MCU Retrospective: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson

The Overview
Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a “Super-Soldier serum”. But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger and a terrorist organization. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
On the cusp of Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of over 10 years of films, it is perhaps easy to look back at Phase One with rose-tinted spectacles, now with the knowledge of everything else that follows it. And in hindsight, I wish that Marvel had been bold enough to cement their universe with Captain America and make this the first film.

In some alternate universe where The First Avenger was indeed the first Avenger that we saw on screen, perhaps the universe wouldn’t be what we know now. Perhaps without the gusto of Iron Man kicking off the universe, things would have been very different. I could ponder on this point forever, and I will happily resign myself to the fact that whilst this film is the starting point chronologically, the decision was made to place it between Thor and The Avengers for a reason, and who am I to argue with that.

Captain America: The First Avenger is without a doubt, the film that most benefits from a rewatch within the context of all the films that follow it. There is so much significance in this film that may have seemed unassuming at the time, but in the bigger picture, has huge, world-changing consequences. For me, Captain America has the most fascinating story arc, and this film traces his origins all the way back. We first meet Steve as a plucky yet puny would-be soldier, who after impressing the Army with his resolve, determination and bravery, undergoes a remarkable transformation to become the superhero we all know and love.

The character of Steve Rogers is established so well, and we the audience root for him from the start – something which carries over into the later films, particularly with the big rift that comes in Civil War. A repeated line, first uttered when Steve is being beaten in an alleyway, becomes the mantra for Captain America; a man of extreme resilience and determination who will not stop until the job is done, and – to use the line from the Endgame trailer – will do whatever it takes to see things through.

Despite the super serum he is injected with giving him capabilities beyond our imagination, Steve remains very much the “every man”, and this is reflected in the story. Despite the alien technology and the fantastically otherworldly Red Skull as the villain, the film very much has a real-world context, being set in World War II and with references to the very real super-villains of the time. Because of this, the character and the film have a certain degree of realism, which makes Steve in particular, an incredibly relatable person.

There are countless key moments in this film which crop up again later on, but the most notable are the sinister organisation Hydra, and the relationship Steve has with his best friend Bucky Barnes. Of course, fans of the series know exactly how these two things pan out, in what is arguably the best film of the MCU, and this film’s sequel, The Winter Soldier. We’ll get to The Winter Soldier in a later review, but that film marked a huge turning point in the MCU as a whole, and yet those moments mean absolutely nothing without the context of this film, which immediately elevates it, perhaps higher than many had it when it was first released.

It is a change of pace and it lacks the pizzazz of Iron Man and the effects-heavy Thor, but The First Avenger is an important film, and when rewatched with all the knowledge of what comes after, it becomes even more so.

The Rating

MCU Ranked
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review.

  1. Iron Man (2008) – 
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 
  3. Thor (2011) – 
  4. Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★½ 
  5. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 

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