Before Avengers: Endgame hits theaters this weekend, we’re looking at the previous MCU films. Next up is the introduction of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger.
The MCU was always going to be a gamble. But luckily Paramount had faith in the long term idea, otherwise it all would have fallen apart before the Avengers ever united. The Iron Man films were the biggest success financially, but each film in Phase One made less than the film before. By the time Captain America: The First Avenger came along, most studios would have given up on the venture all together. But Paramount, and to an extent Disney, were willing to take the gamble. It paid off in the end with Avengers making $1.5 billion and becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The sad thing is, the second lowest grossing film domestically- coming in at $176 million (above Incredible Hulk’s $134 million), is one of it’s best film in all of the 21 films thus far. Captain America: The First Avenger never made a major impact at the box office, but the story and the way the film was crafted, make it a timeless tale and a solid foundation for one of the MCU’s best characters. A large part of what helped in making First Avenger a timeless film, lies in the direction of Joe Johnston. Johnston got his start as a member of Lucasfilm’s art department working on the original Star Wars trilogy and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He then began directing with films like The Rocketeer and Jumanji. It should also be noted that the film was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who wrote the following two Captain America films, as well as Infinity War and the forthcoming Endgame. Overall, the talent behind this film is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The film feels exactly like The Rocketeer or an Indiana Jones film. It’s the sort of film that takes you back to the past, but feels as modern as possible. It’s full of action and adventure, but still has plenty of character driven moments throughout. There’s never truly a time where the film isn’t doing something to help move the characters forward in every way possible. Even the action sequences are character driven, and that’s not something we’ve always seen thus far in the MCU. This is a film filled with depth and layered in so many ways that you could write entire books about it.
It’s also impossible to talk about this film without commenting on how much Chris Evans brings to the table as Steve Rogers. Steve will go on to be the heart and soul of the Avengers, and all of that relies on this film. It is the bedrock for everything we see Cap go through during the rest of the MCU, and without the solid foundation, so much of the MCU would crumble. Much of that foundation rests on Evans’ shoulders. His performance as Steve is beyond believable. It’s hard not to fall in love with this character from the first time you meet him. You want to see Steve succeed. You want to see him punch Nazi’s and Hydra soldiers in the face. You want to literally stand up and cheer for him. At the end of the film, when he says, “I had a date.” You want to ball your eyes out.
That’s the other thing that, once again, proves how much this film is driven by character moments. It expands on the MCU as all of the previous films have in their own ways. But despite Steve experiencing one of the biggest shifts for a character in all of the MCU films, the core to that final scene is the fact that we wanted him to end up with Peggy, and he can’t. It’s a satisfying and yet heartbreaking ending, and makes the film stick with you long after the credits are done rolling.
The film does a great job at making you love these characters and wanting to see them succeed and live happily ever after. Yet it constantly tears them apart, because there are serious risks here. You fall in love with Doctor Erskine, before he is killed in the first act. You fall in love with Bucky, before he falls to his apparent death. You fall in love with the idea of Steve and Peggy living happily ever after, before Steve drives the bomber into the sea and becomes a capsicle. It constantly breaks your heart, but you still enjoy it and want to come back again and again, because it’s a fun adventure that you never want to end. Few films can do that, but the amazing amount of talent in front of and behind the camera, made this film one of the best films in the MCU, and one of the best films of the past 10 years.