Rating: 4.5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Dr. Abraham Erskine is a German scientist working on a formula to enhance a normal human being to reach their maximum capacity. Johann Schmidt, leader of Nazi research group Hydra, already believes himself to be a peak human, but insists on using the formula anyway, despite warnings from Erskine that it’s not ready. The formula does enhance Schmidt’s physical capabilities, but it also turns his face into a grotesque Red Skull.
Erskine escapes to the U.S., and continues to perfect his formula. For his first official test subject, he wants someone who is the opposite of the arrogant bully Johann Schmidt; someone who has never had power, and is therefore more compassionate: 98-pound asthmatic and bully-hater Steve Rogers.
After a stint as “Captain America” in a fundraising/propaganda tour, Rogers takes matters into his own hands when Colonel Phillips refuses to risk his men on a high-risk rescue mission. Rogers saves the prisoners almost single-handedly, and parlays his success into being given leadership of a tastefully diverse commando squad, with one objective: take out Hydra and the Red Skull. At the end of their successful campaign, it comes down to Rogers and Schmidt duking it out on the deck a large bomber plane heading for New York. Schmidt’s ultimate comeuppance isn’t a shield to the face, but an overreach: he physically grabs the Tesseract, the kinda magic source of Hydra’s power, and is unable to contain it, causing him to disintegrate (or does he??).
Chris Evans is fantastic. Hayley Atwell is fantastic. Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci and Hugo Weaving are all great. What a cast! I’d been an Evans fan for a long time (Cellular, Sunshine, even the otherwise pretty awful Fantastic Four movies) and I was really happy when he was cast in this franchise.
One of my favorite scenes in any Marvel Studios film is early on when Rogers is attending boot camp, and Colonel Phillips throws a grenade into the crowd, and Rogers leaps on it with absolutely no hesitation. It’s both a perfect encapsulation of Rogers as a character and a perfect encapsulation of the themes of this movie. Phillips wants to choose another recruit for the super-soldier program because said recruit is physically top of his class, and Erskine wants Rogers because Rogers is physically weak but morally strong. When the grenade goes out, the strong recruit runs and hides, and Rogers attempts to sacrifice himself to save his comrades. It’s a scene that never fails to move me.
Making Captain America into a propaganda vehicle is a brilliant way to justify the existence of his costume and codename, and the scenes of his performing are hilarious and so much fun to watch. And I love the little touches like the way the actual Captain America comic shows up in the movie, and is paralleled to Cap punching out Hitler during every performance.
The action scenes tend to be very exciting, from Rogers chasing down the saboteur, to storming the Hydra base, then the montage with the Howling Commandoes having successful mission after successful mission, ziplining onto the train, and finally a motorcycle chase leading into attacking Red Skull’s main compound.
The special effects turning Chris Evans into skinny Steve for the first act of the movie are very effective.
I love when Rogers goes to rescue the kid who’s just been thrown into the ocean, and the kid is like: “Go get him! I can swim.”
Agent Carter seems like a great character because it’s a great performance, and because now she has her own TV series, which is great, but in actuality she doesn’t have a ton to do in this movie. She’s mostly an action movie love interest, even getting jealous of a woman kissing Rogers and not giving him a chance to explain himself.
They make a big deal out of Hydra breaking from the Nazi’s and pursuing their own agenda, but then don’t mention it again. Shouldn’t Red Skull be fighting Hitler as well as Captain America? I can’t imagine Hitler just being cool with Hydra taking over the world for itself.
Jenna Coleman and Natalie Dormer are in this movie, which is a good thing, but they’re both doing American accents, which is a bad thing.