When I watch movies, I usually have a good idea of where it stands on my grading scale. I thought Captain America: The First Avenger was no different, but upon my second watch for this review, I actually found myself liking the film a bit more.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a bad film. I am very unsympathetic towards movies that tediously follow some formula, especially from a movie genre whose success seems predicated on predictability–we as movie goers must stop rewarding superhero films for being cookie cutter films!!! Sigh…
What I found liking more my second time round was the antique feel of Captain America’s throwback to World War II and the romance between Steve Rodgers and Peggy Carter, played by Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell respectively. I never quite understood why Steve took so much interest in Peggy, but I’ve come to accept that since Peggy was the only girl who paid any attention to Steve before turning… well, super buff, that their romance is indeed believable, even if they don’t share an incredible amount of chemistry on the screen.
Still, the problems that I first noticed are inescapable to me on a second viewing. The high tech weaponry of the Nazi-resembling Hydra organization ruins much of the charm the World War II setting provides. Seeing the equivalent of armored men equipped with ray guns against soldiers bearing helmets and rifles–and silliest of all, actually being overwhelmed by these soldiers–just takes me out of the world Captain America tries so hard to maintain. Coupled with unbelievable events, such as Captain America punching through a submarine BUILT TO BRACE IMMENSE WATER PRESSURE and fighting nemesis Red Skull in an EXPLODING BUILDING, much of its entertainment value is diminished from an action stand-point.
The origin story itself is alright, almost recognizing its mundaneness and going through the motions quickly. As is the case for most jittery superhero films eager to satisfy its target audience, the chance for romance and character building an origin story allows is compromised for action and effects. This isn’t to say Captain America doesn’t offer a few crinkles to the formula, as I do like how he gets his suit from the acting gig he picks up in the second act of the film, and then aspires for greatness when he learns his best friend is held captive by Hydra. I should also point out that the integration of Howard Stark within the film is the only integration of other Avengers characters that is not intrusive as a form of self-marketing thus far.
The story, as written for the movie, actually presents some opportunities for emotional weight, but fails to reap much from the death of Bucky and the sacrifice of Captain America towards the end. Had the friendship been more prominent in the first act of the film and the origin story been paced properly, allowing the romance between Steve and Peggy to blossom, then I think I would be more forgiving of its faults. As it stands, Captain America: The First Avenger is just another underwhelming entry in Marvel’s Phase One Universe.