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Directed by Joe Johnston. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Release date: July 22, 2011.
Unlike the linear, chronological progression seen in the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Captain America: The First Avenger took us back into the past. It showed us another Avengers member, while also allowing us to see what Tony Stark's father, Howard, did 70 years earlier. It also showed the power of the Tesseract, and brought us a couple of other recurring characters for the franchise.
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): Our leading character. A biological weakling but an outstanding human, he's given a serum that makes him a super soldier. Love interest of Peggy Carter.
Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones): The man who recruits Steve Rogers into the super soldier program.
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell): A military officer and Steve Rogers' love interest. Would go on to star in Agent Carter, a TV spin-off, and made a brief appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving): The film's villain. Head of Hitler's weaponry division, wants to rule the world with the power of the Tesseract. Commands a terrorist group called Hydra, which will show up in future films.
Sergeant "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan): Steve Rogers' best friend. Falls from a train and is presumed dead. Will reappear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper): Tony Stark's father. He helped develop government projects during World War II. Created Captain America's costume and shield.
Arnim Zola (Toby Jones): A biochemist working for Red Skull. His likeness reappears in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., shows up in a cameo at the end of the film, after Captain America awakens in present day.
Steve Rogers is not permitted to join the army due to his weak physical stature and health issues. However, thanks to his impeccable morals, he's recruited for a secret program designed to create super soldiers. The villain, Johann Schmidt, who now goes by the name "Red Skull," underwent a similar procedure that went horribly wrong. Red Skull now plans to harness the power of the Tesseract to power weapons and take over the world for Hydra, a terrorist group of which he is the leader.
Rogers - who, thanks to Howard Stark, becomes Captain America - boosts the morale of his fellow soldiers and single-handedly rescues a bunch of them, including his best friend, Bucky. He also begins a romance with Peggy Carter. Eventually, he leads a group of soldiers to attack Hydra bases in order to track down Red Skull. Bucky is killed in the process, or so we think. In reality, he becomes The Winter Soldier, a villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Captain America squares off against Red Skull on an airplane, which sees the Tesseract's case damaged, Red Skull disintegrated, the Tesseract falling through the plane, and the plane being destroyed beyond repair. In order to keep it - it containing weapons of mass destruction - from harming people, Captain America crashes it into the ocean, saying goodbye to Peggy before doing so.
Howard Stark winds up locating the Tesseract, but Captain America is nowhere to be found. Peggy and Stark both reappear in Agent Carter, which takes place directly after the events of World War II.
Captain America wakes up in present-day America, where Nick Fury informs him that he's been asleep for over 70 years, but has not aged. In the post-credits scene, The Avengers is further set-up, as Fury approaches Captain America with a mission of huge ramifications.
Is It Any Good?
Prior to The Avengers, this is probably my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film. It's incredibly fun, works well as a standalone film - not just something that exists to set up The Avengers - has great special effects and contains some of the best action to-date. It's also got a phenomenal cast. I really like Captain America: The First Avenger.