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YMMV / Captain America: The First Avenger

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  • 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 training)?
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    • 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.
    • There's a theory that the 1941 baseball game (see below) was an intentional "slip-up" on Fury's part, to see if Steve's faculties were intact and / or he lived up to his reputation.
  • 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.
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  • 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 yearnote , making the roster appear to have at least one empty slot.
  • 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Connie, Bucky's date at the convention, is very popular due to being played by the same actress as Clara in Doctor Who.
    • Private Lorraine is this for obvious reasons.
  • 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 seem to make him look like a Boy Scout, that is also a friendly corgi - though in terms of actual threat presented, despite the fact that Hive (their god) is genuinely dangerous, the HYDRA cult is pretty limited and held in contempt even by the rest of HYDRA.
    • 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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
    • A standard bit of evil baddie banter from the Red Skull becomes this when he yells at Steve "You could have had the power of the gods!" In Avengers: Endgame, Steve gets the power of the gods after all when he uses Mjolnir.
    • Doctor Erskine's last act is to point to Steve's heart, as if to reassure him that he is worthy, not because of the serum they're putting into his body, but because of who he is inside. In Endgame, we find out that even the Gods of Asgard agree when Steve 'picks up Mjolnir and fights with it.
    • Feel free to start shamelessly ugly-crying when watching this movie and Endgame back to back. Looks like he and Peggy got that dance after all.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • 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 Rush2013... as a young nurse who makes out with Chris Hemsworth.
    • 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.
    • The title is "Captain America: The First Avenger"; we find out it was Carol Danvers who had "Avenger" as her callsign and inspired the name for the Avengers Initiative, making this film's title somewhat a misnomer (while Captain America was the first superhero, disregarding the Asgardians and their influence over old Norse culture, "the Avengers" as a concept wouldn't exist until Carol Danvers inspired Nick Fury with it in the 90s).
    • "You could have the power of the Gods!" exclaimed Schmidt during his battle with Rogers aboard the Valkyrie bomber. By Endgame, he did end up having the power of a Demigod upon wielding Mjolnir. That's right, Schmidt: not only are the Norse gods you worship real, but they like Steve more than you. Ouch.
    • And before that, in Infinity War, we find out that Schmidt did indeed get to have the power of the gods. And they made him use it to watch over that same form of power for an eternity as punishment.
  • 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?"
  • 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: See here.
  • Narm Charm: Though the Hydra salute may be silly-looking to some, others may find the it 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.
  • Never Live It Down: The scene where Peggy shoots Steve to test the shield seems to have become one for her. Fans have pointed out how little regard for everyone's safety she has in that scene - and by all accounts she should have been punished for the stunt. Especially since Steve wasn't even holding the shield when she picked up the gun.
  • Nightmare Fuel: When Johann Schmidt rips his mask off, revealing his rather gruesome-looking true face. There's a good reason he is nicknamed "Red Skull".
  • 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:
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Peggy's popularity might strike some newer fans as odd - since her role in the film still is as the love interest. She just happened to be played by an actress who really brought her to life and got to do some things in the film beyond pining over the hero. Black Widow made a striking appearance in Iron Man 2 a year earlier, but she was largely a supporting character and female superhero movies were thought to be a dead genre. This movie also came out before The Hunger Games and Divergent broke out of the Girl-Show Ghetto. Sif in Thor experienced a similar phenomenon.
  • 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.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Power makes good men into great men. It makes bad men worse. So never give bullies power!
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • A number of critics have pointed out the movie feels pretty close to a Rocketeer sequel.
    • Before Overlord (2018), this was the closest thing we had to a big-budget, Hollywood-made Wolfenstein movie.
    • Some consider the title character's portrayal to be a more faithful portrayal of Superman than the DCEU version.
  • Super Couple: This movie elevated Peggy Carter to the level of an iconic superhero love interest on the same category as Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson. To a serious degree, part of the reason the MCU's version of Sharon Carter was so controversial was simply because the fans couldn't stop comparing her to Peggy. Despite 70 years of separation, almost twenty more movies after this one, and her death from old age in Civil War, it's almost impossible to argue they aren't the most popular couple in the MCU. As a tacit acknowledgment of this, Endgame even closes on the two of them finally getting that dance.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The downplaying of real swastika-bearing Nazis (and the real German Army) in favor of the fictional breakaway group HYDRA trivializes the World War II setting, removing historical gravitas. The movie also gives the impression that MCU Cap was stuck containing HYDRA in one remote area all throughout his active WW2 career, which raises a bit of Fridge Logic about how he could become an actual legendary war hero in-universe, and The Avengers just appears to retcon this by claiming Cap was in Berlin at least once before the present day. Not helped by Cap being firmly established as fighting real Nazis in the comics, where the Red Skull was also loyal to Hitler. Further not helped by being released in the same year as X-Men: First Class, where the Nazi element is much more prominent.
    • 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.
  • What an Idiot!: Steve Rogers is recovering from about 70 years on ice. The powers that be elect to lessen the shock by placing him in a mock-up of a recovery room and not letting on how much time he had been out until they could perhaps break things to him gently.
    You Would Think: At bare minimum, they would have the "radio" playing period music or if they insisted on a "live sports broadcast" they would take painstaking research to pick one that took place after Rogers vanished.
    Instead: They have a Brooklyn Dodgers home game from 1941 playing. Even if they did not know Steve had attended it, it is a matter of public record that he was still living in Brooklyn at the time. There are some fans, though, who actually believe that the mistakes in the mock recovery room were intentional. Fury implies that it was, calling it a "party trick".
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: 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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