Directed by: Joe Johnston Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hrs. 6 mins Studio: Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios Adapted: ‘Captain America’ comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Screenwriter: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones
Over ten years after the start of the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU), some people may wonder what’s the best order to watch the impressive list of titles so far. There are twenty-three films and counting. While the first two Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk are technically the first three, it’s Captain America that should be seen first.
Why Captain America? Simple, chronological order makes the most sense after all this time. All the stories in the MCU are linked somehow, even if in the most minor ways at first.
Chris Evans, who plays the title character of Steve Rogers/Captain America, is an excellent casting choice. He is to ‘Captain America’ what Christopher Reeves was for Superman, or Adam West was for Batman. An outstanding live-action representation of a cultural icon. Chris has a presence on screen. How he sounds and carries the character to how effortlessly he comes across with the other cast members, to his performances in action sequences. He takes the material, and it just fits him.
While his role was small, Stanley Tucci, as Dr. Erskine, is warm and kind. He grants the audience an explanation of why an event in the film is the way it is, no comic background required. That’s a nice thing about the MCU, in a way, because some stuff they just tweaked to suit movies, you don’t need to be a comic nerd. A person can watch and just enjoy.
The Red Skull (Weaving) is an iconic foe of Captain America in the comics, and Cap’s origin story can’t be done right without him. The MCU’s choice to use the Red Skull’s character in just this film is sad. After seeing Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, it’s hard to think of anyone else better suited for the role. Weaving did such a great job. His performance and energy are absolutely believable as the iconic megalomaniac.
Cap’s origins can’t be told without also introducing Peggy Carter (Atwell) and Bucky (Stan). At this point, hindsight is an attribute to reviewing the MCU. In hindsight, it’s challenging to think of the other people who were considered for their roles. Atwell was a fantastic choice to embody such a significant, non-superhero role that extends beyond her place near Steve Rogers. There’s even a standalone TV show about Agent Carter staring Atwell that’s worth watching.
Bucky. Sebastian Stan’s depiction of Bucky, Steve’s best friend, is casting perfection. Again. His style, tone, mannerisms all tell the audience about him without saying much. The emotional bond, the resonance between Steve and Bucky aren’t forced or stale. They are authentic, as are the ones between Steve and Peggy and the Howling Commandos and Steve. If you don’t know who they are… just enjoy them. There is admiration, love, trust, and respect between many of the characters in this film. It’s crafted and depicted exceedingly well because the story is so well written.
The entire story of Cap’s origins in the MCU is engaging and energetic. It has excellent casting and performances, tone, style, and set/scene/costume design. How they represented the 1940s, or WW2, isn’t dreary and drab, it easily could have been. Instead, it’s regular coloring which represents the styles of the period but without being sullen. Oh, and there’s action!
Captain America: The First Avenger checks all the boxes for crafting and depicting a perfect story. Out of the existing twenty-three MCU films, this one is in my top five.
Whether you are looking for a one-night movie pick, or want to dive into the MCU for the first time, Captain America: The First Avenger should be on your watchlist. Then again, I’m biased. I’ve always been “Team Cap,” but to each their own.
** Special note. There are credit scenes in Marvel movies. This film has two. While watching in chronological order, some of these will be out of place. Here, the end scene references the film that followed this (going by release date), which is The Avengers movie. FYI. **
—a pen lady