I have a rule when it comes to comic book movies that I don’t like to be broken. One actor shouldn’t play multiple superheroes. Even if they’re in different cinematic universes. I just don’t like it. So when I tell you that Chris Evans as Captain America is the best casting Marvel has done to date, I hope you can appreciate just how hard it was for me to come to that conclusion.
The first Captain America film was, in many ways, the “Do or die” film for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The genre as a whole had been well developed, thanks to the enormously successful X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, not to mention the previous movies by Marvel/Disney, but the cinematic universe in comic book movies had not been done. Captain America is universally recognized as the leader of The Avengers. If Marvel was going to pull of Avengers, they had to pull of Captain America. That’s a tall order, considering that Captain America’s beginnings are traced back to the World War II era. How can you make a WWII vet relevant and interesting to the younger crowd that Marvel has been shooting for?
Well, the answer is that you make it a science fiction film. And when I say a science fiction film, I’m not primarily talking about making Steve Rogers a super soldier. The whole super soldier thing is a concept that goes back beyond comic book movies and has been in several action movies. The idea of alien technology and a guy’s face coming off, however, are less common in war films.
And so, we’re thrown head-first into the action, with Hydra founder Schmidt finally finding the alien technology that will bring his organization to infamy. Played by the always brilliant Hugo Weaving (albeit without a convincing German accent), the Red Skull manages to progress in his plans without much impediment for the first half or so of the film.
Meanwhile, we meet Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid from Brooklyn with numerous health issues who wants to join the military and fight for freedom. This drive to be part of the fight and respect for soldiers drives Steve with incredible force, leading him to confront a heckler in a movie theater and end up in a fight in a back alley (in which his buddy Bucky inexplicably finds him and rescues him).
Rogers is a tough character to pull off. His character is defined by an unadulterated drive for bravery and virtue. That’s tough to sell. Not just because people like that are few and far between, but because it can easily seem one-dimensional when you only have two hours to flesh the character out. Yet Evans, in a performance that far outdoes his portrayal of Human Torch, manages to make the character as real as real gets. You’re led to root for this scrawny kid because he’s everything that we should be. Brave. Virtuous. Noble. Qualities, in fact, that every Christian should strive to have. It’s a refreshing take on the superhero genre that comes away from the arrogant narcissism of Iron Man (before the threquel, at the very least) and so-called heroes like him.
It’s enough, in fact, to make us look past some of the more laughable moments in the film. The sequences with Rogers playing circus clown to sell bonds is not one of Marvel’s finer moments. A hardly believable scene involving Rogers making out with a random blonde girl is also a black mark on the film’s script, likely a very misguided attempt to give Cap some kind of flaw, lest he draw comparisons to Jesus.
So know as you go into this film, that it’s not Marvel’s best work in terms of cinematic quality. There are cringe-worthy moments in this story, most of them directly involving Rogers. But there’s also a story of integrity here that you almost never see in mainstream media period, and that alone makes it something worth seeing.