Excuse us while we girls give each other enthusiastic high-fives and then proceed to dance like the above chimney-sweeps.
Captain America: The First Avenger is a rare exception to the rule that nothing good can come out of Hollywood. Although this film has a few tie-ins to the other Marvel movies (Thor, Iron Man, etc.) and prepares the audience for the recent blockbuster The Avengers, I thought it did pretty well as a stand-alone movie.
It’s the story of “a kid from Brooklyn” named Steve Rogers. Steve’s father was killed by mustard gas, presumably during World War I, while his mother, a nurse, died after working in a tuberculosis ward. Steve himself is skinny and sickly, and in spite of his best efforts to enlist during World War II, he’s turned down every time on account of his health.
Steve is undeterred, however, and his fierce efforts to get into the army are noticed by Dr. Abraham Erskine, a German refugee (and presumably a Jew) who now works for the USA’s Strategic Scientific Reserve. Dr. Erskine’s goal is to create a “breed of super-soldiers” who can combat Hitler’s own HYDRA team, led by the evil Johann Schmidt. Schmidt, also known as Red Skull, is consumed by his ambition to harness the legendary Tesseract–an enormous energy source–and take over the entire planet.
Steve is chosen as the first American supersoldier, not because he’s strong, but because he has the character necessary to use his new power wisely. His adventures against Nazi Germany and Red Skull make up the bulk of the story; subplots include his fleeting romance with British agent Peggy Carter, his deep loyalty to his country, and the contrast between his worldview and that of Johann Schmidt.
This isn’t a “Christian” movie by any stretch of the imagination (there’s some cursing and Christianity isn’t explicitly mentioned). However, the Christian worldview is alive and well in several key aspects of this movie.
Steve is the quintessential “Christian hero.” He’s kind, compassionate, loyal, courageous, and most importantly, completely self-sacrificing. He doesn’t want to kill simply for the sake of killing; instead, he explains that he doesn’t like bullies, and wants to stop them.
He’s also respectful towards women and refuses to enter a relationship with a woman until he’s absolutely sure she’s “the right partner.” It’s this kind of deep value for marriage and courtship that set our great-grandparents apart and made for so many beautiful love stories, especially during World War II.
Steve is also intensely patriotic. He desperately wants to fight for America, and he’s willing to do anything to help her cause and keep morale high, even if it means making himself look…well…slightly ridiculous. But he also recognizes the importance of America’s liberty and sovereignty. While he and Red Skull are having their final duel, the villain is infuriated with Steve’s refusal to use his superhuman abilities for personal power.
Livid with rage Red Skull shouts, “You could have the power of the gods! Yet you wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations! I have seen the future, Captain! There are no flags!” To which Steve responds, passionately, “Not in my future!” No one-world-government-pulpit-thumping here; America’s flag is worth fighting for!
But why is Steve so different from Red Skull? Well, Dr. Abraham Erskine explains it this way:
The serum [that transformed both Red Skull and Steve] amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion [ . . . ] Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing: that you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.
The logical question of course is “But what made Steve the good guy and Red Skull the bad guy in the first place?” And the only logical answer is, “Steve is following the Christian worldview and Red Skull is not.” We can give that answer even if Steve Rogers never actually invokes the God of the Bible in the film (though apparently he does so in The Avengers and did so often in the comic books of old). You know a character by his fruit, and Steve Rogers is undoubtedly different from many so-called “heroes” touted in modern-day film and literature.
And interestingly, we have a few hints about where Steve got his “Christian foundation.” Think about it. His dad died in World War I or in its immediate aftermath. Not only that, but his mom worked in a tuberculosis ward in spite of the danger to her own health–and died as a result. The two most important people in Steve’s life, then, gave their lives for the sake of others.
“There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.” John 15:13 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16
I reckon Steve was thinking of both his parents in the last few minutes of the movie. I won’t give away SPOILERS, but suffice it to say that the sacrifice of his parents and thousands of his fellow Americans must have given Steve the courage to make the most heartbreaking and costly decision of his life.
Now, it is rated PG-13 and appropriately so, thanks to violence, a few curse words (nothing super-horrid, though, and mostly from one crusty officer), and all-around Nazi ruthlessness. So don’t let your young’uns see the scary parts. Some will take issue with the female officer (at least she was an intelligence agent, not a “soldier”), but I really can’t think of any other caveats I had with it. LouisianaPatriette’s recommendation would be for ages 13+.
I’ve been wanting to see this for several months, and I have to say I was quite impressed. It wasn’t one of those super-deep movies that you’d discuss for weeks and weeks. Those have their place. Captain America: The First Avenger was instead a simple and heartwarming story with good lessons, plenty of action sequences, and a clean romance.
Definitely a good Fourth-of-July-Weekend sort of movie 🙂