that is Captain  America's presumed demise after crashing the also presumably deceased Red Skull's Tesseract-powered airship known as "The Valkyrie". Evans and Atwell's deliveries absolutely made the scene worth watching, and nothing breaks an M.C.U. fan's heart than realizing that, by the end of the flick, Captain America is not able to dance with the love of his life, even after surviving the crash.

  • The pulp-inspired set-pieces, action, and atmosphere are enough to keep audiences engaged.
Under the direction of Joe Johnston, the filmmaker behind that other superhero movie also set in an older era known as The RocketeerCaptain America: The First Avenger delivers on the typical Second World War action mixed with some science-fiction elements that you would crave from a film like this one.

Like Thor, this film also attempts to inject some realism into it by relegating HYDRA's notable green-colored battle uniforms into typical all-black attires. As much as I would really want to see their comicbook costumes ripped straight out of the source material, I can at least say that the costumes for the HYDRA soldiers are still pretty menacing to look at. And the overall old school pulp fiction atmosphere meshes extremely well with the costumes.

There is also the action. Even if these action sequences do not match-up to the much more superior scenes featured in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, each of them are still pretty fun to watch. These scenes include Steve's pursuit of Abraham Erskine's assassin, Heinz Kruger, played by Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy), Bucky and Steve's battle against Arnim Zola's forces on a train, and Captain America and the Red Skull's final battle.

Another noteworthy element of this film include Alan Silvestri's war-themed score for the film, and it should be remembered that he is the same person who later-on composed the theme for The Avengers, and he is now making his way back at Avengers: Infinity War

The Prosecution:
  • Even if the performances are great, a lot of the characters are of cookie-cutter nature.
Alright. Enough with the praises. Let us get to the criticisms. (Sigh, that sounds awful.)

Like Thor and pretty much several of the other installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film also has thinly sketched side-characters. The most obvious of the bunch includes the Howling Commandos, composing of Timothy "Dun Dum" Dugan, played by Neal McDonough (Minority Report), James "Jim" Morita, played by Kenneth Choi (The Wolf of Wall Street), James Montgomery Falsworth, played by JJ Feild (Not Safe for Work), Gabriel "Gabe" Jones, played by Derek Luke (Thirteen Reasons Why), and Jacques Dernier, played by Bruno Ricci (Chateau). Admit it. You cannot even remember which character is which up until I elaborated all of them, huh?

Aside from those guys, all of whom had at least been expanded upon in other related media, notably in the Agent Carter television show, the movie also had a rather flat supporting cast of characters, even if the actors and actresses portraying these characters did everything they could have, including your somewhat compelling love interest in Agent Carter herself, the "best friend" in Bucky Barnes, and the "skeptic superior" in Chester Philips. Even the Red Skull is not safe from this treatment, as Captain America's one true nemesis is reduced to a one-dimensional would-be world conqueror with little to no backstory to support his vague motivations. Yes, he has an ego, as big as the size of his Valkyrie airship, and he wants to rule the world because he has the power to do so, but with a little more effort in adding depth to this character, perhaps the Red Skull could have made a bigger impact. Cross your fingers hoping that the Red Skull could probably make a comeback in Avengers: Infinity War, or in any other future movie.

  • The film glosses over Captain America's (probably) most awesome World War Two moments with a montage.
And finally, my biggest complaint about this film is its sluggish pace in its first and second act, and its rushed third act, which could have completely destroyed the movie if it were not for some certain elements in the film. To add insult to injury, the film, by the time we have reached the climax, just decided to make a quick montage of Captain America's other adventures in the Second World War, with the clips themselves could have made for a better movie.

I think it would have been better if the film was told in medias res, when Steve is now enhanced and is about to rescue Bucky and the rest of his friends, leaving the rest of the film to chronicle Captain America and the Howling Commandos' counter-offensive against the evils of HYDRA, and the third act will still go as it is shown in the final product.

But what about his origin story, you say? Maybe they could have just explained his training in brief flashbacks, because the first act had a lot of filler moments which could have made the movie much more engaging for some audience members. By removing the montage, and turning all of the scenes featured in this montage as the main plot points, we could even have a much more memorable set of scenes with the Howling Commandos, and we could even see just how evil the Red Skull can truly be.

The Ruling: Not Guilty!

Minor flaws aside, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid introduction to one of Marvel's prolific superheroes, complete with amazing old school visuals, and thoroughly enjoyable performances from the cast.

Now comes the conclusion of our official review of Captain America: The First Avenger, and we are not done yet, as we are about to move to the Phase 2 films after a couple more reviews. Before you wait for more reviews, stick around for one of the funniest scenes in the movie, and it features one catchy original tune from Alan Menken, the man behind your favorite songs from Beauty and the Beast. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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