Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13)
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So... this came out in 2011, but I didn't see it until 2012. In fact, I watched the DVD for the first time on the very night that "The Avengers" opened. I have a tendency to do that kind of thing... if I have no chance to see a movie in theaters, I compensate by watching a related or similar movie on DVD. Anyway, I should say that I know Captain America from other stuff, like an old cartoon called The Marvel Super Heroes, and a more recent cartoon called Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as well as the animated Ultimage Avengers movies. I have read very little of Captain America in actual comic books. And I must say, whenever I do see the character, his backstory in the 1940s is generally a brief prelude to his waking up in the present, so it was nice for a change to see an entire movie set almost exclusively in the 40s. Though it does actually begin and end in the present.
As you know, in the 1940s, World War II was in full swing. What you probably didn't know is that there was this one Nazi officer named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who was the head of a secret scientific weapons development organization called HYDRA. And that he found an artifact of immense power, which once belonged to the Norse gods. And that his top scientist, Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), used the energy provided by this artifact (called the "Tesseract") to power his advanced weapons. And that... okay, I'm going to stop with the whole "what you didn't know" format. It was wearing thin. Um... anyway, there was another German scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who had at one time been developing a serum to enhance a person's strength, and Schmidt used it on himself, before it was ready. So it gave him super strength, but also had a side effect, which led to him being known as "the Red Skull."
Meanwhile, there's a young man from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who keeps applying to join the Army, but is consistently rejected, because he is small and weak and has asthma and stuff. He has a friend named James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who is a sergeant, and who tries to convince Steve to stop trying to join the Army, and find some other way to serve his country in the war effort. But Steve just keeps trying, even though it means he has to constantly falsify information on his enlistment forms. Then one day, Dr. Erskine (who had defected to America) meets him and chooses him as the test subject for his now-completed serum. (Steve is the perfect candidate, because he's brave, and a nice guy, and also because he's used to being weak, he'll appreciate the strength more than someone who'd already been strong, and basically because he doesn't like bullies, so he's not going to become one.) The project is being run by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), and also playing an important role in the project is a British agent named Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Oh, and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is also involved. Well, the project is a success, transforming Steve into a taller and stronger "super soldier." However, an agent of HYDRA kills Dr. Erskine and steals the remainder of his serum, so that it cannot be replicated. Colonel Phillips believes one super soldier isn't enough to make a difference in the war, and wants to just use Steve as a lab rat, so other scientists can try to reverse engineer the formula from his biochemistry, or something. But of course, Steve doesn't want that.
However, there's a senator named Brandt who has another idea for how to use Steve. He dresses him up in a costume, and makes him a kind of mascot for recruitment, along with a bunch of dancing girls. Steve is given the name "Captain America," and even gets his own comic book. He becomes quite popular with the public, but when he eventually goes to the front lines, the real troops aren't so interested in him. Which is understandable. However, when he learns that a group of soldiers (including Bucky) had been imprisoned by HYDRA, he mounts a one-man rescue operation, which not only results in returning the prisoners to Colonel Phillips's camp, but also in the destruction of the HYDRA base. However, Schmidt and Zola escape, and HYDRA has many other bases. But after Captain America returns with the rescued soldiers, Phillips (and the rest of the troops) finally begin to respect him. Stark makes a new shield for Steve, which is composed of vibranium (stronger and lighter than steel), which can be used both offensively and defensively. And Steve puts together a team of soldiers (including Bucky) who proceed to take out almost all of HYDRA's bases. Eventually there's a final confrontation between Captain America and the Red Skull, with Red Skull apparently being killed by the Tesseract, but Cap still has to stop HYDRA's Valkyrie plane from reaching America, which means crashing it safely in... what looked like the Antarctic (or Arctic), though I don't really understand how he got there, when he was so close to New York. But whatever... the plane goes down, and then the movie flashes forward to the present, with Cap waking up and soon meeting Nick Fury, who tells him he's been asleep for almost 70 years.
That's pretty much it, and it seems like I spoiled the whole movie, for which I apologize, but... it's a familiar story to most comic book fans anyway... and it's kind of impossible not to know how it ends, because we already saw him being found in the ice in the present, at the start of the movie. So... there's sort of no such thing as spoilers, in regard to this movie. (And I have left out some important details.) Besides which, you have to know all this going into the Avengers movie. Speaking of which... I think the movie did a pretty good job of tying into all the movies that came before it, which ultimately lead up to the Avengers. There's a connection to the "Iron Man" movies through Howard Stark. There's a connection "The Incredible Hulk" through the whole super soldier program. There's a connection to "Thor" through the Tesseract, sort of. And of course, there's always Nick Fury. And um... it's just basically a good story, probably the most relatable, human drama of any of the super hero characters who will eventually become Avengers. And there's some nice humor, decent action, probably the most believable potential romance (between Steve and Peggy) out of any of these movies. And, you know, the whole 1940s setting is kinda fun, especially some of the music. And I guess that's all I can think to say (I hope I'm not forgetting anything).