Saluting The Soldier – Andy Burns on Captain America: The First Avenger

This really should be the seventh edition of our Nine Weeks of Kubrick feature that I’ve been working on since picking up the Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Blu-Ray set, but a family getaway and my determination to see the latest Marvel extravaganza on the big screen got in the way. I’m looking to play catch up over the next few days, so hopefully I’ll just be a little late.

In the meantime, allow me to take you back to Friday afternoon and a text conversation between me and my friend and Biff Bam Pop! contributing writer J.W. Ward about Captain America: The First Avenger.

Ward: You will love Cap.

Burns: That’s good news! How’s it compare to the Marvel flicks?

Ward: IMHO, the best one,

Captain America: The First Avenger the best Marvel film yet? That, to me, was a huge statement. Marvel Studios have been knocking their films out of the park since the release of the first Iron Man in May 2008, as they’ve been building to the 2012 release of the massive team-up film, The Avengers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of their films, from The Incredible Hulk (my favourite) to Iron Man 2 to Thor, so my hopes were definitely high when it came to the first big screen appearance of Steve Rogers since 1990’s failed low-budget film. Now, having spent two hours watching his amazing exploits, I think I might just have to agree with my friend and colleague.

Captain America: The First Avenger is great!

As you probably know by now, the film stars Chris Evans as the iconic hero who begins life as a small and scrawny Brooklyn kid dreaming of joining the army to assist the allies during World War II. An experimental procedure turns him into the world’s first “super-soldier” and he goes on to do battle with the menacing leader of HYDRA, The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

As directed by Joe Johnston, Captain America distinguishes itself in the Marvel film universe in a few ways, most notably as its first period piece. This gives the movie a real sense of originality – there’s little reliance on the technology and science of Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk. Instead, in may ways this is a classic war film, about soldiers wanting to live and die for their country. The old fashioned values that Cap displays in the 1940’s are so of the moment and feel so genuine, that you can help but feel excited to think about how the character will wind up playing in the modern world of The Avengers.

All credit has to go to Chris Evans for fully delivering the earnestness and honesty of Captain America. I didn’t really know what to expect out of Evans in the role. I’m used to seeing him as over the top and sarcastic (he did play Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, after all), but Evans managed to play the character perfectly. He’s heroic when he has to be (almost always), but never loses the boyish charm and determination that make him the right choice for the role. By the time the movie is finished, you won’t think of anybody who could have done it better.

There are other solid performances in Captain America: The First Avenger, including great turns from Sebastien Stan as Bucky Barnes (and I’m guessing we’ll see him again as The Winter Soldier in the next film); Tommy Lee Jones as the wise-cracking Col. Chester Phillips; and a wonderful Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, the man who invents the super-soldier formula. Hugo Weaving is also stellar as The Red Skull, carrying on the Marvel studios tradition of strong villains.

Is Captain America: The First Avenger the best of the Marvel films so far? There’s a very good chance that it is. The script flows from the very start with almost zero lag time. Unlike this year’s Thor, where there were a few cheesy moments and some suspect performances (I’m looking at you, Kat Dennings), all the performances here are spot on. Meanwhile, Chris Evans lights up the screen whenever you see him. I can’t wait to see him assembled and in action beside Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth next summer.

Did you see Captain America: The First Avenger? What did you think of it?

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