Countdown to Infinity: A Quick Look at Captain America: The First Avenger

Leading up to the release of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, we’re taking a look back at every element of the MCU thus far. This film is the culmination of everything that began with the first Iron Man film in 2008, and so we want to prepare you for what may be the biggest film of all time. We’ll dive into all 18 films released thus far, each of the TV series that are considered part of the MCU, and a selection of other shorts and comics considered canon within the MCU. Today we continue our Countdown with the final solo film of Phase One, Captain America: The First Avenger.

Director Joe Johnston started his career in the art department of the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. From there he went on to direct films like The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park 3, and Hidalgo before landing Captain America. With Captain America, he worked to create a film that felt like the Indiana Jones movies or Rocketeer – something that was an Action Adventure period piece, but felt very modern or contemporary. The film is a true masterpiece within the MCU with its amazing camera work, production design, acting, and music. Not to mention the amazing visual effects work that was done to make Chris Evans look like the small and frail version of Steve Rogers before he gets turned into a Super Soldier.

 Chris Evans is Steve Rogers. He makes you love this character from the very beginning, and he’s a big part of the reason why the character and his films have become such a great success. The film also has the best female character thus far: Peggy Carter. She’s Steve’s love interest, but she’s so much more than that. She’s a badass secret agent who isn’t going to take shit from anyone. And you end up loving her just as much as Steve does. The film is full of amazing actors in every single role. Looking back now, it’s funny to see Richard Armitage and Natalie Dormer show up in small cameos as they’ve become bigger stars thanks to The Hobbit and Game of Thrones. But even the support cast of Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Sebastian Stan is phenomenal. It’s some of the best character work and acting in any Marvel film period.

The film is also full of different Easter Eggs and tidbits from the comics, but overall, a lot of those relate to Captain America more than anything else. Almost every single character I mention here is featured in the Captain America comics, be it as a small character from the original stories or a well-developed character that’s still in comics today. This is a film that really includes the full history of the character, and I’m inclined to believe that much of this had to do with Johnston and the type of things he does. He’s only made one other film since this, which is a shame because he’s truly a phenomenal director that deserves more work.

One more significant aspect of the film is that it sets up the McGuffin for the first Avengers film, the tesseract. It’s slightly talked about before this, but this film shows how powerful this object is and how dangerous it can be when put in the wrong hands. When Loki takes it in Avengers, you know all hell is about to break loose. With that, let’s dive in.


Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans)
Steve Rogers is a small, noble man, who hopes to serve his country in WW2. After multiple attempts to enlist he is selected for Project Rebirth, a program which would grant a soldier with superhuman abilities. Steve undergoes the experiment and is given said abilities, turning into Captain America. During the film he works to fight the Red Skull and Hydra. In the final moments of the film he defeats Red Skull and is forced to fly a massive aircraft bomber into the Arctic shelf. He is found nearly 70 years later by SHIELD and brought to New York to recover fully.


Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan)
Steve’s best friend from childhood, Bucky enlists in the Army and becomes a Sergeant in the 107th Infantry. He is eventually captured by Hydra and experimented on by Arnim Zola. Cap saves him from a Hydra base and they work together alongside the Howling Commandoes to take down Hydra. In one of their final missions, Bucky falls from a Hydra controlled train and into the Danube River, assumed dead.


Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)
A prominent agent of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a precursor to SHIELD. Peggy is a tough as nails, incredibly intelligent secret agent. She helps to train Steve and work alongside him during his mission to take down Hydra. In the process they begin to fall for one another. When Steve flies the bomber into the Arctic shelf at the end of the film, they promise to meet each other a few weeks later to go dancing, despite both knowing he shouldn’t survive the crash.


Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)
The leader of the evil organization known as Hydra, Schmidt helped Hydra grow from a weapons division of Hitler’s Nazi regime to a fully functioning organization of it’s own. During the start of WW2 Schmidt underwent an early experimental procedure similar to Project Rebirth, but the serum was not ready and Schmidt became deformed. His skin was turned red, and his face and head were deformed to make a red skull. Schmidt spends most of the film hiding his red skull head under a mask. But as Hydra grows he reveals his true form. Schmidt leads Hydra out from under Hitler’s rule and plans an attack on the US. Cap gets onto the aircraft bomber and fights Schmidt. During their fight, Schmidt takes hold of the Tesseract and seems to be pulled into it and sent into space, presumably dead.


 Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper)
The father of Tony Stark is seen in the film as a young inventor and entrepreneur. While not exactly at the height of his career, Howard is still a famous public figure. He works with the US Government to supply weapons for the military and also works with the SSR to create equipment and weapons to fight Hydra. He’s part of the team on Project Rebirth and also makes Cap’s Shield. After Howard reveals to Steve that him and Peggy are just friends, the two men begin a friendly bond in their mission to stop Hydra.


Arnim Zola (Toby Jones)
A Swiss scientist recruited by Hydra to work on the Super Soldier Serum as well as the development of weapons that harness the power of the Tesseract. Zola works directly under Schmidt, and while he follows every order Schmidt gives him, there are times where he seems to have a bit of hesitation. Schmidt ends up being captured by Gabe Jones during the mission on the Hydra Train where Bucky falls to his “death.” He’s then interrogated by Colonel Philips and explains to him that Schmidt wants to destroy the world.


Colonel Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones)
Colonel Philips is the military officer in command for the SSR and Project Rebirth. He helps to train Steve, and while skeptical at first as to whether Dr. Erskine chose the right person, he becomes an important ally for Steve in the fight against Hydra.


Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci)
A German scientist who was originally forced to work with Hydra to develop a Super Soldier Serum. When the serum deforms Schmidt, giving him Superhuman abilities, but also enhancing his dark sides, he flees from Hydra. He works with the SSR to develop Project Rebirth and personally chooses Steve after hearing him talk to Bucky at the 1943 Stark Expo about why he keeps trying to enlist. After Steve undergoes the experiment and is given his enhanced abilities, Erskine is killed by a Hydra Agent named Heinz Kruger.


Sergeant Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan (Neal McDonough)
Dugan is a Sergeant in the 107th along with Bucky Barnes. After being rescued by Cap from a Hydra POW prison, Dugan became the leader of the Howling Commandoes. The Commandoes are a group of soldiers saved by Cap that work as a special forces team under Cap’s command. They’re essentially his backup whenever he heads out to fight Hydra.


Private Gabriel “Gabe” Jones (Derek Luke)
A member of the 92nd infantry, after being saved by Cap in a Hydra POW prison, he joins the Howling Commandoes in fighting Hydra. Jones is the member of the Commandoes that actually takes Zola into custody when they attack the Hydra train. Jones was the first African-American regular supporting character in a comic book.


Private James “Jim” Morita (Kenneth Choi)
A member of the US Army Nisei Squadron, after being saved by Cap in a Hydra POW prison, he joins the Howling Commandoes in fighting Hydra. When Cap decides to crash the bomber into the Arctic shelf it’s Morita that receives his radio call at first, where he talks to Peggy before crashing.


James Montgomery Falsworth (JJ Feild)
A member of the His Majesty’s 3rd Independent Parachute Brigade, after being saved by Cap in a Hydra POW prison, he joins the Howling Commandoes in fighting Hydra. In the comics Falsworth becomes the hero known as Union Jack.


Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci)
A member of the French Resistance, after being saved by Cap in a Hydra POW prison, he joins the Howling Commandoes in fighting Hydra. He is the explosives expert on the team.


Gilmore Hodge (Lex Shrapnel)
Hodge is a soldier under Philips’ command, and a potential candidate for Project Rebirth. Hodge is the best soldier at the boot camp, but is a bully to Steve during their time together, just as he was in the comics.


Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage)
Kruger is a Hydra Assassin responsible for killing Erskine. He kills himself via a cyanide capsule hidden in a fake tooth when captured by Captain America. Kruger is actually one of the first villains created for Cap in the comics, and was featured in the very first issue of Captain America. His role in that comic was the same as the film, used simply to verify that the SSR had made a Super Soldier and then kill Erskine.


SHIELD/Strategic Scientific Reserve
The SSR is the precursor to SHIELD and is built to directly battle Hydra during WW2. The film itself is bookended by SHIELD agents finding Cap in the Arctic shelf at the beginning of the movie, and then watching over him at the end.


While led by Schmidt throughout the film, Hydra is not taken down simply by Schmidt’s demise. This wouldn’t be revealed until later films.


Cap’s Shield/ Vibranium
Cap’s shield is presented in various forms throughout the film, and each version is a style straight from the comics. His costume in the comics hasn’t changed much over the years, but his shield has had plenty of designs. When Cap talks to Stark about the SHIELD he’s going to use in battle, Howard says that it’s made from Vibranium. The only Vibranium they have. The catch here is that Vibranium is in abundance within the nation of Wakanda, which indicates that the US still has no knowledge of the hidden country. Another note relating to the shield, when Bucky and Cap fight Hydra agents on the Hydra train, there’s a moment where Bucky takes the shield and holds it up as he shoots at the Hydra agents. This moment is reminiscent of multiple images from the comics where Bucky has taken the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers’ death.


Synthetic Man
When the film opens into the Stark Expo there’s a display for “Dr. Phineas Horton presents The Synthetic Man.” In the comics this is the original Human Torch, a hero with the same abilities as the Fantastic Four Human Torch, but with a completely different story. His powers come from the suit itself. Captain America and the Human Torch were both members of the group The Invaders.


Cap’s Uniform/USO Shows
While Cap’s main uniform in the film is more of a combat uniform, while performing for USO shows, he wears a costume more reminiscent of his Comic Book Costume. Also of note with the shows he puts on, when he punches the actor playing Hitler, it’s an homage to the cover to the first issue of the Captain America Comic. The song from the show was written by long time Disney composer Alan Menken.


The Cosmic Tree described in Thor is shown in a wall carving at the beginning of the film, where Schmidt finds the Tesseract hidden.


Nick Fury
While Fury is only featured at the end of the film and in the after credits scene, Fury has a long history with Cap and the Howling Commandoes in the comics. Often being the leader of the Commandoes.


Tesseract/Space Stone
This is our first full introduction to one of the Infinity Stones. The Tesseract is the Space Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones which Thanos is in search for during Infinity War. While hinted at during many of the previous films, this is the first time we see the Tesseract in full form.

Now once the credits finish rolling, we get a post credit scene that is unlike any that have come before or after. It starts with Cap working out in a gym, hitting a punching bag repeatedly until he punches it off its hook and into a wall. Nick Fury walks in and asks if he’s having trouble sleeping. Steve asks if he’s got a mission for him. He says yes. “Trying to get me back in the world?” “Trying to save it.” We then get the first teaser for The Avengers. It’s quick shots of every member of everyone: Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Cap, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Fury, Coulson, Loki. They’re all there. It gives nothing away. There’s not a single plot point that you could diverge from it. But it builds up the hype for something that’s never been done before. This was a huge risk, but it paid off big time.

Join us next time when we take a look at that risk. The film that finished out Phase One of the MCU, truly made Marvel a powerhouse in Hollywood, and changed the way studios decided to make films: The Avengers. And be sure to keep following Poor Man’s Spoiler for all of our coverage on Avengers: Infinity War, leading up to it’s release on April 27th.

Read our previous installments here:
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2

Image via Marvel

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