Captain America may technically be the First Avenger but, really, this was Marvel's final pawn setting up their epic, ambitious blockbuster crossover The Avengers. Beating past film incarnations of the character quality-wise was never going to be a big challenge so I had fair expectations for this one.
Like Thor, Captain America is an inherently difficult superhero to pull-off on the big screen without it coming across as very dumb and/or very silly. Luckily, Marvel have done incredibly well to make their iconic character and his solo film work, creating a badass hero even non-Americans can happily root for without feeling particularly offended by the obligatory patriotism the character brings forth. The big revelation here is Chris Evans whose usual tongue-in-cheek persona could have easily made Captain America nothing more than a joke but the man plays it completely straight and is all the better for it. His Steve Rogers is a goody-two-shoes you nevertheless genuinely feel for and want to see kick some Hydra butt, which he dutifully does.
The film is a lot of fun throughout with the 1940's setting adding a welcome retro look and feel, making it one of the most unique modern Marvel superhero movies to date. The action sequences aren't very long but they are exciting, for sure. Unfortunately, the film falls just short of being one of the greats. For one thing, CGI mini-Chris Evans is rather distracting: even if in a lot of shots the effect works very well, it never feels real. Also, there's a real sense that the second half of the film is somewhat rushed with some potentially awesome scenes reduced to montages or short flashes. There are irrelevant bits here and there and the whole thing could have easily been half an hour longer and less of a teaser for The Avengers.
So it's not a perfect film but neither were Iron Man or Thor, for that matter. That being said, all three films, for what they are, do what they were meant to do perfectly well and are very competent, predominantly well-made comic-book movies. Captain America: The First Avenger might just be my personal favourite out of Marvel's Phase 1 selection since it's both extremely earnest and old-fashioned but also slick, modern and colourful, capturing what makes this First Avenger so likeable, interesting and cool effortlessly yet never forgetting to have a little fun with the whole thing, hence the scene where Captain America is shamelessly used as a propaganda tool and the bit where an old lady uses a Tommy Gun. Besides, any film in which Hugo Weaving gets to remove his own face and speak with a cartoon German accent has my vote.
Bring back The Red Skull, Marvel!
Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid, very enjoyable film with a campy edge to it some will find irresistible, I know I did. Evans turns out to be spot-on casting and the fact that the movie's biggest flaw is that it isn't longer says a lot about how good it is.
Captain America: f*** yeah!