Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Directed by Joe Johnson.
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Col. Chester Phillips: General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons but are won by men. Our goal is to create the greatest army in history. But every army begins with one man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier. We are going to win this war because we have the best men. And they, personally, will escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell.
Captain America was an icon from the moment of his conception. He is a walking symbol of our collective higher ideal. How to translate the Star Spangled Man into a hero for our cynical times? Blind patriotism and starkly delineated good and evil do not satisfy today's audiences the way they did the Greatest Generation. So how to make a movie for today's times, that would be true the character, and yet satisfy our more nuanced tastes?
They found a way. Indeed, they found a way.
It is never easy to be the small, slender kid on the block. It is considerably harder if you are the kind that won't back down, as is the case with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Ninety pounds, soaking wet and likely to be blown away in a stiff breeze, Chris is still a loyal American, and he wants, more than anything, to serve his country. However, he's not just small; he is asthmatic, with flat feet, and host of other physical shortcomings. The only thing big about him is his spirit. He is labeled 4F, five times. This persistence catches the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) a scientist in charge of a special project for the war effort...the Super Soldier program. He wants a small man, a weak man, who knows right from wrong, and will respect the strength he gives him. Steve Rogers is that man.
And it works; scrawny little Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans; yes that is really him shriveled up by the magic of CGI) turns into the uber buff Captain America.
Sadly though, his first mission is to run down and capture the Nazi spy who killed Dr. Erskine, and stole the last sample of the formula. He captures him, but the formula is lost...and thus the super soldier project has created an army of one.
But there are still better uses for a Super Soldier than as a lab rat...and Senator Brad sees he is used...to sell war bonds. But on a USO tour of the front, Captain Rogers sees how the men react to his red white and blue razzle dazzle, and the cost they are paying. And when he discovers his friend Bucky Barnes is a prisoner of war in a HYDRA complex, he goes AWOL, and all out to rescue the 107th infantry.
Of course all heroes need a villain, and Captain has one in Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), the beneficiary of Dr. Erskine's first formula before being liberated. Schmidt is the head of HYDRA, the Nazi deep science initiative, but with his enhancements and deformities, Schmidt, aka The Red Skull, has bigger plans than Adolf Hitler.
What follows is an epic battle, good versus evil, the forces of freedom versus the forces of oppression. It is punctuated with gun fire, disintegrator beams and lots and lots of well done, Michael Bay worthy explosions.
Of course there is a love interest, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell ) a Brit working with Dr. Erskine, and a commanding officer, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) because, after all, he is only a Captain. The Red Skull has a strangely sympathetic sidekick, a research scientist named Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) who plays a less whiny Peter Lorre.
Why does this movie work so very well? Because the Super Soldier Formula is only a McGuffin, the story is about the people, and the film maker takes the time for us to LIKE Steve Rogers, and his big protective friend, Bucky Barnes. They build their characters, not just sketch them. It makes all the difference in the world.
Captain America is the kind of movie that reminds you why they call them The Greatest Generation, that recalls when faith alone was enough to carry people through, and when men knew what sacrifice meant, not just how to figure out what this quarter's profit statement means for their portfolios. It makes you long for an enemy, who is clearly defined as evil, not just a misguided fool, or a greedy profiteer. It makes you long for a hero with clear views of right and wrong, and the intestinal fortitude to do it, even if there is fallout for it. I think we could use a real Captain America today.
And yes, boys and girls, there is a wonderful easter egg after the credits, and yes, Stan the Man Lee does make a cameo.
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Movie Mood: Action Movie
Viewing Method: Sneak Preview at My Local Theater
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.