YMMV / Captain America: The First Avenger

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Colonel Chester Phillips: when he thought Captain America/Steve Rogers was dead, was he actually upset about the fact that a man may have died in vain - and with him many other men - or was he just mad because Cap snuck out under his watch meaning he could very well have lost his career? For that matter, was there any real merit in his request to have Cap kept in a lab to see if a new version of the formula could be extracted from him or was he just taking his frustration and resentment out on someone who didn't deserve it simply because Rogers wasn't HIS preferred choice for the serum (remember that Colonel Phillips was advocating someone like Gilmore Hodge, who we saw throwing sexist remarks at Peggy Carter and tormenting Steve during basic)?
    • Dr. Zola first appears to be a Reluctant Mad Scientist who just wants to invent, not kill, but the sequel calls into question whether he really was just a Punch-Clock Villain, since it suggests he was involved in torturing Bucky and many other POWs and was the one who resurrected HYDRA within SHIELD.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Reception in Germany was mixed. Many people thought the movie was playing the Captain Patriotic trope straight, lacking knowledge of the original comicbooks from the 1940s to compare it to note . Professional critics also criticized that the antagonists aren't straight Nazis. That said, the film was still a box office success, and the sequels are as popular as they are elsewhere.
  • Anvilicious / Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Power makes good men into great men. It makes bad men worse. So never give bullies power!
  • Award Snub: None of the cast or crew members received Academy Award nominations. While most of these snubs seem to have resulted from the absence of a "For Your Consideration..." campaign, the absence of "Star-Spangled Man" from the Best Song category might sound baffling to those who know that the Academy only nominated two songs that year, making the roster appear to have at least one empty slot.
  • Broken Base: The film's antagonist being HYDRA instead of the Nazis like in the original comics: an interesting update, or Political Correctness Gone Mad?
  • Complete Monster: Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull, is a profound narcissist who believes himself a god that is no longer bound by humanity's rules. The head of HYDRA, a Nazi military organization, Schmidt has turned the group into his own personal cult. He's first introduced killing the guardian of the Tesseract and ordering the entire village where it was hidden wiped out for seemingly no reason. He goes on to betray Hitler and the Nazi party to pursue his own goals and murders the three men sent to check on the status of his research. Schmidt uses the Tesseract to make fantastic new weapons for HYDRA, and has POWs torturously experimented on in order to replicate Dr. Erskine's Super Serum. Despite their fanatical devotion to Schmidt, he continually shows no concern for the welfare of his men, having them chomp cyanide pills when captured to avoid giving out information on him, executing one merely for surviving an attack on a HYDRA base, and activating the self-destruct sequence at another HYDRA base when the Allied forces overrun it, not caring that hundreds of his troops will be killed in the blast. Schmidt's ultimate plan is to use his new weapons to wipe out half the planet, bombing nearly every major city including his own capital, just so he can rule over what's left.
  • Demonic Spiders: The HYDRA soldiers who have the arm-mounted flamethrowers. Rogers is forced to yield every time they appear, regardless of how much ass he was kicking prior.
  • Ear Worm: "The Star-Spangled Man," brought to you by Alan Menken and David Zippel. The main theme, Captain America March, is also one in the orchestral sense; it helps that it was written by Alan Silvestri.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Peggy Carter, as played by Hayley Atwell. In the comics she's mainly just The Lost Lenore to Steve, appearing first namelessly in flashbacks to the 40s. This film gave her a larger supporting role and showed her to be just as badass as Cap and his emotional partner. As a result the popularity of both the actress and the character exploded, to the point where Peggy received her own film and then TV show, as well as cameos in The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. Peggy is, without a doubt, the most popular heroine in the MCU.
    • Similarly, Connie, Bucky's date at the convention, is very popular due to being played by the same actress as Clara in Doctor Who.
  • Evil Is Cool: The Red Skull, of all people. It probably helps that he's played by Hugo Weaving. He's a Large Ham Bad Boss and in some ways he's more evil than Hitler, he wears a Badass Longcoat and can fight Captain America to a stalemate. Note, however, that in between all the For the Evulz plotting, he has one Pet the Dog moment. The cool thing is, it's to the benefit of both his minion and his car.
  • Genius Bonus: Although Odin is usually thought of as a Nordic deity, "Nord" simply means northern Germans, and the Norse shared the same folk religion as the pre-Christian inhabitants of Germany. This folk religion was the crux of the nationalist revival that influenced the Nazi movement and inspired its more esoteric followers. Johann Schmidt, like Alfred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler, believes the ancient religion of his people was real.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Although Marvel and Paramount offered simply The First Avenger as an alternative title for countries requesting it, only Russia, South Korea and Ukraine took that option (they also went with that title in Germany for the sequels). All the others, including China, settled for the original title for the film instead.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The movie opens with Schmidt in Tonsberg, Norway, retrieving the Tesseract, then ordering his tanks to shell the town while he shoots the caretaker. The very day the movie was released, Anders Brevik went on a bombing and shooting rampage, in Norway.
    • On a thankfully more fictional note, you can make a drinking game out of how many scenes, lines, facial expressions, etc. from Bucky Barnes, Howard Stark, or Dr. Arnim Zola become slightly horrifying when viewed through the lens of the sequel.
    • This movie climaxes with the Allies apparently wiping out HYDRA. Later films and Agents reveal that a)they didn't, and b)Schmidt's little operation was just one tiny part of an Ancient Conspiracy whose plans make him look like a Boy Scout. That is also a friendly corgi.
    • A part of the climax has Schmidt monologue about a future where "there are no flags". Steve responds that it isn't his future... After the end of Civil War, he gives up his shield and all American symbols, effectively becoming Nomad, the man without a country.
    • Tying in with the above, Agents of SHIELD Season 5 shows us that the future of the MCU is indeed one without flags- because the fucking world gets blown up. Schmidt was right.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Captain America's co-creator, Joe Simon, died about five months after this movie's release, but its box office and critical successes likely helped re-assure him of Cap's lasting value before he passed away.
  • He Really Can Act: After all the Jerk with a Heart of Gold characters he's played, it came as a surprise to some people just how well Chris Evans pulls off an Adorkable puppy dog of a Super Soldier. See WTH, Casting Agency? below.
    • Not to mention that Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey, Jr. had it easy with flawed superheroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man respectively to create interesting and relatable characters. By comparison, Captain America is a blonde, blue-eyed boy scout of a superhero who superficially seems so cliched and boring, but Evans made him come alive as an endearing soul, which is no small feat for any actor.
  • He's Just Hiding!:
    • Some fans speculate that Red Skull had actually been temporarily banished from the mortal plane than killed. The fact that the way he was disintegrated was similar to the Bifrost travel in Thor supports it; and if you look closely at the ceiling when the Red Skull first grasps the Cosmic Cube in his bare hand, it temporarily warps to a star-filled view of the same interdimensional void that the Bifrost travels through and that Loki falls into. Fans are proven correct in Avengers: Infinity War, where its revealed that the Tesseract actually teleported the Red Skull to a distant planet to guard the Soul Stone.
    • Bucky, in following with the comics. They never did find his body in the film, after all. In addition, in the scene where Captain America finds him, he is strapped onto a bed, implying that they may have done some sort of experiment on him or at least planned it. These theories involving Bucky were indeed confirmed in the sequel when he shows up as the Winter Soldier.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Considering how Hugo Weaving made the phrase "Mister Anderson" memetic back when he played Agent Smith, they had a golden opportunity for him to address Captain America derisively as "Mister Rogers". We can only assume they didn't because the scenes where Rogers and Schmidt meet aren't the best times to slip so spectacularly hilariously.
    • Why is Brooklyn-born Steve so notably bereft of Brooklyn Rage? Cos he used it all up as Casey Jones.
    • Some found it hilarious that Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones played rival German scientists in this film, then a year later found themselves announcing the 74th Annual Hunger Games. And neither of them is German to begin with, as Tucci is American and Jones is British.note 
    • Natalie Dormer, who plays the young private that flirts with and kisses Steve Rogers, later had a small role in Rush... as a young nurse who makes out with Chris Hemsworth.
    • In a The Kids in the Hall sketch, Bruce plays a guy who gets in a street brawl in a back alley, and won't stay down no matter how many times he gets punched to the ground. About 3 minutes in, even the crowd is asking him to just stay down. So after watching that and then watching Steve in the back alley brawl in this movie, try not to picture HM The Queen appearing to Steve and recommending he stay down.
    • In the final scene, Steve meeting with Nick Fury is overseen by a Baskin-Robbins ad. Because Baskin-Robbins always finds out.note 
    • The writers considered having Baron Strucker as a co-villain, but felt he'd be wasted in such a small part. When Strucker did finally make his full MCU debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, quite a few fans complained that the movie completely wasted him.
  • Iron Woobie: Cap. You can tell he's sad about waking up after most people he knew were dead, but he won't let that get in his way.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: The title character himself. He's shipped with Peggy, Howard, all of his Avengers "love interests," Bucky, every single one of the Howling Commandoes... Super-Soldier's a super-suitor.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    "You just don't give up, do you?"
    "Nope!"
  • Moral Event Horizon: In Schmidt's very first scene, even after obtaining the Tesseract, he orders his tanks to fire on a defenceless town.
  • Narm: The Hydra salute may make it very hard for some viewers to take them seriously. The silliness of the salute got lampshaded big-time in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it was said to make a lackey "look like a West Texas cheerleader at a pep rally."
  • Narm Charm: Some may find the Hydra salute chilling anyway.
    • It's always an issue to adapt Captain America to any medium, because a character who is actually living up to his own principles of righteousness can far too easily come off as straight-out Narm, and by all rights that's exactly what this film should be. But somehow it comes out as a genuine, heartwarming, awesome, tear-jerking, triumphal ode to true patriotism and human goodness instead, a feat that should have been impossible outside the Golden Age of Hollywood. The writers, director, and Chris Evans deserve a lot of credit for striking the right tone with Cap: The Hero is a trope that's almost never played straight anymore, without veering into self-parody or coming off as self-righteous.
    • Bucky's shout of "let's hear it for Captain America!" can cause oscillation between laughing and cheering.
    • Cap's simple "Nope!" when Red Skull says he never gives up. It's a jarring piece of "not even trying" writing, but also fits perfectly into his characterization: he doesn't care at all about looking or sounding cool while being a hero, and just wants to get the job done.
    • Cap's propaganda show is pretty ridiculous with its Eagleland imagery and cheesy script. But "The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan" is such a catchy song that it's easy for viewers to get swept up into it just as much as the audience in-universe.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: While rough around the edges, and saddled with a slow, uninteresting beginning, the Captain America: Super Soldier game clearly is more than just a meager cash-in like the Thor or Green Lantern games; it's got an imitation of the combat system from Batman: Arkham Asylum and a really huge castle full of HYDRA goons to explore. It's not quite as good as Arkham Asylum, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The game was actually good enough that it informed The Winter Soldier. Chris Evans and the Russos played it, and they were inspired to give Steve a more kinetic, acrobatic fighting style.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Smurfette Breakout: Peggy Carter has been heralded as one of Marvel's better supporting ladies, and her popularity led to her receiving her own short film that led into her own TV show, and cameos throughout the MCU.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • A number of critics have pointed out the movie feels pretty close to a Rocketeer sequel.
    • This is currently the closest thing we have to a big-budget, Hollywood-made Wolfenstein movie.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: For many, the downplaying of real swastika-bearing Nazis (and the real German Army) in favor of the fictional breakaway HYDRA trivializes the World War II setting, removing historical gravitas and ending up akin to G.I. Joe vs. Cobra. Not helped by Cap being firmly established as fighting real Nazis in the comics, where the Red Skull was also loyal to Hitler. Some speculate the downplaying was made to avoid hassles with modern German laws about Nazi symbols; while it's true that Germany prohibits their display, exceptions are made for World War II films. (A similar thing happened with the cartoon The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!.) Further not helped by being released in the same year as X-Men: First Class, where the Nazi element is much more prominent.
    • On the other hand, keeping the movie focused on Captain America's battle against HYDRA showcased his heroic World War II Legendary status without altering the course of the war too drastically, as he mostly kept HYDRA's super-science from turning the tide of the war. That doesn't mean, though, that Steve only participated in the SSR campaign against HYDRA. In deleted footage from Steve's introductory scene in The Avengers, he's looking at old newsreel footage of himself participating in combat against the main German forces, even marching German POWs at one point.
    • To some, the decision to fast-forward through nearly two years of Cap's time in combat by using an action montage could be this. Some fans think that showing Cap dealing with the trauma of the war, bonding with the Howling Commandos, interacting with Bucky, and shown being a soldier would have made for a more grounded, realistic movie, and also would have built up his character and relationships more.
  • Uncanny Valley: In the first half of the film, it's quite obvious that Schmidt is wearing a rubber skin mask over his mutated face. The effect can actually make him look far creepier than his Red Skull face does.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • The visual effects used to make Chris Evans look scrawnynote  were so convincing that a lot of people thought that Marvel had cast a genuinely short and skinny actor and used CGI to bulk him up.
    • The make-up for the Red Skull is fairly impressive too, especially the rubber skin mask Schmidt wears, which has semi-obvious neck flaps and red areas around the eyes which make it more realistic.
    • Never mind that, what about the fact that 90% of the film is in-camera effects?
  • What an Idiot!: S.H.I.E.L.D. surprisingly. Trying to ease Captain America into the present day with a fake 1940's hospital room and baseball game on the radio can be excused. Not taking the time to make sure the game was from after Steve crashed cannot. It's also been pointed out that the woman they sent in has a man's tie, a visible foam bra, and a loose hairstyle, none of which would have appeared on a professional woman from the 40s.
    • Some fans have suggested that Fury may have intentionally included these "mistakes" to see if had Steve retained his mental cognition after being frozen for several decades.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Apparently Will Smith was one of the top choices to play Steve, at one point. Presumably he would've played the lesser known Cap, Isaiah Bradley.
    • Quite a few people even had this reaction after Evans was cast in the title role after his stint as a certain other Marvel Comics character, but now it feels like he was born to play the Sentinel of Liberty.


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