Published on February 5th, 2018 | by Lauren Bycroft0
The Road To Infinity War: Captain America: The First Avenger
I’ll start this installment with a confession. I didn’t like the first Captain America film very much when I saw it in theaters. There was something about the clear eyed sincerity of it that turned me off. Upon multiple viewings, however, in conjunction with the evolution of Captain America as a character over three films, my appreciation for the film has grown substantially. In retrospect, The First Avenger is one of the most straight forward & strongest installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Taking place in WWII before the creation of SHIELD, Captain America avoids any obligation to shoehorn the eventual Avengers team up into its main story. We’re introduced to characters who will play a part in SHIELD later, and we get a tag containing Nick Fury, but the film is 99% Steve Rogers’ story. It’s also largely free and clear of any convoluted subplots. Its only shortcoming is its villain. Red Skull has the potential to be something maniacal & otherworldly, especially when played by Hugo Weaving; but ends up being fairly generic. Toby Jones’ Dr. Arnim Zola ends up being the far more interesting villain – understated with a hint of something you can’t quite put your finger on.
Captain America: The First Avenger also gives us our first truly formidable female character in Peggy Carter. She can, as Hayley Atwell noted, “do everything Captain America can do, but backwards, and in high heels.” She is not just existing in a man’s world, she’s succeeding and going toe to toe with all of them. While there are scenes that of course rely on the fact that she is a woman & the romantic tension between her and Steve, is a main plot point of the film, remove those elements and Agent Carter could just as easily be a man. As a man Agent Carter would be generic, as a woman she is remarkable. She’s definitely the kind of character that the MCU has struggled to recreate and bring to the forefront with its flagship characters like Iron Man & Cap.
Chris Evans continues the Marvel tradition of being the perfect fit for his role. He was, in fact, so coveted by the studio that they offered him the part multiple times after he passed. He brings earnestness to Rogers that I find it hard to believe many other actors could. He’s an amazing counterpart to Atwell’s Agent Carter and it’s a real shame that after this film we lose the gift of their relationship. But we do get to enjoy them in this film, and indeed, the whole supporting cast is one of the best Marvel has put together. From Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Erskine to Tommy Lee Jones’ Colonel Chester Philips, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, and all the Howling Commandos, everyone around Rogers/Cap is doing their best to do what they think is right. The same could perhaps even be argued for Dr. Zola. And that’s what makes these characters so strong. There’s a real wealth of relatable perspectives in the film.
Which brings us back to our hero. Steve Rogers is an interesting hero in that he’s very much like Superman – the seemingly all American boy next door type with a strong moral compass. He’s the kind of guy you would expect to just as easily help an elderly lady across the street as battle a super villain. And yet, Rogers is the more interesting and relatable character. He’s human. He’s not just brooding like Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel, he somehow avoids the tight jaw and far off stare look despite being haunted and shaped by his past. He also truly knows what it’s like to be “the little guy”.
Overall, while they stumbled on The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, Marvel really started to pick up steam with Thor & Captain America running up to the release of The Avengers. The First Avenger in particular is such a great springboard into Avengers because it ends with such a punch thrusting Cap into the modern day as audiences would soon be thrust into a nearly perfectly executed superhero movie that brought heroes together in a way that had not been previously seen.