Captain America first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1941 to help America fight Nazis. Steve Rogers was an extremely patriotic American who wanted to serve his country and help fight in the War. He was too small, too sickly, and too weak to be accepted into the army, but due to the quality of his character, he was accepted into a new experimental program that gave him a “super soldier” formula, making him bigger, and super strong. He then helped fight the Red Skull during WWII. It’s a simple origin story, with very clear goals, and it’s also why Cap lost favor later – it was an outdated story, and people couldn’t quite relate to him. When Marvel brought him back, after being frozen – it allowed them to cover many “fish out of water” stories, and make Cap a man lost in time, dealing with losing everyone and everything he knew and loved. This origin story was expertly covered by Joe Johnston in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Incidentally, it’s also covered beautifully in Marvel’s two animated Ultimate Avengers movies, and even more so on the Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series – now streaming on Netflix (get on it!). Here's Cap being awesome with Spiderman.
In this post-Avengers Captain America movie, Cap is hanging out in Washington D.C. – working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and keeping a list of pop culture things he missed and wants to catch up on (“Star Wars/Trek” “Rocky (Rocky II?)”).
He meets Sam Wilson (who first appeared in Marvel comics in 1969), and in him finds a friend outside of ‘work’.
He and Black Widow (first Marvel appearance, 1964 – and where is Hawkeye? Somewhere else, on some other mission?) are going about different jobs, and this movie opens with an assignment to re-take a ship that has been taken over by pirates. The pirates are led by Batroc (“zee leaper!” – first appeared in Marvel comics in 1966). Cap and the elite team led by Brock Rumlow take back the ship, and Cap realizes that Widow had a separate mission. This upsets him enough that he confronts Director Nick Fury (Marvel first appearance 1963 – the ultimate version was 2001).
Fury lets him know that there are all kinds of things they are working on that Cap is not aware of (clearance levels and all – turns out Fury is a level 10 agent, Cap is a level 8 agent), including Project Insight, which will launch three majorly weaponized helicarriers that can take out multiple targets at once. Cap (being mostly a big time boy scout) doesn’t like the sound of that, and begins to question what’s happening. In the meantime, Fury analyzes the information Widow brought back, and begins to doubt Insight – and asks his boss, Secretary Alexander Pierce (first appearance in Marvel comics was 1988) to put the project on hold. Shortly after making that request, Fury is attacked, hides out in Cap’s apartment; then is basically assassinated as Cap takes off after the shooter – who is revealed to be the Winter Soldier (first comic appearance, 2005).
Fury had told Cap not to trust anyone, so he tries not to, but ends up trusting Widow to help him figure out what is going on. They discover something hidden at the old army base where Steve was first trained…it’s difficult to explain further without spoilers, so I’ll just stop here, because seriously, you need to see this movie. Let me sum up by saying Cap and Widow get help from Sam to … well, solve the problem – sort of.
The first movie was beautifully done, and wonderfully shot, playing up the 40s-ness of it, and the development of Steve Rogers into Captain America. The Russo Brothers (Anthony and Joe) have directed episodes of Community (Danny Pudi pops up in this movie), Happy Endings, and Arrested Development, so I knew they could handle quick dialogue and snappy one-liners. What surprised me is how fantastic the action is. The hand to hand combat sequences in this movie are amazing, and the first sequence on the ship literally had me holding my breath. They have been very clear that they wanted a more political-thriller aspect to this movie than with previous Marvel movies, and they have certainly accomplished that. Everyone in the movie settles into their characters with spectacular ease.
- The more Chris Evans suits up as Cap, the better he gets at it. I was one of those people who wasn’t sure he could play Steve Rogers, especially after seeing how wonderful he was as Johnny Storm (that movie got a lot wrong, but he was one of the things it got right). He feels completely natural as Captain America – and you completely understand where he’s coming from with trying to learn about the current world, and confused by the layers of subterfuge at hand. He looks amazing, and there was one scene where he certainly could have pulled a Thor-like gratuitous shirtless scene, however, Steve Rogers wouldn’t do that. Darn it.
- Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury, and just in case you haven’t heard this story – Sam has been a comics fan all his life, especially Marvel. He was in a comic shop in 2001 to pick up some new editions and saw his face on the Ultimate Avengers book, Marvel had decided to base the new look of Nick Fury on him. He was immediately thrilled, because he knew he would get to play him in upcoming movies. He gets way more action in this one, and he’s fantastic – I’m not sure he’s doing much more than just being Sam Jackson, but that is exactly what we want, and exactly what is needed. I especially love his eye patch flip-up moment in this one.
- Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow; she continues to have amazing action sequences, and gets to push the limits of Widow’s tightly arranged emotional box. I was never sure I liked the casting of her in this role, but she was great in this movie.
- Robert Redford (yes – Robert Redford) plays Alexander Pierce, and honestly, I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t seen him in a while, or because I was never all that familiar with him, but I was struck by how good he is in this movie. He’s just perfect in the role, and really believable. Also – there’s a scene where he backhands the hell out of somebody, and I found that really entertaining.
- Sebastian Stan played Bucky Barnes in the first Captain America – so he continues to play him in this Captain America movie – which is awesome. He does an amazing job of being completely re-programmed, brainwashed, and really threatening. I cannot wait to see what the next step is for him. Oh – spoiler alert, Bucky is the Winter Soldier. That was never made a secret, and if you know anything about the comic story line, it’s not a surprise to you. Also – the arm looks great.
- Anthony Mackie plays Falcon, who I was thrilled to finally see on screen. He’s always been a great character, with a really loud outfit.
- Cobie Smulders reprises her role of Maria Hill from the Avengers. She first appeared in Marvel comics in 2005, and occasionally runs SHIELD if Fury is out of commission. Smulders gets a little more to do in this movie, and really does a good job of portraying Hill’s ability to keep cool under crazy pressure.
- Frank Grillo plays Brock Rumlow - who is the Marvel character of Crossbones (first appearance: 1989), that’s why they kept focusing on his outfit, and the crossed straps in the front, in case you couldn’t figure that out. I suppose if you know who Crossbones is – you’re not surprised when Rumlow turns out to be a bad guy – but if you’re not aware of that history, then it’s quite a shock when he turns on Cap, since they’ve been working together so well. Grillo is great in this, and has an action star name, so I’m hoping we’ll see more of him?
- MMA champion Georges St. Pierre plays Batroc the leaper - he has hair in this! In the comics, he was a French Foreign Legion member known for his excellent fighting skills. In this movie, he’s a pirate, known for his excellent fighting skills – wearing an outfit that evokes memories of his outfit in the comics. St. Pierre was the perfect choice for this, and his hand to hand battle with Cap is astounding.
- Emily VanCamp takes a pause from her near-constant search for Revenge to play Agent 13, or Sharon Carter who first appeared in Marvel comics in 1966. What you don’t get to find out in this movie is that her last name is Carter because she’s the niece of Peggy Carter (founding member of SHIELD, and Cap’s lady friend from the first movie). She basically is portrayed as a trustworthy SHIELD agent, so I hope that gets further developed in more movies. She does a good job, in the few scenes that she had.
- Maxmiliano Hernandez reprises his role of Agent Sitwell from Agents of SHIELD, as well as the Marvel One-Shot movies. He’s in places he shouldn’t be, and may or may not be doing things he shouldn’t be doing – hey! Gary Shandling!
- Toby Jones plays Armin Zola who first appeared in Marvel comics in 1977 – They update him in a very interesting way, that I can’t really say too much about, but it’s really cool – and a little scary.
I don’t need to tell you this, but be sure to stay seated all the way through the credits. There is a post main credits sequence directed by Joss Whedon that introduces Thomas Kretschmann as Baron Strucker (Marvel First Appearance: 1964). Technically – with his appearance in Blade 2 – this counts as his second Marvel movie. He introduces the twins, and if you’re not aware of who they are, I will let you do your own research. But with the pieces of the universe that Fox still owns (X-Men), it will be interesting to see how Marvel/Disney can explain/describe the twins next summer.
The movie is fantastic – it’s surely one of the best Marvel Movies to date, and probably the one with the best story to this point. It also has some of the best action I’ve seen. Even if you’re not into superheroes (what’s wrong with you?), it’s a great action movie, and chances are you will really enjoy it. There are two things I would have added:
One would have been the introduction of Captain Carol Danvers somewhere (I would cast Katee Sackoff in that role) so that we could get an awesome Captain Marvel movie eventually (yes, Captain Marvel, the hell with the Ms.).
Two, I would have added a post-credits sequence where Fury looks the way he does at the end of the movie, and is sitting on a park bench, pretending to be homeless, saying, “Spare change?” to passerbys. I’d like him to say it to one handsome young man (played by Aldis Hodge), who would say no, and then Fury would say, “How about any spare Vibranium?” The man would turn back around, Fury would say, “I need your help, you highness.” And Bam – roll that into a Black Panther movie in which Fury goes to Wakanda in the midst of a battle between the Gorilla and Panther clans to get more Vibranium, during which T’Chaka (played by Wesley Snipes) is killed, and T’Challa (again – Aldis Hodge) becomes king and the Black Panther. Get on that, Marvel.
10 of 10. Yep – I loved it. To be fair, the Avengers got an 11 out of 10 – so it’s not better than the Avengers, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen this year, and it’s really fantastic! Go see it – you may not need the 3D, but it was really cool in 3D.
Bonus Video 1: Ultimate Avengers 1 – so good.
Bonus Video 2: Not Another Teen Movie – Chris Evans = really funny.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews