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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)


Film 5 in the M.C.U. Oh yes. Bloody loved this one.

Well, sort of. Old Jack has been pushed to watch it three times and, I’ll be honest, it and its C.G.I. get a tad painful on take three.

But sod that. I f you need some escapism and a sense of what being old whilst still being young feels like, give this a go.

Cos that’s what we all are, on the inside, the first avengers for our generation. Albeit, here, just Captain America.

So, World War 2 progresses and Hitler has a bunch of nut jobs trawling the world for gobbets of magic they can turn into plot-points. It’s all about being super-human, don’t you know. From the age of Ovaltine comes the power of the Tesseract, Hydra and Nasty Nazis wanting super-powers. Boo!

As luck may have it, over at Dad-of-Tony Stark laboratories, the Americans are bubbling up their own super-soldier serum. This makes ostensibly nice wimps and weaklings into mighty, moralistic men of irony and not-quite steel. Huzzah!

First attempt is Steve Rogers, a skinny lad, struggling to get into the war, and dealing with swipes from multiple recruiting officers and cheery jabs from his best buddy, Bucky Barnes. Steve is Chris Evans, soon to be ladies’ favourite Captain America; Bucky is Sebastian Stan, slightly later ladies’ favourite once he’s been on his own wintery super-soldier journey. The film makes us Evans’ friends in an instant, as his face is C.G.I.ed onto someone who didn’t swig the growth hormone on the way to the washboard-belly machine. He also has the crap beaten out of him in very sympathetic ways.

Evans’ Rogers is patronised by the completely female Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, who reacts noticeably more positively to him once he’s been muscled up by Stanley Tucci‘s Hero-Tube. ‘T was every thus, huh? There’s much noise, an attempt to thieve magic elixir as it oozes into our hero, some screaming from the tube, and out bursts the ripplingly healthy, lady magnetising, not-going-into-it-masculine-yet-accessible Captain America. He goes and gets the thief at something of a pace. More huzzah! And the girl likes him.

And the wartime fun keeps going. As you might expect, there’s a mission to a Nasty Nazi base (Hugo Weaving in full ham, with what may be actual ham for a head), there’s much fighting and no little moralising, but most affecting of all is the time travel. Done the slow way…

For Captain America manages to be a kind of tragedy, nearly but not quite echoing the loss we all bear when growing old. From the start, so back off from any spoiler panic, Evans is dug out of a ship crashed in the mighty icebergs of the north – into 2011. Or, at least, today. Old Jack here forgets whether they mention the year. Everything we learn is from way back then, every beat of growth, hope and…yay, tentative steps towards love, come from an age of crazed Nazis and social innocence. Ohhhhh, it makes you yearn…and from this old soul, it touches in a way I didn’t expect: riffing off the Americans’ role in a war we and our Allies could not win without them. It’s always nice to have a super-powered friend with fists bigger than the Nazi Bastard in your playground.

A warm, skilled entry into the M.C.U., Captain America makes stars of its leads and shows the witty gloss can turn its shine to history as much as modern America. Evans rises above visual blandness to provide a character of hope and knowinglessness (it wafts past cynicism all very sweetly). Atwell adds relationship edge and her own half of a time-based separation that will pull the two slowly back together across multiple films and a TV series old Jack doesn’t have enough time left to him to watch.

Perhaps you do. This film is a cracking starting point.

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