Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) annotations
Release date: 22nd July 2011
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenwriters: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
We get blurriness, then a light.
We can finally make out a person, waving to a truck, through thick snow, holding two other men.
This arctic scene was created in a studio, with green screens. It could be Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios, home of Marvel at the time, and their go-to studio. But it’s more likely the legendary Pinewood and Shepperton Studios in the UK. The production shot in those studios for six months.
The music here is called Frozen Wasteland. Composed by Alan Silvestri, he’s had a huge career of scoring blockbusters. He would work in the MCU again for The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
The two visitors are played by William Hope and Nicholas Pinnock. Oscar Pierce is the person they meet.
They’ve found something, and they ask why it wasn’t spotted earlier. A deleted scene from The Incredible Hulk (2008) would have revealed that the Hulk had caused disruption in the arctic and dislodged…that something.
They find something large – a craft of some sort – in the rubble, and start digging. They enter the craft, which we will see a lot more of later.
What they find is Captain America‘s shield.
Then we’re at Tonsberg, Norway in March 1942. We saw this town in 965AD in Thor (2011). It is a real city, although this is also a studio set. Parts of Tonsberg were filmed in the Scottish village of Culross, but didn’t make the finished film.
The music here is called Schmidt’s Treasure.
A man runs into a tower. He’s Jan, played by Marek Oravec.
The tower is hit by a battering ram, and Jan is killed.
There was a deleted scene where we see more of the tank, but it gives away the surprise.
A car arrives. It’s a custom, made for the film – and huge. It was 25 feet long and 8 feet wide. It also has a very awesome Hydra logo. We’ll find out more about Hydra very soon.
The driver gets out. Inside, soldiers are trying to open some treasure.
We get our first good look at Johann Schmidt, the man who will become The Red Skull. He’s played by Hugo Weaving.
The Red Skull is one of Captain America‘s oldest foes. He was the first comic book Nazi big bad, the supervillain stand-in for Hitler, created during World War II. He would follow Captain America into the modern day comics, and the pair have battled countless times. In the comics, he is a shrewd and evil leader, characteristics that carried over into the film.
He first appeared in Captain America Comics #7, October 1941. He was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.
Hugo Weaving had a long career in Australia, but really broke through internationally with The Matrix, following it up with roles in The Lord Of The Rings films, V For Vendetta and other big action blockbusters. He also stars in many critically acclaimed small indie dramas when he can. Weaving told Comic Book Movie:
I knew nothing about the Captain America stories, and I have a very limited knowledge of super heroes in general. It’s been an education for me to become part of this world. Johann Schmidt is a German officer who has an interest in a power beyond an Earthly power and, as far as villains go, I think that makes him all the more interesting.
In the grave of an old soldier, Schmidt finds a cube that looks like the one we saw at the end of Thor (2011). He mentions that in lore, it was in possession of Odin, the powerful Norse God and the terrible and incompetent father to Thor.
Schmidt spots a wall that has Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life in Norse mythology, again mentioned in Thor (2011). In the wall he finds…
The Tesseract. But we don’t see it, but it’s the same blue glowing light. We will see more of it.
It is worth noting that at this point, it was assumed that the Tesseract was a Cosmic Cube. It was an object that could vaguely control matter and energy and just do a lot of cosmic stuff. It has been used as a Macguffin in Marvel comics since it first appeared in Tales Of Suspense #79, in July 1966. Later, it would be retconned to be the container for an Infinity Gem.
It was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
Schmidt gives a bit of a face twitch, and leaves.
We cut to New York – Manhattan, and the distinctive Brooklyn Bridge.
And we see young American men lining up to enlist. No location information. With all the special effects, we assume it would be a studio shoot.
Two are reading newspapers, the one on our left is a real paper masthead – the New York Daily News.
One of the headlines mention the Ukrainian town of Zhitomir. The (real) town was decimated by Nazis in World War II.
That recruit is played by Sam Hoare.
The other headline is being read by Steve Rogers, the man who would become Captain America. He is played, at least in the face at this point, by Chris Evans.
Captain America is one of the very first American superheroes, and one of the most enduring – particularly for Marvel. He started fighting the Nazis in comics in the 40s, in his own title for Timely Comics, the precursor to Marvel. He was brought back in the 60s was transferred to the modern day to continue fighting injustice to this day.
He first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). He was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.
One of Chris Evans‘ first big film roles was actually another Marvel superhero – playing the Human Torch in the 2005 version of Fantastic Four. He had had some interesting roles in between, but this was a big, highly visible role for Evans. He would come to own it, and play Captain America for many more films. Evans told Collider:
At the end of the day, we’re making these movies for the fans, and especially the hardcore fans, and they’re the ones that I’m most concerned about. They’re the ones that I’d love to get some response from and adjust accordingly. If they thought one way or another, I’ve got no problem cutting my cloth according to what people are looking for, because, like I said, we wouldn’t be making them without them.
The role of Captain America was hotly contested. But also, at the time, the deal included several films (initially 9, but reduced to 6 by the time Evans signed on board), making others balk. Some of the many names tied at various points to the film include Sam Worthington, Will Smith, Garrett Hedlund, Channing Tatum, Scott Porter, Mike Vogel, Sebastian Stan, Wilson Bethel, John Krasinski, Michael Cassidy, Chace Crawford, Jensen Ackles, Kellan Lutz, Ryan Phillippe, Alexander Skarsgård, Dane Cook, Jensen Ackles and two Jonas Brothers. There’s probably more.
Of course, when we first see Rogers, he’s small and skinny, and not like Chris Evans, let alone Captain America. How did the film makers achieve this startling effect? There are some shots where Evans face or head was superimposed on a body double (played by Leander Deeny). But the filmmakers also used a vfx skinny-ing technic to capture Evans, and many of the scenes are Evan’s performance.
He talks about his parents. His father died of mustard gas, meaning he was a soldier in World War I.
Rogers is given a 4F, meaning he is physically unfit for duty.
We’re in a cinema, watching the newsreel. This film was shot mostly in the UK, and this cinema is the Hackney Empire, 291 Mare St, London E8 1EJ.
The newsreel footage is actually from another film – The Bad and the Beautiful from 1952.
The loud jerk (that’s what he’s credited as) is played by Kieran O’Connor.
Rogers gets beaten up by Loud Jerk.
This back alley fight was Pinewood Studios.