Captain America: The First Avenger Retrospective

21st Dec 2022, 11:49 AM

Time for a look back at the last Marvel Studios movie of a pre-Avengers world! Unless you count Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Which I don't. Honestly I could've just said last MCU movie but then I wouldn't have an excuse to bring up Spirit of Vengeance. Anyways, here's my rewatch thoughts!

  • I'm not sure how I feel on opening with the discovery of Cap's crashed plane and then making most of the rest of the movie a flashback. But to its credit, a) it doesn't ruin the emotional impact of the end, and b) for all I know "Captain America is a guy from the 40's" might have been well known enough that it didn't really constitute a spoiler. Anyways, I'm nitpicking.
  • Interesting tidbit, an alternate opening for the Incredible Hulk featured Banner trying and failing to commit suicide in the Arctic and was going to include a frozen Captain America. We know based on the Avengers that the scene (or at least Banner's suicide attempt) is still canon, so maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. only found Cap to begin with because they were tracking Banner's movements? The timeline probably doesn't work out, but still an interesting possiblity.
  • Originally when I first started this comic I thought about making a running gag out of all the villains having the same powersets as the heroes because the only way Kevin could figure out how to match all the broken builds was by copying said builds. But circumstances change, for multiple reasons.
  • Nice bit of connective tissue, giving the Tesseract ties to Asgard.
  • Skinny Steve is a really good bit of effects work. Like the only reason it looks uncanny is because I know that's not how Chris Evans looks.
  • I don't know if that guy dragged Steve out of the movie theater into the alley to beat him up, or if he just ambushed him after the movie. But I think it's a lot funnier to assume the former and no one did anything about it.
  • Captain America's theme is one of the few solo character themes that I can instantly recognize.
  • Really should've put another Human Torch gag in here somewhere, since the original robot Human Torch is literally in this movie. Which, damn, I know they were part of the Invaders together in WWII, but also another multi-layered casting gag maybe? Probably not.
  • There are many things about Cap that I will come to question as his arc progresses, but not how close he is with Bucky. Good bro chemistry.
  • I'm not going to complain about the movie "wasting Erskine" because his whole function is to die. I will, however, complain about not giving the Tucc more to do.
  • Should probably note that almost none of my problems with Cap stem from this movie. Lines like "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from." are totally sincere and I 100% believe it.
  • Schmidt's an unrepentant Nazi bastard and I think the movie does him a disservice by downplaying the Nazism by having HYDRA break away from it. But it's the little things like him taking the controls from Zola and cranking up the power that keep him engaging.
  • PEGGY!
  • That thing I said about not giving the Tucc more to do? Doesn't apply quite as heavily for Tommy Lee Jones, but it still applies.
  • I don't think there's really anything I can say about the grenade scene that hasn't already been said. It's good. A perfect encapsulation of what Captain America is meant to be and really great foreshadowing.
  • I guess to be fair Schmidt being a member of Hitler's inner circle speaks to how rotten of a human being he is.
  • "I don't have procedure tomorrow. Drink it after, I drink it now." BRING BACK THE TUCC.
  • I think it speaks to Schmidt's ego that he thinks a Super Soldier is the only shot the Allies have against the Tesseract. Honestly without the Vibranium shield I think Cap would genuinely be toast against Tesseract weaponry. But because Schmidt thinks he's the greatest thing on the planet, the only thing that could stop him is another him.
  • MCU needs more spy stuff.
  • Perserverance is both Cap's greatest asset and also (eventually) his biggest flaw. And I feel like it eventually becomes the latter because he's so used to it being the former.
  • I have said it before and I will probably say it again, Chris Evans is a hunk.
  • Hayley Atwell clearly agrees.
  • Farewell sweet Tucc.
  • After watching her take out Clemson's driver, Clint Barton is secretly a grandchild or something of Peggy, I've decided. This will not be the case in the comic, but it's my new headcanon for the films. And no that doesn't make him related to Steve. I do not hold with that stable time loop explanation.
  • I feel like this is one of the better-integrated "hero learns how to use their powers properly" scenes.
  • Cap catching up to a submarine underwater really helps highlight what it means to be a Super Soldier.
  • Hugo Weaving does a really good job ramping up to an obvious conclusion with style. And the little tsk of disappointment when it takes him a couple shots with the gun.
  • Based on what we know happens later, Zola's look of horror seems less "oh god I've thrown in with a madman" and more "HYDRA is being spearheaded by a madman".
  • Another things this movie does wonderfully; provide a tongue-in-cheek but also 100% plausible explanation for the costume and superhero name.
  • Also a nice homage to the cover of the first Captain America comic.
  • "America's New Hope" Use the Foooooooorce, Cap.
  • Captain America has no need for your petty pragmatism. He is the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan!
  • I'm honestly surprised the chorus girls apparently had real, effective helmets for their costumes.
  • "There are always more workers". Insert joke about standard business practices here?
  • Really goes to show how much HYDRA values competence that nobody notices the guy running around with an American-flag-painted shield on his back.
  • Like any good D&D player, Cap finds something shiny and immediately pockets it. Respect.
  • Add the Howling Commandos to the list of woefully underutilized side-characters. It's a shame the Disney+ era of TV production came too late for them to get their own little side-series. Probably.
  • Again, Schmidt's ego means that as soon as another Super Soldier enters the playing field he just throws up his hands and sacrifices the base. Also speaks to his cowardice that despite all his Tesseract weaponry he doesn't really try to engage Steve himself.
  • At least I assume Schmidt and Steve running into each other on the way out wasn't intentional.
  • The idea of Red Skull just sitting at a television watching Captain America's war serials fills me with joy.
  • Oh yeah, Steve calls him out on running away and Skull doesn't have an answer.
  • Ultimate show of bad guy trust. Lending your partner in crime your badass HYDRA-mobile.
  • Really is hard for your boss to complain about your job performance when you come rolling up with a bunch of rescued prisoners and a damn tank.
  • Also respect Steve blowing off all the pomp and circumstance in favor of getting real shit done as soon as he has the pull to do so.
  • Okay so I have problems with Steve and Peggy's relationship inasmuch as I think it's overvalued by later writers, but they do play off each other well.
  • I hate this kiss scene. I know it's a movie and you need romantic tension, but do you really? The relationship's doomed anyways and it just makes both of them look bad.
  • "Vibration absorbent" You keep using that phrase. I don't think it means what you think it means.
  • Seriously, Steve jumps to conclusions because he doesn't know the word "fondue" and Peggy shoots at him. Could've just taken that whole bit out, it doesn't amount to anything.
  • This montage needs to be its own movie/miniseries, I know it's too expensive and probably too late to do convincingly, but dammit I want it.
  • Props to the filmmakers, I would've had a Wilhelm scream when he tossed the guy out of the tank.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about how Bucky's used in this movie. On the one hand, taken just by this movie alone, Bucky being captured and presumed dead is a good way to throw the audience off the scent of the train scene, but taken with Winter Soldier and Civil War I feel like it starts to get a little repetitive?
  • In a (for me at least) rare critique of effects work, Bucky actually falling off the train doesn't look convincing? Not a physics major so I might be off, but I feel like he should also be moving backwards relative to the train faster than he is. Again, could be wrong, it just looks off.
  • I just realized the effectiveness of putting the scene where Schmidt executes one of his own men just a little bit before Phillips and Zola talk terms, it helps hammer in why Zola decides to switch because he's seen what Schmidt does to perceived liabilities.
  • I wonder where HYDRA's motto came from. Assuming the organization was started by Schmidt, and I know Agents of SHIELD has its own stuff to say there but I'm still not sure that show can actually be canon to the main movies, he clearly had no intention of dying or being replaced. Maybe it was Zola's idea?
  • Even a Super Soldier can bleed. Emotionally. Not my best metaphor, but the point is, mourning Bucky is sad.
  • Ah there's the Wilhelm scream.
  • There's... almost a little bit of humanity to Schmidt when he and Cap are talking about Erskine. For the talk of being Erskine's greatest success, he's clearly disappointed that Erskine didn't think so. It's a nice little moment to remind you that Schmidt's still human and not just a walking caricature of Saturday morning cartoon rottenness. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • At least if the whole superhero thing hadn't worked out Cap could've gotten a job throwing knives at the circus.
  • I am amazed that Cap manages to end up on the outside of a little mini-fighter plane that is actively trying to throw him off, still makes his way back to the Valkyrie... and it doesn't feel unbelievable at all.
  • Nosediving airplane is a fun way to add some variety to what's otherwise two guys slugging it out.
  • Why does Schmidt pick up the Tesseract here? Nobody else manages to activate it like this just by touching it, so I assume it was an intentional attempt to use it, but Schmidt's gone the whole movie not touching the damn thing, so why start here?
  • Another thing I've only just noticed, Phillips actually motions for him and Morita to leave to let Peggy and Steve have the room. That's sweet.
  • I genuinely feel like Endgame takes a lot of the oomph out of Steve's sacrifice for me. I know that what's important is they both think they'll never see each other again, but knowing that he gets a functional reset button removes some of the heartbreak.
  • I figured it out, Steve's supporting cast feeling under-utilized doesn't hurt this movie as bad as it does the Thor movies because it's baked into the tragedy of Steve's circumstance. We're attached to these characters just like he was, and having to leave them behind and be sad about it is a feature, not a bug.
  • Would it have killed SHIELD to get recordings of a baseball game from after Steve went under the ice? I've seen the theory that Fury wanted to test Steve's acuity after coming out of the ice, but the way they bungle the rest of the mission and let him bust out into Times Square does not fill me with confidence on that one.
  • Okay the slow realization of what waking up in the future means creeping onto Cap's face is still heartbreaking.
  • Not a fan of post-credits scenes that are literally just trailers. Thankfully they don't do this often. Still, you could've just stopped after Fury's "Trying to save it." line.
In a lot of ways, Captain America functions like Superman. Admittedly he doesn't have the same power-scaling problems, he's still closer to a regular human than Iron Man or Thor, but like with Superman you run into the issue that his whole job is to be the guy who knows what the right thing to do is without spending a bunch of time agonizing over it, and who can help other people see it too. And the key to pulling that off, I think, is to do it with sincerity and without going over the top.

I think the greatest thing about this movie is that the same sincerity that goes into making Cap feel real permeates the entire movie. A lot of what was planted here ended up working its way back into the MCU eventually (Howard's relationship with Steve, Schmidt and the Tesseract, Bucky obviously), but if this had just been a WWII superhero movie unrelated to any kind of broader connected universe, it still would have worked almost perfectly. Which shouldn't be a surprise considering the director also made the Rocketeer, but still. As origin movies go, I think it's one of the best for sure.


21st Dec 2022, 2:47 PM
Probably a pretty random point for me to latch onto... but if Cap's frozen body was found due to the actions of the Hulk, it would have been a suitable adaption of the comics lore. At least, back when I still cared to pay attention, Marvel Comic Universe Captain America was recovered because of Namor the Submariner (unintentionally) smashing him free.
23rd Dec 2022, 4:20 AM
Something I never noticed until now, but the Tessaract was a diversion. We’re supposed to assume it’s the MCU version of the Cosmic Cube, but then it turns out to be an Infinity Stone later.
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