Film Night: Captain America: The First Avenger

Since I made my way through Agent Carter already (more on that when I can be arsed), I figured I may as well watch the first CA-film to get a bit more back-story on her. Now, I wish I hadn’t.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a bad film.

To no great surprise, mind you. I remember the film being destroyed by critics when it came out, and while i don’t usually give a shit about what critics think, they made a lot of alarm bells go off. Or rather, they confirmed what I thought the film would be like.

CA:TFA is the origin film for Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. And it’s just about as bad and patriotic as you would have imagined. It’s like Marvel got drunk and watched Pearl Harbor before deciding to make a character based on it. That said, I’m pretty sure Cap was create earlier. Sorry, my point is that the character is hilariously dated and awful.

The film chronicles Rogers’ rise from hilariously thin kid trying to sign up for the army, to being made the Captain and saving the world.

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The fated face-off between bland protagonist and bland antagonist.

Rogers is an all-round swell guy. His parents died and he’s wanting to make a difference. Clearly signing up for the army is the answer. There’s just the fact that he’s thinner than even most hardcore shut-ins and has had numerous diseases throughout his life. Nobody with common sense would admit him to be a soldier. But of course it can’t end there! So a German (so the film can get the Germans!=Nazis statement out of the way for posterity right away) scientist (played by Stanley Tucci) decided to overrule the dastardly army recruiters and signs up Rogers for an army project under the lead of the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve, or something like that). There are some tests, which don’t amount to much considering Rogers fails them all (but hey, at least he failed them in a charming way) and still gets picked for the trial run of the super soldier project.

In an especially stupid scene, to gauge the recruits’ “guts,” Tommy Lee Jones’ army commander character throws a dummy grenade into the hard-working trainees. Everybody but Rogers runs away. Instead, Rogers tries to cover the grenade. Agent Carter (the very one who now is the lead of a TV series, yes) also appears to be heading towards the blast. This is apparently what Jones’ character was looking for. Suicidal people. Like, what the fuck, aren’t you supposed to avoid getting killed? Can you smother a grenade blast with nothing but your body? I’m pretty sure that’s not a thing, especially not possible for someone of Rogers’ small frame. But we’re here to watch a hero grow, aren’t we? So we’ll have to suck it up and check of another cliché as we are lead on.

The problems continue as the stupidity levels get higher and higher.

  • A HYDRA (bad guys) spy is allowed entry to the super secret super soldier (super super super) project, and kills the lead scientist.
  • Carter snipes a guy at least fifty meters away while aiming a pistol with one hand. Probably possible, but looks dumb as shit (a real agent would have used both hands).
  • Carter inexplicably falls for Rogers, despite having only met him like twice, and only ever sharing a couple sentences with him. Not to forget, she totally gets all wet for him after the transformation. Because nothing gives a woman an orgasm like huge muscles. What I’m trying to say, is that Carter is written like you’d expect. She’s a young little foal for Cap to hug and make her his. Or something. The point is that it’s lazy, unoriginal, sexist and plain bad writing.
  • Cap decides to go on a suicide mission, because suddenly he’s an army of one. He succeeds very easily, too. Of course Carter (because, as she says later “I had faith”. IN ONE MAN AGAINST SEVERAL HUNDRED NAZIS ROCKING FUTURISTIC WEAPONRY? HOW ARE YOU AN ACTUAL AGENT?) helps him out. As does Howard Stark, because he needs the screen-time. And he’s an amazing pilot for reasons.
  • Jones’ character decides that Cap should not get reprimanded for launching a crazy mission, risking losing one of the most valuable medicinally scientific advances… ever? Yeah, just give him a pat on the back, there, bruv.
  • Natalie Dormer shows up to be eye candy and kiss the Cap.
  • All other characters are caricatured stereotypes of soldiers. One even has a huge handlebar ‘stache.
  • To test a shield, Carter just starts shooting at Rogers. Would have been quite the shame if the shield was shit, huh?
  • Rogers’ buddy falls to his death and hardly anybody gives a shit. Rogers tries to drink, because that’s the adult thing to do. Nope, he can’t get drunk. So sad. And lost in it all is the fact that we never saw the two being very friendly at all. In fact, it seemed more like the guy was being an ass to Rogers.
  • Schmidt/Red Skull is supposed to be a great scientist and so very clever, but he’s pathetically outwitted at every twist and turn. There’s no conflict.
  • Rogers spontaneously learns how to fly a plane later when he has to catch up to Red Skull. He even pulls evasive manoeuvres. I’d laugh if I wasn’t so bored.
  • Rogers states that he doesn’t want to kill Nazis in the beginning of the film, but later kills a ton with reckless abandon. He even goes out of his way to kill some that he could have just knocked out. Some violence is all of a sudden very gratuitous for some reason. Like the dude falling into the plane rotor.
  • “I got to put her in the water,” Cap says of the plane he’s aboard, it being armed with missiles and all. Then he crash-lands on a huge flat of ice. What the fuck, wouldn’t that explode the missiles? And I’m pretty sure with the velocity he’s going, the surface of the water would shred that plane.
  • (Slight spoiler) When Bucky dies, it’s painfully obvious that he’s wired up, as he straightens up and then falls over again as he’s falling. Couldn’t get a better take than that?

The acting is so-so. Chris Evans didn’t ever look comfortable in the role. He was much better in The Avengers (where he’s made to look smarter and actually competent as a leader). Hayley Atwell is wasted as a love-struck Agent Carter (very different from her strong, independent persona in her own series). Dominic Cooper exudes arrogance and charisma as Howard Stark. Well casted, but he had little to do in the film.

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Tommy Lee Jones turns up to collect a pay-check. Stanley Tucci is decent, but has very limited screen-time. Toby Jones quietly pulls out a great performance as Red Skull’s subordinate, Dr. Zola. And Hugo Weaving plays the Nazi antagonist in a suitably over-the-top creepy manner.

The actions scenes are stupid and over-choreographed. Danger never feels present, as characters are always waiting for cues as to what to do next. It’s stale, unimaginative and just plain boring.

And that’s about it. Don’t watch this film, y’all.

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5 thoughts on “Film Night: Captain America: The First Avenger

    1. How do you reckon that? Besides that we don’t seem to agree on the quality of the film.

      For what it’s worth, I liked Agent Carter and quite enjoyed The Winter Soldier.

      1. I have wrote a pretty detailed review about Peggy Carter and therefore discussed “The First Avenger”, too, and I see the way she is portrayed in it very differently. For one, I don’t see what she and Steve has as a full blown romance, more as a “it could be one as soon as the war is over” relationship. Peggy in Agent Carter is for me longing for “what could have been”. I also appreciate that she isn’t portrayed as damsel in distress and that she clearly falls in love with “scrawny, awkward” Steve, and not with Supersoldier Steve. There is this great line in which she says that he is now a soldier just as “everyone else”, implying that now that he has the powerful body he is no longer acting the way he does beforehand…she is wrong naturally and realizes this later on. Also the assessment that they only share two scene with each other before Peggy decides to help him. For one, I don’t think that she does it just for Steve, she does it because she knows that this was not what Dr. Eskine would have wanted.

        The other aspect you complained about is the “German = Nazi” thing. Well, I happen to be German. And what I like above all in this movie is that it doesn’t follow the “All Germans are Nazis” Trope. Instead it point out that the first country which was taken over by Nazis was Germany. (I also appreciate the critical view the movie has on the role the captain America Comics had in the propaganda machine, and the big difference between the promises which were made and the reality of war).

        Well, it certainly helps that I knew Captain America’s origin story beforehand…a lot of the point you complained about are from the comic, and they improved so much on it. For example explaining that they picked a “scrawny kid” for the experiment because the superserum only elevates what is already there in a human (meaning if they had used it on a bully, the result would have been a second Red Skull).

        Now, the movie is not perfect…the second half is pretty rushed. I don’t disagree with you there. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier is by far the superior movie, but then, it’s maybe the best in the whole MCU). But I think you are a little bit too harsh on the movie.

    2. Right. I did read a fair bit of your Agent Carter piece and did agree with much.

      I agree that the love between Carter and Rogers isn’t purely romantic in the normal attraction sense, rather in the way she is drawn to the personality and intentions of Steve (Gah, foiled by the duality of language!). I still think it’s badly framed and played out, with the characters having very little screen time together before it’s made clear that she’s “into him” for lack of a better phrase. At least she has Agent Carter, which offers a much better insight into the character and she’s what led me to actually giving the Cap film a shot.

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Tucci’s helpful scientist character is a German, and that they make a distinct different between a regular Nazi and a regular German. I did think it was a bit on the nose and felt like a “Well, good thing we got that out of the way so we can be politically correct”. Hopefully I didn’t come off as offensive to Germans. If I did, it was far from my intentions. The scene, just as establishing a connection between Carter and Cap, felt more like checking items off a list than story-building.

      I agree with some of the aesthetic choices they made and think they fit the film. I just don’t think it’s a good film. But it’s nice that you do, and that we can have a decent dialogue about it.

      1. Yeah, the “checking items of a list” thing I agree with…it is more or less my problem with the second half of the movie. But when it comes to making the distinction between “German” and “Nazi”, I am really glad that they bothered. I am very tolerant when it comes to German stereotypes (even though I would be happy if they would stop confusing “German” with “Bavarian”), but as I explained that particular one is one I consider as harmful for a number of reasons. Not because I want the past to be forgotten, but because I want that this particular part of history is remembered and understood instead of turned into a handy and misleading plot-device.

        To clarify, I don’t think that the movie is a masterpiece. None of the origin-story movies of the MCU are (most likely because origin stories are by nature difficult to adapt since at least part of the audience usually knows the pretty well, and they are kind of restricting), but I actually think that “The first Avenger” did a really good job establishing Steve and they actually managed to treat Peggy respectfully. As I said, I saw a lot of details of the movie very different than you did. Part of the “problem” is that Peggy isn’t the heroine or even the co-star of the movie, she is a fairly minor character all things considered – which makes it even more amazing that she eventually got her own TV-Show and will guest star in Age of Ultron and most likely Ant-Man.

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