When Captain America The First Avenger was released in 2011, sporting blond hair and blue eyes, with a red, white and blue uniform, it was yet another entry of a white man leading a superhero movie. With all of its flaws, it could have been incredibly campy and cheesy, and yet it somehow all came together.
Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) remains arguably the most morally aspirational superhero that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has introduced us to. Evans has taken his place as one of the most inspired casting choices in the MCU. Even in his first outing in Captain America The First Avenger, Evans embodied everything that made this character great. Before being known as the man out of time, it was lovely to see a glimpse of the life the character lived in his own era.
Revisiting Captain America The First Avenger was such a delight for so many reasons, one of which was the incredible cast of characters that fit so well together. Stanley Tucci gave such a heartfelt performance as Dr. Abraham Erskine. Setting Captain America on the path of righteousness, the character managed to be the emotional inspiration for the First Avenger while having the signature Tucci panache. Tommy Lee Jones was another inspired casting choice as Colonel Phillips. The comedic timing of these two characters alone carried the humour of this movie.
Watching Hayley Atwell play Agent Peggy Carter reminds viewers that her own TV show, Agent Carter, definitely should have lasted longer than two seasons. How amazing would it be to continue her work as a woman approaching the 1950s. Seeing What If…?’s first episode where Peggy becomes Captain Carter shows that Marvel is capable of telling compelling stories with female characters. It’s such a shame we never got any more from this one.
Captain America’s merry band of misfits was another highlight of the character’s first outing in the MCU. The group had enough quips to carry a Marvel show all of their own. While we got to see Kenneth Choi return to the MCU, presumably as the grandson of his character in this movie, this team would have made an amazing Avengers-style all of their own. This hypothetical show could have been a modern-day Hogan’s Heroes that would have made a worthy entry into the MCU.
Red Skull is yet another entry into an extensive list of villains Marvel can’t seem to get a handle on. Hugo Weaving is legendary for his portrayal of fantastic villains, anti-heroes, and sympathetic protagonists over a decades long career. It seemed a shame to add him to the list of villains introduced and then promptly dispatched. Although the character’s end was more than justified many times over, it was a shame that a man of Weaving’s caliber had such a brief stint in the MCU.
There was an odd storytelling choice, trying to make Steve jealous of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). Although there was maybe some possibility to have Howard and Peggy have a romantic subplot, it likely would have become so convoluted with Steve ending up in the same timeline as Howard’s son Tony. Captain America: Civil War would have taken a completely different route, one that was never really asked for.
It’s impossible to mention anything related to Captain America without discussing the great Bucky Barnes. Sebastian Stan has become another example of an inspired casting choice, and from Captain America The First Avenger, we had no idea what was coming, and the places this character would be taken. It’s almost more traumatic for viewers to go back and see the sweet innocent Bucky that we see in this movie, and it’s so wild to think about absolutely everything this character has endured in subsequent MCU entries.
Captain America The First Avenger is a meditation on strength and power, and how easy it is to be abused. This has become a recurring theme with this character as the MCU has expanded, and although Marvel doesn’t necessarily get the message right every time, it can certainly pose challenging questions for fans to consider. Seeing such a perfect example of power being used for good in the character of Steve Rogers, it can be even more disappointing to return to the real world and be faced with all the horrible ways power is abused every minute of every day.
Now that the official mantle of Captain America has been passed to the one and only Anthony Mackie, it was enjoyable revisiting where the character began. Captain America The First Avenger is the purest example of a superhero movie, giving us a character we can truly root for and look up to. Marvel continues to push the limits of the superhero movie genre, and they would not have been able to do so without making Captain America The First Avenger, a foundational example that helped pave the way.
Captain America The First Avenger is currently available to stream on Disney+.