While there has been some (misguided) bellyaching among critics and fanboys about the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, the truth remains that the overwhelming majority of these films are rousing adventures that stand on their own merits. This is especially true with the movies focusing on Chris Evans‘ Captain America. Your mileage may vary, but this writer absolutely loves the Cap movies, which began with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Director Joe Johnston previously proved that can skillfully direct a period piece with his underrated 1991 film The Rocketeer (which itself was based on a comic from the late, great Dave Stevens). Thus he was the perfect choice to helm Cap’s origin story, which was set against the backdrop of World War II. Evans shines as a Brooklyn kid who just wants to serve his country despite his scrawny stature.
After he is given a top secret serum that will transform him into a super soldier, he becomes Captain America, squares off against the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), and experiences a heartbreakingly doomed romance with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). All this, and I haven’t even mentioned his friendship with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) that would form the cornerstone for this film’s two sequels or the great supporting turns from Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Dominic Cooper.
As fantastic as Captain America: The First Avenger is, it is somewhat underappreciated…especially given the bombast of subsequent entries in the ever-growing Marvel movie canon. This is a shame, because it is a transcendent example of the emotional and visceral power of modern superhero films. Plus, it’s just superbly entertaining, and isn’t that the whole point of these things in the first place?