As Marvel fans, we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the last decade with introducing our kids to these stories; first watching at home, then as they got older, seeing them in theatres and witnessing them flip out with giddy excitement at character reveals and plot twists. But recently we realized: we’ve never watched all of them as a family, and certainly not in release order. And that’s left some gaps in their understanding of the relationships between all these heroes.
Thus, as a family, we pledged to embark upon an epic MCU rewatch before we see Avengers: Endgame in the theatre, and answer the all-important question: should you watch these with your kids?
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Hey guys, remember when Nazis were universally despised, not described by elected leaders as “very fine people,” and courted as a voting demographic? Oh, 2011, how I miss you and your definitive social moral code.
Watching this movie, you can really feel the foundations of the Kevin Feige era at Marvel being laid; the sense that we’re starting to build towards the bigger vision of the “Phase 3” Marvel universe is palpable. It’s exciting to go back and rekindle that feeling of something bigger, more amazing, being around the corner.
It’s the 1940s, and a scrawny pipsqueak from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, but CGI-d onto the body of what appears to be a prepubescent boy) keeps trying to enlist in the army. He desperately wants to be shipped out like his best buddy James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), but is constantly rejected due to his ill health and weak physique.
His persistence catches the eye of a scientist, Dr. Abraham Erskine (the always delightful Stanley Tucci) who’s working on a secret supersoldier program alongside Howard Stark (Tony’s dad! played by Dominic Cooper) and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Recruited to undergo an experimental procedure, Rogers is transformed into the ripped, jacked Chris Evans we know and love.
The planned supersoldier program is stalled when a Hydra agent (think Nazis, but more evil) kills Erskine. Initially relegated to being a PR puppet, Rogers is moved to action when Bucky’s unit is captured by Hydra. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) has found the Tesseract, [spoiler alert] AKA one of the Infinity Stones, and is using it to create superweapons that he plans to utilize to take over the world. Captain America takes it upon himself to stop him, and rescue Bucky and his platoon as well.
Although this movie feels like groundwork being laid in some ways, it’s a genuine pleasure to watch. The story is solid, the performances are great, the effects hold up, and if you ship Bucky and Cap there are plenty of side glances to fuel that delicious speculation.
So, should you watch it with your kids? Yes, but be prepared for them to fidget during the slower middle part, and for younger kids to get spooked out by the very appearance of the Red Skull. Also be aware that although it isn’t gory or bloody, the deaths of innocent people are implied and on screen in this movie.
Bottom line: Unmissable. This is the beginning of the Marvel canon, the foundational layer that will conclude with the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.
Side note: The Red Skull has a line early on about “the Fuhrer digs for treasures in the desert” that I’ve decided to read as a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference. Is Indiana Jones in the same universe as Marvel? HMMM thinky face emoji!