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10 Years Later: Captain America: The First Avenger

29 July 21 words: George White

It's been a decade since the Star Spangled Man first came up with his plan. But how does Captain America: The First Avenger hold up ten years later?

Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving
Running time: 124 minutes

You might have heard of a little thing called the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years… Since kicking off with Iron Man in 2008, 24 releases have made over $20 billion at the global box office, dominating popular culture in countless countries in the process. When Captain America: The First Avenger was first released, though, the success of this unprecedented experiment was anything but guaranteed. Luckily for Marvel Studios top dog Kevin Feige, things worked out pretty well. But, following over a decade of near-constant big-screen releases, where does The First Avenger rank on the overall list of Marvel projects? Well, arguably higher than you might think. 

Following Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he takes a big old dose of super soldier serum and becomes the titular Captain America, this film drags the MCU back to the Second World War. Frustrated at simply being a poster boy for the US Army, Rogers takes matters into his own hands – punching Nazis and scrapping Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull with frightening levels of patriotism. In the process, he kicks off proceedings that lead to the following year’s Avengers Assemble – and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Sure, this isn’t a perfect film. In fact, it’s far from it. Some of the visuals are certainly lacking; the use of green screen is overpowering even by Marvel standards. The story is hardly the most inventive either; certain plot points still fail to make sense after several hundred viewings. (Why does the Red Skull randomly rip off his face to become the Red Skull with no real explanation? It’s still baffling.) And it is certainly one of the few MCU movies that can legitimately be criticised for indulging in American triumphalism. 

Yet despite its glaring flaws, this is a film with a lot of heart that keeps things simple – and benefits because of it. At the core of the movie is a message about the good guys getting a win. Sure, they may need to become physically enhanced and engage in excessive levels of violence to do it, but ultimately Steve Rogers represents the best of all of us – somehow who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, and for the people he cares about, even if it means sacrificing himself.

If you can look past its flaws, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the Star Spangled Man and his plan

The cast are impressive throughout, especially Evans as the aforementioned Rogers. Initially, as has been widely reported, the Bostonian turned down the role of Captain America several times before picking up the shield. Thank Thanos he decided to change his mind, because there isn’t another player in the game who could have brought such humanity and likeability to a character that could have easily come off as pompous or bland. There is rightly a lot of talk about how Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man, but there should be equal praise for Evans – from the very first scene in this, his very first film, it’s clear he’s perfect for the role. 

Hayley Atwell is another of the major highlights as Peggy Carter, providing a commanding performance and building a multi-layered character when the women of the MCU were still given little else to do besides acting as a romantic interest for the male lead. The fact Marvel kept finding ways to bring Atwell back – with her own (underrated) TV show, with a return in The Winter Soldier, with that tear-inducing scene in Endgame - is testament to her quality in the role. Stanley Tucci is delightful, too, putting in a joyously spirited display as kind-hearted scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine. 

The costume and set design is magnificent, perfectly capturing the iconic time period in which the film is set, and every tune on the soundtrack is a real earworm – Star Spangled Man will stay firmly lodged in your head long after the credits come to an end. 

While this may not be the MCU’s biggest or best release, it is still an incredibly important – and incredibly entertaining – addition to this beloved franchise. Bringing Chris Evans into the scene was a game-changer for the future of the series, and our lead is supported by an array of fantastic supporting performances. Ten years later, if you can look past its flaws, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the Star Spangled Man and his plan.

Did you know? Stanley Tucci took the role of Dr. Erskine because the role enabled him to use a German accent, which he always wanted to do.

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