The First Avenger: Captain America's March to War!

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With Captain America: The First Avenger hitting theatres this week, Broken Frontier gives you the basic facts on what you need to know about the movie and characters that appear in it.

Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty, is perhaps one of the most well-know and iconic superheroes ever created. He has stood, boldly patriotic, for the past seventy years, never wavering from the simple edict of fighting for what’s right. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby at the onset of World War II, Cap was unapologetically American, in name and costume.

Similar to Spider-Man (and many of Marvel’s pantheon of heroes), Steve Rogers was an everyman. Although in Rogers’ case, he was actually a little less than every other man around him. As a ninety pound weakling, Steve was denied the ability to serve his country from five different recruitment centers. All he wanted to do was fight and every door closed on him. Every opportunity to prove himself was shattered by the powers that be.

But his persistence didn’t go unnoticed, and he was selected for a top secret program titled Project: Rebirth. Rebirth’s objective was to create super soldiers better equipped to combat the growing Nazi menace. Things don’t go exactly as planned, however, and this kid from Brooklyn now has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

As the only living, breathing, successful human specimen of Project: Rebirth, it’s up to Captain America not only to fight a war, but inspire a nation. And so goes the Captain America origin story, in a nutshell. There are multiple adventures and battles throughout his exploits in WWII; covert missions, leading the Invaders on the front lines, and even thwarting the Axis powers’ ability to gain any momentum on their genetic and scientific research. From clandestine operations to leading full on assaults in battle, there is little in which he wasn’t involved.

After years of suffering from social irrelevance (aside from his recognizable shield, few knew of the man himself), Captain America, the title and character, benefited from a resurgence in 2007. Under the keen direction of writer Ed Brubaker and his rotating cast of regular artists, Captain America was brought back down to the “real” world of covert espionage and world politics.

As a superhero spy and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers operated in the shadows of the Marvel Universe while still maintaining his public persona. The beauty of this approach was Brubaker’s ability to convey the character of Steve Rogers as indefinitely consistent and unwaveringly fair. He is a good natured and moral man who just happens to be the ultimate example of human physicality. Rogers’ super power is presented in such a matter of fact way, one can’t help but fall for the character’s charm.

Any live action representation of Cap has the potential for extreme cheesiness. The boldly designed costume, the altruistic origin and an overarching theme of American patriotism, are things considered uncouth in our more modern and pessimistic world. Can something as bright and wholesome as Captain America really work beyond the page?

Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures are taking that chance and pulling out all the stops. Captain America is not only a linchpin of their comic book universe, but his cinematic success will be the glue that binds their film universe for years to come. The Avengers, anyone? Having a less than stellar past in the arena of live action, the prospect of a Captain America film hadn’t been taken as a serious possibility until after the glut of excellent comic book movies that was 2008. With only a few seconds of post credit goodness at the end of Iron Man, an Avengers team was projected. No Avengers team is complete without Cap, so pipe dreams became reality and now the release of Captain America: The First Avenger is here.

Uniquely set during World War II, The First Avenger cleverly acts as not only an origin story for the character, but also an introduction to the fantastical world we’ve been privy to for the last few years. Chronological lines that start here can be traced forward to previous films like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. You are being introduced to a world that you kind of already know. Such is the beauty of continuity. Every new title/character/story arc is a new beginning, but if done right, also continues on an on-going story. It’s a familiar freshness that the masterminds at Marvel want to convey.

Directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park 3, October Sky) and starring Chris Evans, who won the part of Steve Rogers based partly on his enthusiasm for the character, kicked off production in June 2010. Captain America is the second Marvel movie to come out this year and the last to round out an Avengers team. As excited as one can be for this film, this is only the first course. Although details of the plot are hazy, this film depicts Rogers’ first foray into being a superhero, battling the Red Skull, Hitler’s head of advanced weaponry. Along for the ride with him are the Howling Commandoes, Peggy Carter, and his faithful partner in arms, Bucky Barnes.

If done right, this film has the opportunity to strike a unique tone with equal parts comic book, war picture, science fiction and action. It’s a blockbuster formula akin to those resembling a certain swashbuckling archeologist. Like Thor, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk before it, Captain America: The First Avenger is a picture that has a lot riding on its shoulders.

Captain America: The First Avenger - The Main Players

Captain America/Steve Rogers – A ninety pound weakling, transformed by the super soldier serum designed during Project: Rebirth by Dr. Abraham Erskine. He is the one and only successful specimen. Other men have worn the costume over the decades, but none as long or successfully as Steve.

Red Skull – Johann Schmidt, the product of a tragic upbringing who has found worth as part of Hitler’s Third Reich. During the course of the comics, his red skeletal visage has gone from simple mask, to actual facial distortion. Which version is in the film is presently unclear, but he is the head of Hitler’s advanced weaponry division (which looks to have a HYDRA connection).

Bucky Barnes – In the comics, Bucky is the faithful sidekick who eventual comes to prove himself a man. In the film, they are childhood friends. Bucky joins the war effort, leaving the weak Steve behind. Their dynamic is bound to change when Steve enters the fray a very changed man.

Howling Commandoes – A rag tag group of elite soldiers, fighting alongside Cap. Standouts are Bucky and Dum Dum Dugan, a former circus strongman. Now, he’s one of Cap’s go to guys, distinguishable by his full mustache and bowler hat.

Peggy Carter – An English freedom fighter and love interest for Captain America during the war. In comic continuity, Steve would eventually fall in love with her niece, Sharon Carter (Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in present day. They are still together, both members of the Secret Avengers.

Tesseract (Cosmic Cube) – A mystical/scientific cube of great power that enables its possessor to shape reality to their will. What origin (alien, ancient, etc.) they will use to explain its involvement in the film’s story is unknown. All you need to know is how bad it would be in the wrong hands!

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