Marvel was going through financial trouble in the 1990s. By 1997, they had filed for bankruptcy. However, the story of Captain America in film hadn't ended. In 1997, Marvel was eager to bring many of it's properties to the big screen, one of those being Captain America. Mark Gordon and Gary Levensohn were tied to produce, with Larry Wilson and Leslie Bohem scripting. The movie was put on hold after Marvel sorted out a lawsuit with Joe Simon over the ownership of Captain America. In 2003, the lawsuit was ended and Marvel had won out. In 2005, Marvel had received a $10 million investment for a Captain America movie from Merill Lynch and with backing from Paramount to make it. Avi Arad was bought on to produce the movie. In 2006, Arad was hoping for a summer 08 release. However, Marvel had opted to go ahead with Iron Man instead.
Production of the Phase 1 MCU movies had been delayed due to the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild Strike. However, Marvel had struck a deal with the Writer's Guild to allow the staff to get back to work on their movies. After the success of Iron Man in 2008, Marvel released Captain America - The First Avenger on May 2011.
The movie takes place almost fully in World War II. The opening to the movie has a modern research time finding the frozen remains of his shield in the cockpit of a derelict aircraft. We flash back to 1942, where Johann Schmidt, a Nazi officer in Norway takes control of a Norse artifact called The Tesseract. In New York, a scrawny man by the name of Steve Rogers is beaten up for stopping a disrespectful man in a cinema. His friend, Bucky Barnes saves him and reveals he;s enlisted and will be shipped out to Europe. Steve has been denied again. Bucky takes him to a showcase of future technologies. While there, Rogers finds another enlistment station, where he enlists again and is denied again. Dr. Erskine overhears Rogers wanting to do his bit to fight the war and enlists Rogers in his Super Soldier Program. Rogers is accepted and undergoes training with other recruits in the program. He is selected after he shows his intelligence and brave self sacrifices.
In Europe, Schmidt and Zola are starting to use the Tesseract and it's powers to create an army and arm them with superweapons that the world had never seen before. Through his spy network, he learns that Dr. Erskine has found a candidate and is working to create a super soldier. The project goes ahead in the US and Steve Rogers is turned into a super soldier. However, Erskine is assassinated by Heinz Kruger. Steve gives chase, but Kruger commits suicide with a cyanide pill than allow himself to be taken into custody. With the formula lost, the US Government play it safe with Steve and turn him into a stage show act to keep the morale up in the US and get people to buy war bonds. Eventually, he tours Europe to entertain the troops.
While in Italy, he learns that Bucky Barnes and his unit have been reported as MIA. Instead of going out to entertain the troops, he steals a uniform and goes to rescue them. He enters battle with Schmidt, who reveals himself to be going under the name of Red Skull now. After a brief battle, Steve escapes the Hydra base with the POWs and returns to American lines with everyone alive, well and accounted for.
Cap recruits Bucky, Dum Dum Duggan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, Lord Falsworth and Jacques Dernier to be his Howling Commandos. They spend most of the war attacking Hydra bases all over Europe. Howard Stark outfits Rogers with an all new uniform and a shield made of Vibranium, They launch an attack on an armoured train carrying Zola. In the attack, Bucky falls to his apparent death. However, Zola is captured and interrogated. Using the information gained from Zola, Cap launches an attack on Red Skull's main Hydra base. Red Skull takes off in his new jet aircraft, that can attack cities across the globe with tesseract weaponry. Cap makes it onto the plane.
The pair fight it out in the plane. The Tesseract is damaged and Schmidt touches it, apparently vaporised in a flash of blue light. There's no way to land the plane without detonating the weapons and causing more damage, forcing Cap to ditch it into the sea. Stark later goes to the Arctic to find Cap. He recovers the Tesseract from the sea bed, but doesn't find the plane. In the present day, Steve wakes up in what appears to be a 1940s hospital. He hears a radio broadcast and deduces something is wrong. Fleeing, he appears in the modern day Times Square. Nick Fury approaches him and tells him that he's been asleep for 70 years. In the post credits scene, Fury tells Steve that he has a mission for him, with worldwide ramifications.
Joe Johnston created a movie that was close to the source material, yet had twinges of his other movies like The Rocketeer. It sets up the MCU perfectly. It definitely is one of the better Captain America adaptations to have come out in recent years. The movie is available right now on all formats.