Captain America: The First Avenger

2011, Marvel Studios

As far as superheroes go, Captain American seemed like the redheaded stepchild, as if the filmmakers went, "Oh right, him," and obligingly made a movie. But since I'm not a superhero or comics person, this is purely an outsider's ill-informed perception. At any rate, the resulting film is expertly produced and quite enjoyable, with Chris Evans cutting a perfect, wholesome, all-American hero figure—in many ways he's a better Superman than Superman. Incidentally, this film spawned an equally enjoyable yet short-lived television series, Agent Carter.

     

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2014, Marvel Studios

Transplanted from the past, our retro Captain America provides us with a unique perspective of the present, although the potential of this angle is only explored in a cursory way, regrettably. No matter; there are plenty of other distractions to entertain us. The action maintains a steady pace, never pausing quite long enough for us to figure out what the hell is going on, other than to get a sense that S.H.I.E.L.D. has almost as much palace intrigue as the real-life White House. All the same, it's another expertly produced film from a studio that's quickly building considerable credibility.

     

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Captain America: Civil War

2016, Marvel Studios

Why this film is billed as a Captain America chapter and not an Avengers one is beyond me, but I'm not about to try making sense of the intricately-structured superhero world. Regardless, for me Civil War came off as little more than a contrivance to bring the whole family of franchises together in one giant slug-fest, where the oh-wow effects received more attention than the underlying motives for their dubious internal conflict (although this may be a failing on my part for not having an intimate understanding of all the myriad Marvel characters). The big burly fight was so frenetic that it was nigh impossible to keep track of who was on which side, and after a while I stopped caring; I just accepted it as a mildly entertaining, lavishly-produced light show—one that happened to earn near-universal praise and over a billion in ticket money.

   

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