Countdown to Age of Ultron: Captain America: The First Avenger Revisited

OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod. It's time to watch Captain America: The First Avenger. ANY EXCUSE to watch this movie!  Dave's and my love for this movie runs deep, so this post is lengthy and, frankly, a little gushy on my part. It also took all of my self control to not just put hundreds of screen caps and gifs into this post.

So let's dive into the story of two perfect looking human beings who fall in love.

 "Hi, Rachelle!"

"Hi, Rachelle!"

RG: I like to go into these movies as unspoiled as possible. When I went to see this opening night, I had no idea that the whole thing was set during WWII. I was so, so pleased. Dave and I saw this together with a group opening night and afterwards we were all just buzzing with excitement. I don't think any of us could believe how good this movie was. It took care of a lot of my anxiety that the upcoming Avengers movie might be disappointing.

DH: I felt pretty sure we were in good hands, based on the casting, the trailers, and Joe Johnston directing. At this point, after this movie and The Rocketeer, why would you ever get anyone else to direct your WWII superhero adventure?

This movie earned a lot of good will for me right off the bat with that opening scene in the arctic. As I believe I mentioned in my original LBW review back in 2011, it feels like an homage to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Thing, and Aliens--three of my favourite movies. One of the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys who discovers the crashed airship is even played by an Aliens actor, William Hope (“You always were an asshole, Gorman!”).

 You might think this cube isn't going to be all that important...

You might think this cube isn't going to be all that important...

RG: Like Iron Man 2, this movie shows us the villain before it shows us the hero. Unlike Iron Man 2, it's awesome. Hugo Weaving is just great. And his comic book super Nazi technology looks great.

DH: Was it ever confirmed that Weaving based his voice as the Red Skull on Werner Herzog? Either way, he is great. In the last few years, he’s been pretty vocal about the fact that he doesn’t like doing these big special effects blockbusters. It’s a shame, because he does them so well! I really hope Marvel has him locked into at least one more appearance, because I would love to see him come back for the next Cap movie. What I’d really love to see is, in a post-credits scene, to have him show up the way Nick Fury did at the end of Iron Man to start recruiting villains for the Masters Of Evil. But, the villains rarely ever survive these movies, so that’s pretty unlikely.

Also, the scene that introduces him takes place in Tonsberg, Norway, which is where the big battle with the Frost Giants in Thor’s prologue happens. That’s a nice touch. Memo to Odin, though--keep better track of your shit, dude! How did the Tesseract end up on Earth in the first place? If that’s the jewel of your trophy room or whatever, you need to lock that down.

Oh yeah, and the Skull’s line about the Fuhrer digging for trinkets in the desert--am I the only one who heard that as a reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark?

 You know what? I'd still hit it.

You know what? I'd still hit it.

RG: I am still blown away with the movie magic they use to create skinny Steve Rogers. I mean, it's really impressive. As Dave has pointed out on this blog before, in the comics pre-serum Steve is basically a walking skeleton. They do a remarkable job of bringing that to life. I mean, Christian Bale would have just been 90 lbs for the first act and bulked up for the rest, but this works too.

DH: It’s a startling, and convincing, effect. I still can’t believe it works as well as it does.

RG: The scene early on with Steve standing up to the heckler in the movie theatre, and then taking a beating in the alley, is such a fantastic, efficient way to establish his character. Fearless, patriotic, tough, and just generally the best.

I can't even tell you how thrilled I was to see Bucky reimagined as a full-grown, and very attractive, man. His friendship with Steve is just my favourite thing. I love that he is a protective older brother type for Steve, pre-serum, and continues to be protective of him even after Steve becomes a super soldier. Knowing now where Bucky ends up (spoiler alert: Winter Soldier) makes watching this movie so, so heartbreaking. It's somehow sadder than the child version of Bucky falling to his death in the comics.

Seriously every character they chose to put in this movie, and the way they developed those characters, was perfect in this movie. Not one weak link. Steve Rogers, Dr. Erskine, Howard Stark, Bucky, Red Skull, Zola, Peggy Carter, the Howling Commandos, whoever Tommy Lee Jones was playing (Fury not Fury): all perfect. And they use a great blend of big name actors and relative unknowns.

DH: I love Tommy Lee Jones in this. He takes a lot of guff for not having a sense of humour, but I don’t know how you can watch this movie and not see how he’s in on the joke. The Howling Commandoes are rad, too. Neal McDonough looks exactly like Dum Dum Dugan from the comics!

RG: I could write all day about how much I love Peggy Carter. Agent Carter was the best show ever and I still can't believe they made it. I feel like I have the power to just imagine movies and shows I want to see now and they happen. Fun note: I'm watching this on Hayley Atwell's birthday.

 Full disclosure: I started wearing red lipstick a lot after this movie.

Full disclosure: I started wearing red lipstick a lot after this movie.

DH: I’ve never seen her in anything where she wasn’t playing Peggy Carter, but she is SO good. I love her scene in Winter Soldier too, and I can’t wait to see how she figures into Age Of Ultron.

RG: The scene where Sgt. Not Fury throws the grenade and Steve jumps on it to protect everyone is EVERYTHING. Again, very efficient way to establish character, and make Peggy Carter swoon. This whole movie is basically various characters falling in love with Steve Rogers in one way or another. And that's exactly what Captain America should be: someone who immediately earns admiration and respect.

 Men: throw yourself on a grenade for me or gtfo.

Men: throw yourself on a grenade for me or gtfo.

The problem with Cap’ that I found was that he’s just... he’s such a good guy. There’s nothing that he can’t put on his shoulders. The reason he’s chosen to be Cap’ is because of his ability to say, “I got this. There’s nothing you can throw at me that I can’t handle. I got it.” And as a result it’s hard to find conflict because he’s so good at taking on conflict and handling it as an adult — maturely, rationally, calmly, intelligently — which makes it difficult to find an edge.
— Chris Evans, Moviefone, 2011

DH: One of my least favourite things anyone’s ever done with the Avengers--a property that’s very near and dear to me--is The Ultimates comic series, where everyone, including Cap, has been made into the, er, ultimate badass (or a big joke--those seem to be Mark Millar’s only two answers for how to reimagine a character for a modern audience). But this film really understands how the innate goodness of Steve Rogers, pre-serum, is the key to the character--not how many disarmed opponents he can execute in cold blood or whatever. It’s all in how you present it, and this movie really balances the earnestness of Steve/Cap with a lot of good humour. But of course, he can also still kick everybody’s asses, which is important too.

RG: YES! He really kicks ass, and even more so in Winter Soldier. And, yes, I have always avoided Ultimates comics, but I hate a dark Captain America.

Also efficient: the Steve/Erskine exposition scene the night before the procedure. Stanley Tucci is a delight, as usual.

 Let me upgrade you.

Let me upgrade you.

RG: Huge props to the guy that plays the artist painting Skull's portrait. So terrified.

DH: I always want to see that portrait and I’m always disappointed when we don’t, but I love how much red paint that guy is using.

RG: It’s only red paint!!! This movie is seriously really funny.

I'm not crazy, right? In the scene where Steve is in the car with Peggy on the way to the procedure, they are totally talking about how he is still a virgin, right? I mean, really. I think my theory that Captain America is still a virgin, going into Age of Ultron, is solid. Believe me, I have thought a lot about this.

  "Oh my God. He is not talking about dancing. "

"Oh my God. He is not talking about dancing."

DH: I don’t doubt that you have.

 "So, how hot are we talking here...?"

"So, how hot are we talking here...?"

RG: The procedure scene is so well done. Steve trying so hard to mask his fear with bravery and humour. And it's genuinely terrifying. I get stressed out watching it. It was a good choice making Erskine such a sweet, chill dude. Sadly, this is the end of the road for him.

 This is what 3D is for.

This is what 3D is for.

Chris Evans looks INSANE when he gets out of that chamber. Like, uncomfortably ripped. I am pretty sure it got an unabashed "damn!" out of me the first time I saw him. And I love that Peggy can barely look at him and almost puts her hand on his chest.

DH: Like his CGI skinniness, it’s pretty startling. It almost blurs the line between reality and special effects--like, is skinny Steve an effect, or bulked-up Steve? Because they’re equally crazy looking.

RG: The first action/chase scene where Steve is getting used to his new body is really awesome. When Steve goes to rescue that kid who is thrown in the water and the kid says "Go get him! I can swim!" I applaud every time.

DH: That kid is the best! And I love that Steve makes it a priority to see that he’s okay before going after the Hydra assassin. Another example of the filmmakers understanding the character’s strengths--saving lives is his top priority, not beating up the bad guys.

RG: And then Steve swims after a submarine, PUNCHES the submarine, and tosses the dude out of the water! And Steve is also wearing a wet, white t-shirt at the end of the scene, so bonus.

 He cannot believe how hot he is.

He cannot believe how hot he is.

I ripped off one of my friends — that is what I did. There’s this buddy that I grew up with in Boston named Charlie. The first time I read the character I thought I don’t want to make this guy boring because it seemed on the page that he was someone who is so good, could be boring. Then I thought, you know what? This guy is a lot like my friend Charlie who is just a real good guy. He doesn’t tell a little white lie, he’s just good for the sake of good, he’s not looking for praise or a pat on the back, and he’s just a good man. I think he’s an incredibly complex and dynamic person so I just decided to mirror the character after him.
— Chris Evans, Tribute, 2011

RG: I love Captain America as a character in the comics. But, as you may or may not recall, he fared poorly when I rated him as a super hunk way back when. I was more of a Winter Soldier gal. So why am I so smitten with this screen version? Besides the obvious crazy good looks of Chris Evans, it's the way he plays him, and the way he was written. Movie Cap's sweetness and dry wit do a lot for me. Excellent choice making him so funny. And instead of him being a stoic, righteous grump (love you, comic book Cap, really!), in the movies he's a scrappy kid from Brooklyn who takes no shit. I love him. Really, I will be forever grateful to Chris Evans for this performance. It's immensely satisfying to see a beloved character brought to life so perfectly.

And he draws!!! Thank you, movie, for keeping the character detail of him being an artist!

The character is bigger than any actor. I always saw it as an advantage that Chris Evans wasn’t a household name. When you pick someone not so well known, he’s not bringing a lot of baggage to the role. I cast him in what I seen him do in other projects. He brought a whole other layer to what was on the page, and it’s been great watching him become that character.
— Joe Johnston, Entertainment Weekly, 2011
 I love this detail!!!

I love this detail!!!

RG: The USO shows were a BRILLIANT idea. I mean, why else would he have that costume? Fantastic idea. Also, so, so, funny. I love the scene where he's trying to rouse the troops and they just heckle him.

 This is the most embarrassed I've ever felt for anyone.

This is the most embarrassed I've ever felt for anyone.

DH: Great song, great montage. One criticism I’ve heard of this movie is that it’s really corny and hokey, and the “Star Spangled Man” musical number is probably a big part of that. But this movie HAS to be corny and hokey! It’s takes place in a simpler time, which is essential to what comes later for the character in The Avengers and the Cap sequels. The whole thing that makes him such a great character is that pathos--he’s a guy trying to do the right thing from a time when good and evil were way more simply defined, thrust into an age that’s defined by a far more murky kind of morality.

RG: (nodding enthusiastically) Yes! Again, they could have set this whole movie in present day. I have nightmares about a version of this movie that is set during the Iraq war or something and he’s not even a man out of time. I am so happy they had the guts to set this whole thing during WWII.

And who are these monsters who criticize this movie? They are clearly Hydra.

RG: I love how Rocketeer Steve looks in the scene where he's going to rescue Bucky et al.

 I don't think there is a practical reason for him to be wearing this jacket, but I'm glad that didn't stop him.

I don't think there is a practical reason for him to be wearing this jacket, but I'm glad that didn't stop him.

RG:  don't want to dwell on how damn handsome Evans is in this movie (yes I do), but for real, whoever styled him for this movie really knocked it out of the park.

 Men: please use this as your reference point.

Men: please use this as your reference point.

RG: When Steve rescues Bucky from that torture chamber (Bucky!!!), I had my first crazed, hopeful thought that maybe he would become the Winter Soldier in a later movie. Sitting in the theatre back then, it seemed like an insane pipe dream. But between that rescue scene, the establishment of Bucky as an expert sniper, and then when he falls from the train with his arm outstretched...it got me pretty excited, let me tell you. Plus, Sebastian Stan was fantastic as that character, and I really wanted to see more of him.

 A  lot  more.

A lot more.

I have long been...enthusiastic...about Winter Soldier as a character, and I immediately wanted to see Stan as that character. But, again, it seemed like there was no way it would actually happen. I mean, what next, Peggy Carter gets her own show?!

Bucky gets rescued by this new Steve. For all we know, Bucky is on an operating table thinking he might never come out. That he might never again see the light of day. So for him, every time he comes back from war, he’s like, ‘Here’s another chance to think whether it’s worth going back. I’m alive. I’m here for one night. I want to live life.’ I don’t think it’s jealousy so much, but he doesn’t really have much of a choice because I think for him there’s an element of, ‘Okay I’m going to go fight and I will survive this one mission and then I’ll come back and I’ll not go back.’ But the problem is that he has no choice because Steve’s going and he never lets Steve go by himself. So I think the protective nature of a parent or a brother was was always there. It wasn’t like, ‘Steve’s this muscle guy and I want to be him.’ It’s more like, ‘Oh god—he’s grown up and what do I do?’
— Sebastian Stan, BoxOffice, 2011

RG: When Steve is in his military dress uniform looking at maps with Peggy, and then later at the bar...damn. That guy fills out a uniform.

 Peggy is not listening to a word he's saying.

Peggy is not listening to a word he's saying.

And then Peggy walks in looking all fantastic in a red dress. And Steve is undressing her with his eyes because he's a super horny virgin.

 Get in that sandwich, Peggy!

Get in that sandwich, Peggy!

It is pretty batshit insane that Peggy unloads a gun on Steve when he asks her what she thinks of the new (UNTESTED) shield. I get that she's mad about that Anne Boleyn skank kissing him, but still. That is psychotic.

I also want to point out that Steve's extremely awkward, stammering conversation with Anne Boleyn lady, followed by an even more awkward kiss, further adds water to my theory that he didn't touch those USO girls and is still a virgin.

 This is not a man who is experienced with women.

This is not a man who is experienced with women.

DH: Coming in 2017 and 2018: Captain America: The Virgin Soldier and Captain America: Virgin War.

RG: Captain America: Losin’ It!

RG: So, Bucky's final moments: first of all, he looks so great in that grown-up version of the Bucky costume in the comics. It alludes to his future Winter Soldier costume too. I'm a sucker for those bibbed jackets.

 Huh. Maybe Steve  isn't  a virgin.

Huh. Maybe Steve isn't a virgin.

RG: Do you think Chris Evans got cast in Snowpiercer because this scene showed how good he is at walking through train cars?

DH: Well, that and and the fact that he knows what babies taste like.

RG: HA! He is so method.

I am crazy about the prison scene with Tommy Lee Jones and Zola. I am sure Tommy Lee Jones didn't give a shit about this movie but he really rules in every scene. And I love how much his character likes Agent Carter.

 A moment that allows all the comic nerds in the audience to make a knowing sound of acknowledgement.

A moment that allows all the comic nerds in the audience to make a knowing sound of acknowledgement.

DH: Toby Jones makes a great toady to the Red Skull in this movie. And his appearance in Winter Soldier is one of my favourite scenes in a movie that is basically all cool scenes.

I love the scene where the Skull is getting in his little gyrocopter and Zola says “Where will I sit?” and there’s a little sad violin on the score, and the Skull gives him his car keys and says, “Not a scratch, Doctor.”

 Here's how you can tell this guy is evil...

Here's how you can tell this guy is evil...

RG: I love that too. Real quick: My favourite Skull moment is when, mid-speech, he quietly counts those Nazis he’s about to shoot with his Tesseract laser. So, so funny.

God, when Captain America rolls up to the Hydra base on that motorcycle, wearing the full suit, with the shield in front? SO GREAT! And the fight after really gives you a good feel for the strength of the shield. And that Captain America costume is just spectacular.

DH: Very true. The shield makes a very satisfying BONNGGG! sound when it bounces off a bad guy’s skull. Great sound design.

One of the complaints I’ve heard about this movie is that Cap’s plan at the end doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and it’s pretty much true. Why did he need to get caught so that the Howling Commandos could then zipline in afterwards? Couldn’t they all have done that at the same time? Ehh, whatever. At least he doesn’t spin the Earth backwards to reverse time (for the record, Superman: The Movie is still one of my favourite superhero movies, which goes to show if I like everything else about a superhero movie, I’m willing to forgive a dubious third act).

RG: Hey, he JUST became Captain America. Cut him some slack, people. It’s not like he went to college.

I’ve had other offers for movies like this and usually turned them down. To me there’s something less interesting about a guy who can fly, and throw tanks around, and stuff like that. The reason I wanted to do this one is he is so relatable. I can relate to him. Maybe it’s every kid’s dream to go into a pod and come out looking like Captain America.
— Joe Johnston, Entertainment Weekly, 2011
 Look at these guys!!!!

Look at these guys!!!!

DH: Another criticism is that the second half of this movie is all montages...which is kind of true, but I don’t know how else they would have gotten across the idea of Cap having this legendary career during the war. I mean, I would have been perfectly happy to sit through a whole series of WWII Cap movies, and I think you would have been too, but most moviegoers probably wouldn’t have had our enthusiasm for it.

RG: Again with complaints? What do you people want?! I remember a rumour back in 2011 that the second Captain America movie was going to be set during WWII again and would fill in that montage part. That would have been a pretty weird move, but I agree that I would have watched that very happily. I would also like to see full versions of the propaganda movies Cap shoots within this movie.

RG: When Captain America is fighting Red Skull one on one, I don't think there had ever been two characters on screen who look more like the comic book characters they are portraying. I can't find a good screen cap of it.

The fun comic book details in this movie kill me. From the labeled missiles on Skull's plane to the Hydra soldiers with the flame throwers, just great.

The scene where Cap is crashing the plane while talking to Peggy destroys me. He's so brave! I kind of don't understand why he needed to be in the plane, but whatever. Obviously he needs to get frozen somehow so it may as well be heroically.

 Ack! When he pulls out Peggy's picture so he can look at it while he's talking to her?! SOB!

Ack! When he pulls out Peggy's picture so he can look at it while he's talking to her?! SOB!

RG: Poor, poor Peggy. It was so satisfying to see her story continued on Agent Carter. I think technically we should be watching season one of that as well if we want to be completists about this marathon. But that might put us on a slippery slope that forces us to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and no one wants that.

DH: Plus we still have to slot Daredevil in there somewhere when it drops on Netflix later this week!

RG: It’s true. Man, being a comic book blogger is exhausting these days. It’s not like the good ol’ days where there was just a mediocre movie every couple of years. I sound like Captain America.

One thing I have a hard time swallowing is that Steve would wake up after 70 years on ice and instantly know something was wrong because he recognizes twenty seconds of a baseball game being played on the radio. And that S.H.I.E.L.D. would be holding him in a facility that borders Times Square. Did they want to make sure he was extra terrified if he busted out of there? They couldn't put him out in the country somewhere? But, again, whatever.

 "Guy Fieri has a restaurant?"

"Guy Fieri has a restaurant?"

DH: The middle of Times Square does not seem like the ideal place to have a super secret spy headquarters.

RG: Final note: best credits ever. And not a shitty rock song in sight. And they end with the Avengers preview which includes that shot of Steve Rogers working that heavy bag from behind. It's very near and dear to me.

DH: Those credits, with all the propaganda posters, are fantastic, and they looked even better in 3D.

RG: The whole movie looked great in 3D. It stands as one of the only times I really enjoyed 3D. And all it took was having Chris Evans all up in my face.

 My favourite flavour of Captain America: battle ravaged.

My favourite flavour of Captain America: battle ravaged.

And with that I reluctantly wrap up the Captain America post. Next Dave and I assemble to watch The Avengers! Because we live in an age where we can just watch a movie that has Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury ANY TIME WE WANT!