Captain America: The First Avenger, sets up next year’s comic book feature The Avengers. Joe Johnston directs.
New breed of super soldier
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny, heroic American boy, risks his life in a secret, superhero-making experiment. His mission: to stop a violent bully threatening the entire free world. Hugo Weaving plays demonic Red Skull.
The story is exciting at first. World War II is underway. Hitler wins victory after victory.
Rogers, a gaunt asthmatic with a brave spirit, is turned down by the Army. He keeps applying.
When research scientist and former Nazi Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci, fascinating) spies Rogers at the World’s Fair in Queens, New York, he sees great potential.
“Do you want to kill Nazis?” Erskine asks Rogers. “I don’t want to kill anyone,” Rogers replies. “I don’t like bullies.” The scientist recruits him for a top-secret training program. Rogers will become the first of a new breed of super soldiers.
“Why me?” Rogers asks. A weak man knows compassion, Erskine tells him. Skeptical Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones, very good here) must admit that lightweight Rogers has loads of bravery and character.
Let there be light
A gray pall covers the entire 2D version of Captain America. This makes the movie so visually dull that its story grows lackluster. Reviewers who saw the 3D version have complained about an even darker effect.
Transformation is overshadowed by special effects. Captain America loses energy in its second half. Repetitive action, stiff formality and a disconnected feeling among cast members don’t help. Missing is the rich character development and interpersonal sparring of the X-Men: First Class.
Johnston (Jumanji; Jurassic Park III; October Sky) could have filmed Captain America in black and white. This would have been more interesting and lively. He does capture beautiful 1940’s detail here.
Beautiful period detail
In emphasizing period detail and computer-generated effects, the director neglects character development. The rapport between Evans and his love interest, training officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), feels forced and underdeveloped.
Evans creates a strong, brave, soft-spoken hero (combining shades of Superman and Clark Kent). Sebastian Stan plays his best friend Bucky Barnes.
Evil army rises
Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy) is fun to watch as dastardly Red Skull, a power-hungry villain almost incoherent with hatred.
Red Skull is backed by an army of robo-soldiers who make up the Nazi research group Hydra. “Hail, Hydra!” they cry. “If you cut off one head, many will grow it its place,” a dying spy warns Captain America.
A twisted reference to the tree of life symbol (a tree that joins heaven and earth) is shown as an invasive, sinister “Tree of the World” emblem for Hydra.
Look forward to The Avengers
Promising inspiration, Captain America doesn’t deliver. Thankfully, this Marvel Comics movie ends with a dash of hope. Samuel L. Jackson reminds us that this tale merely sets up the future adventures of The Avengers (2012).
Starring will be Evans, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Jackson as Nick Fury, and many more. Josh Whedon will direct. (3 out of 5 stars)
Captain America 2011 / PG-13 / 2 hours, 4 min
Cast Overview: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Ken Choi, Stanley Tucci
Director: Joe Johnston
Genre: Comic Book, Adventure, Fantasy