Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Captain America: The First Avenger

directed by Joe Johnston


According to this story a weak man knows the virtue of strength, as though physical strength is merely something you are born with and don't have to earn. In 1942 Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a wimp who has the desire but not the means to fight for his country. He's made five attempts to enlist, and he's been declared medically unfit each time. The skinny version of Evans is a tiny man, and the effects are astonishingly realistic.

Rogers gets a chance to do his bit when he meets Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and he's put on a top secret experimental programme. Only one candidate will be chosen to get the beefing-up treatment, and Rogers looks like the least likely super-soldier. Yet Erskine sees qualities in him that the rest of the army can't.

Whilst the Americans are worried about the Nazi threat Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is hunting for mysterious artefacts that will help him gain power so that his Nazi-sponsored Hydra organisation will be in a position to take over the world. He's your typical mad megalomaniac with a mean streak and a hive of faceless minions.

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is a feisty and trigger-happy agent attached to the secret scientific project, and she's very obviously Rogers' love interest. Although she's no wallflower she doesn't get to do much that isn't directly concerned with illuminating Rogers' personality. Likewise Schmidt is a comic book villain with no nuance at all, which seems to be a waste of Hugo Weaving's talents. He's believably bad, but not believably anything else.

Captain America's classic brightly-coloured stars, stripes and tights costume gets an outing in a tongue in cheek interlude when Rogers learns that he needs more than formidable strength to be a proper hero. It's a nod to the character's comic-book origins, but it fits in quite well. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's script is peppered with witty one-liners, and some of the minor characters add further depth. This makes up for the Hydra organisation's one-dimensional badness. As superheroes go Captain America has endearing vulnerability, not only because of his past as a weak man but also because he's not actually that superpowered. He can be hurt, and he's attached to his friends who are themselves very vulnerable. The relationship between Rogers and his best friend 'Bucky' Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is one of the movie's highlights.


Crick and Watson didn't win the Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA until 1962, so it's odd that Agent Carter talks about Rogers' genetic code. And MI5 and MI6 weren't given those names until after WWII. However this is a movie full of fantasy science such as flashy death rays that didn't exist and fancy planes that hadn't been invented, so such anachronisms are part of the background. There are plenty of shiny effects and fake period vehicles and costumes. The film is full of immaculately glamorous women in forties-style dress, and Chris Evans smashes his way through battle after battle looking uber-cool with his shiny shield and tasteful leather costume. The visuals are certainly impressive. Like many superhero films its weakness is in the depth of some of its characters rather than the way it looks. In effect it's a treatise on what kind of man makes the ideal hero, both inside and out: Rogers represents persistence, compassion and bravery in the extreme. Of course he's a little too perfect, but the scriptwriters have tempered this with humour and given his character the ability to send himself up, so he's very likeable. In spite of having a hideous, lunatic, cardboard cut-out villain to go up against, Captain America is an entertaining, crowd-pleasing movie.

21st December 2011

Film Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson