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.
      • Not suggests, outright states. He wasn't just involved in the torture, he was running the show. His expressions and turns of phrase make it clear he enjoyed what he did, and he was proud of HYDRA's work.
  • 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: Paramount/Marvel didn't commission a "For Your Consideration..." campaign for this movie, resulting in none of the cast or crew members receiving Academy Award nominations.
  • 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 shooting the guardian of the Tesseract and ordering his tanks to shell the entire village for seemingly no reason. He goes on to betray Hitler and the Nazi party to pursue his own goals and uses his disintegrator weapons to kill the three men the Fuhrer sends 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 Soldier 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 (and with his "cut off one head, two more shall take it's place" motto, he'll just replace them). Schmidt's ultimate plan is to use his new weapons to wipe out half the planet, bombing nearly every major city including Berlin, 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.
  • 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 a new actress determined to do her most in portraying her, showing 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 Marvel One Shot and then TV show, as well as cameos in The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron. 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.
    • He also wants to kill Hitler and take over everything he has. That's pretty cool in itself.
    • Seriously? He's a Nazi Supersoldier Mad Scientist who glorifies the Norse Gods. He's the coolest character in the movie.
    • In a lot of ways, he's like M. Bison from the Street Fighter movie. Of COURSE!
  • 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. 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 Tesserect, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Magnificent Bastard: The Red Skull of course.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    "You just don't give up, do you?"
    "Nope!"
    • Schmidt's line "YOU ARE FAILING!" has been getting some recognition.
    • Fondue.
      • "Fondue is just cheese and bread, my friend."
    • "I can do this all day."
  • Mood Whiplash: There's one between the final scene and the credits. The final line is quite somber, with Cap sad about not being able to see Peggy. The music for the credits, however, is very upbeat.
  • 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 Charm:
    • That stupid but oddly charming "Heil Hydra!" salute. Makes for a bit of Fridge Brilliance as the two fists represent the heads in the Hydra motto.
      • 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."
    • In-Universe example. "THE STAR-SPANGLED MAN WITH A PLAAAAAN!" The joke may be that we don't know what exactly the plan is. Hilariously lampshaded by Colonel Phillips when he says, "Oh look, it's the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan. What is your plan today?"
    • 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.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Locked in a metal coffin, screaming in agony... And note that Steve also grew about a foot as well as gaining about eighty pounds of muscle - he was essentially being rack-tortured.
    • When Johann Schmidt rips his face off, revealing his true face.
  • 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 Marvel One Shot that led into her own TV show, and cameos throughout the MCU.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • They make Chris Evans look like DJ Qualls. The effect was so good that Roger Ebert couldn't tell which body was Chris Evans' real one!
    • 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.
    • 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.