Captain America

The first Avenger has hit the big screen. Through a curious series of circumstances, I’ve already seen Captain America: The First Avenger. Twice.

Captain America has never been the most interesting character to me, but I love comic book movies. My initial expectations were solidly in the realm of “Entertainment”. I didn’t go in expecting a movie that captured the feeling of a time past and explained the origin story of the character so well that I am now even more excited for next year’s The Avengers movie. Yet that is what I left the theater with. Both times.

Fair warning: From here on out, there will be a discussion of the movie, which will most likely result in spoilers.

The movie opens in the present where they find the wreckage of a giant plane in the Arctic. The discovery of Captain America’s shield functions as a frame for us to go back to World War II and learn Captain America’s story. With origins as a scrawny, sickly kid who wants nothing more than to take the role of every other American man (and a number of women), we learn first what makes Captain America a hero – Steve Rogers is a good man with a strong conviction to stand up for those who are beaten down.

His remarkable traits are noticed by an unassuming scientist who passes him into the Army in order to train and participate in the selection process to become a super soldier. With an act of bravery, Sgt. Rogers is selected and promoted to Captain. This begins his ascent toward god-like status, where his bravery again shines through as he makes a tough choice to save the day.

I like so much of this movie, I’m not sure where to begin. Captain America has a solid story, a great fight montage, and well developed characters. So let’s just begin with the story.

The story has the feel of the movies made during the second world war. If you’ve ever watched Casablanca or Yankee Doodle Dandy, you’ll probably recognize the feel I’m talking about. If you haven’t, stop reading this and catch up on some movie history. But if you don’t have time to find them, the feel I’m talking about is one of resolution to make choices that result in the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. Personal desires take a secondary role to what the society as a whole needs. It’s a feeling that doesn’t show up often in movies any more, for many reasons, and in this movie, the wiling sacrifice makes complete sense. The progression of the plot follows a solid arc and serves as a fantastic introduction to the character. When we meet him again next year in The Avengers,  anyone who watched this movie will know how Captain America will react in the face of whatever challenges arise. I’m looking forward to seeing how he works with the team of leaders.

My favorite character in the movie, though, has to be the girl, Peggy Carter. Hayley Atwell plays her as a strong, independent woman who is sexy and driven. And she’s nice, which doesn’t always come with the rest of the list. Atwell’s portrayal of Peggy falls in the same vein as Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, except Atwell gets to be a phenomenal shot. If Peggy had been written differently, where she relied on help from the men around her, or if Atwell had played her poorly, the character would have fallen prey to the standard stereotypes and been a detriment to the film. But the character is great and Atwell plays her brilliantly. She shines in every scene she enters.

When it comes to visualizing the world of Captain American, they movie does a great job of using its comic book background. This could have come off as gimmicky, but the filmmakers did an excellent job of using the comic book history to add depth and style. I particularly loved the feel during the many fight scenes because it slowed the action down enough to actually get to see how Captain America and the crew were fighting.

I do wish, just a little, that the movie would have taken the time to explain and develop the crew that goes in with Captain America to clear out the Hydra holdings. They just appear, but their development is left to the conclusions we draw from our associations with their clothing.

But the movie, overall, was good. I laughed and cried a little. I wasn’t hesitant at all to see it a second time, and I’m still looking forward to buying the DVD. So if you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re looking for a movie to watch, I recommend Captain America. If you’ve seen it already, what did you think?