Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America is my favorite superhero from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Of all the characters that inhabit this long series of films, from Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) all the way down to Avengers: Endgame, he is the one with the clearest moral compass. Admittedly, he is a throwback to what many (laughingly) consider to be a simpler time. There seems to a penchant in recent decades to bring heroes down to “our level” instead of having them live up to an ideal to which we can all aspire. With Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), he see something going wrong and, because he has the power do so, acts to defend and help the innocent. And this all begins with Captain America: The First Avenger.

Much like the Marvel Comics on which it is originally based, Captain America: The First Avenger is set during World War II. At the beginning, Rogers is an underweight, skinny kid from Brooklyn who is desperate to join the war effort. He is not doing this because he seeks glory or action. Instead, he sees Hitler, and all fascists I suppose, as bullies. Bullies prey on the weak, and though he is weak himself, he does not wish to see others suffer as he does. It is that heroic quality that attracts the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who developed a formula for making super soldiers. Because of Rogers’ altruistic goals, he is chosen as the first test subject for the serum. However, there is somebody else that is after Dr. Erskine’s secrets, namely Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), known more familiarly as the Red Skull. At the head of the shadowy secret Nazi organization known as Hydra, the Red Skull seeks to not only create his own army of enhanced men, but to use an artifact called the Tesseract to build unstoppable weapons. Though Hyrdra’s attempt to steal Erskine’s work fails, they do manage to kill the scientist. Thus it is left to Rogers and the team he puts together (not the Avengers yet, but basically the same thing) to stop the Red Skull and his plans for world domination.

If you are not a Marvel Comics fan but love World War II history, Captain America: The First Avenger might leave you saying: huh? As a historian myself, I find it curious that Nazi Germany is seemingly supplanted in importance by the Red Skull and Hydra. Still, you are dealing with a world with “space magic” as Thor (Chris Hemsworth, though not appearing in this film) put it later in the series, so maybe just relax a little, yes? If you can do that, you will find a very enjoyable movie. Rogers was chosen for Erskine’s program because he had what was needed on the inside. Anyone can be a person of braun. It is the person that sees muscle as granting the right to rule over others that we get phenomena like the Nazi regime. What Rogers sought was to protect the weak and innocent, to protect life when it is rendered cheap by the predations of people like fascists, or Hydra and the Red Skull in the case of this film.

God made everyone with the same loving care. We are all equal before His eyes, which would mean that nobody is really special as created. In Captain America: The First Avenger, when Rogers is asked what is so special about himself, he says “Nothin’,” and claims to be just a kid from Brooklyn. And, in a sense, we are all just kids from Brooklyn, and God’s love for us comes first from the very act of being created. The rest, though, is up to us. Captain America does not stand up to and defeat the Red Skull because he wants to, he does it because he is the best equipped to do so. He would act in such a manner whether or not he had a team of people backing him up, or greater speed and strength. Despite all his powers, there is something at play even bigger than himself of which he is aware and seeks to protect, that being the well-being of all the kids from Brooklyn. I am reminded of the verse in Matthew that says that you are blessed when you are persecuted in Jesus’ name. God bless Captain America for being willing to face such opposition for those who cannot.

It is because of Rogers’ heroism that I can safely recommend Captain America: The First Avenger to anyone. If you find his lack of character flaws to be boring, then you are welcome, of course, to skip this one. Still, it is the movie that really sets up the rest of the MCU by introducing the Tesseract, which is the first Infinity Stone we see in the series. Those are kind of important. But I say watch it for the example Captain America sets. It may not be one we can all attain, but it is good to have heroes. Captain America is one of mine.

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