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MCU Countdown #5: ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’

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Welcome to our fifth entry of Rotoscopers’ MCU Countdown! It’s an exciting time to be a Marvel fan. Black Panther shattered records a few months ago, Avengers: Infinity War is just weeks away, and a full slate of über-intriguing projects is on the release calendar for the future. Today we’re taking a look at the fifth entry into the MCU pantheon: 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Before you continue, spoiler warning for Captain America’s story arc!

The Makings of a Hero

As of this post’s writing, we’re eighteen films into the lore, legend, and love that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As intricate and overlapped as the series’ story now is, it’s easy to forget how it all started, how we were first introduced to each of its main players. Infinity War will be the eighth film to feature Chris Evans as Captain America. His character (and Evans’s performance) has grown tremendously over the course of seven years’ worth of stories and filmmaking. Captain America: The First Avenger takes us back to that place when Captain America was merely Steve Rogers.

In contrast the bold, dynamic hero we see Cap presented as in each of his current appearances, this early version of him is still that same presence, just channeled in a different way. Before he was battling alien species or saving government agencies from internal combustion, Captain America was a scrawny kid who was loyal to his friends and stood up for what was right. In particular, his patriotism toward his country and his firm stance against bullying made Steve Rogers a passionate fire and the perfect candidate to be the super soldier he is initially invited to become.

Captain-America-First-Avenger-Poster

Period Piece

Captain America: The First Avenger takes place in the 1940s during World War II. Steve Rogers is enlisted in the US Army, first as an unlikely recruit and eventually as a test subject for a high-tech experiment that amplifies the strong emotional values he upholds and translates them into superhuman strength. The idea is that Rogers will be the first of many in an effort to help win the war, but a mishap leads to that tech becoming lost and Rogers being the only of these tests.

As the fifth entry into the MCU, when viewing in order, Captain America: The First Avenger takes us on an unexpected turn. It’s the first entry in the library to not be set in present-day, and it initially lacks any sort of connection to the existing films, though we’ll soon discover it actually possesses the exact opposite. It shifts the expectation ever so slightly, finally revealing itself to be an essential component in a grander story. This sets a precedence for a juggernaut routine that the MCU would come to perfect as an art form.

Alan Silvestri writes the score here, bringing his classic fare that feels especially appropriate with the war period. Silvestri is known for classics like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forest Gump. In the MCU, Silvestri went on to score 2012’s The Avengers and is also scoring Avengers: Infinity War.

Captain America: The First Avenger also gives us a new Alan Menken song by way of “The Star-Spangled Man,” the theme song that Cap’s tour marches to. Menken here collaborates with lyricist David Zippel, making for a mighty swell Hercules songwriting reunion, this time for a hero of a different sort.

Captain-America-Bucky-Barnes

“This Is the Correct Order to Watch All the Marvel Movies”

Since it takes place in the 1940s, decades before any other MCU film, many folks insist on saying Captain America: The First Avenger is the first film you must view when attempting to watch all Marvel movies in order. Frankly, I just think someone made a nice-looking chart, it went viral, and a lot of people took it as law. Allow me to disagree for a moment and beg you to watch the movies in their chronological release date order.

Sure, the majority of this film’s story takes place decades before anything else, but if you watch Captain America: The First Avenger before all other Marvel films, the payoff as an audience member for several key moments will be missing because of lack of familiarity with the MCU. For one, the shocker final scene when Cap discovers he’s been frozen for 70 years, while still fun, loses the thrill of Nick Fury’s cameo because they won’t know who he is. Additionally, the element of Howard Stark as a secondary character will have very little significance at all. Yeah, you’d later find out that Tony Stark is this guy’s son, but again, the thrill factor is better if you meet Howard after knowing Tony … rather than meeting Tony after you semi-maybe-don’t-remember Howard. What’s more, everybody knows you stay to the end of every MCU credits for a teaser scene. In this case, the teaser scene is literally a trailer for The Avengers, so if this is your first MCU film, that makes little to no sense.

Long story short: This is film #5. Not film #1. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Setting Things in Motion

Since the MCU is all connected in a grand master plan, there are many things at play in Captain America: The First Avenger that have significance outside of this particular project.

Aside from obviously introducing us to Captain America himself, we also meet Bucky Barnes, who will later become a key component to Cap’s arc and the greater story of the MCU as he becomes known as the Winter Soldier. Agent Peggy Carter will go on to shine in her own television series on ABC, as well as make an appearance as her older self in Ant-Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Her funeral in Captain America: Civil War is a poignant moment in the MCU story and for Cap’s character. Then, as stated above, is the presence of Howard Stark, the father of Tony Stark/Iron Man. We see where he gets it from.

And then there’s our first Infinity Stone: the Space Stone, contained within the Tesseract. This is one of six Stones that the entire MCU thus far has built towards, and Thanos is about to try to acquire all of them in Infinity War. The Space Stone is described in Captain America: The First Avenger as originally belonging to Odin, Thor’s father. The Tesseract would go on to be a repeated object. As of this writing, it’s in Loki’s possession!

We’re getting there … next week we’ll close out Phase One of the MCU with one of the best of the best: The Avengers. See you then!

Is Captain America: The First Avengers one of your favorite MCU films? Do you think it should be watched first or fifth?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Blake Taylor

Blake is a scriptwriter at Elevation Church, the fastest-growing church in American history, where he develops documentary shorts and creative elements with the film team. He graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production and is an alumni of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite films are Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and Toy Story 3. You can find him on Twitter (@blake_242) and visit his blog at blakeonline.com.
  • Kelly J.

    I think Captain America: The First Avenger should be watched as fifth in the series. As you pointed out, there are too many connections in the film that wouldn’t make sense to someone watching it first in the series. Like the Tesseract. Great review!

  • Definitely agree with the order of watching this film with the rest of the MCU, and really like the ordering of placing this review!! I felt this film had a lot of great moments, but I feel that it didn’t quite gel together for me, some parts really slumped for me but definitely enjoyed the parts enough to say it’s far from bad, really fun MCU film nontheless for a casual MCU viewer! 😀

  • Manuel Orozco

    In terms of the Captain America trilogy, I watched Winter Soldier first then First Avenger before the release of Age of Ultron. Civil War easily tops both installments of the series.