If you thought “Thor” was too Shakespearean, but “Green Lantern” was not substantial enough, “Captain America: The First Avenger” will be a delightful middle ground. Joe Johnston’s entertaining tale has humor, action, and just the right amount of camp to satisfy your summer superhero craving.
The year is 1943—World War II is in full swing, and young men are volunteering in droves to fight the Nazis. Amidst the war fever, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a sickly runt longing to join the U.S Army. Rogers has been repeatedly denied enlistment due to his ill-health, but the stubborn youth won’t give up.
His efforts earn the admiration of a German scientist working on a super soldier serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine believes that Rogers is the perfect candidate for the formula, however his commander Colonel Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) is unconvinced.
Finally, after Philips witnesses the soldier performing a supreme act of bravery, he reluctantly allows Erskine to use Rogers. So Rogers is administered the serum, transforming him into the incredible physical specimen Captain America. Even with his newfound power though, Rogers doesn’t receive carte blanche to fight in Europe.
Without giving more away, Rogers must pay his dues, before he’s given a shot. When he actually gets his chance, Captain America goes up against Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), aka Red Skull. Schmidt, the head of an advanced Nazi weaponry division, has powers of his own and dreams of world domination.
As a character, Rogers possesses a well-developed arc in “Captain America,” which feels like it takes place over the duration of the war, instead of a few short weeks. Rogers starts out as a scrawny loser, but even after he becomes Captain America, he is forced to prove himself through courageous action sequences. As a result you really get to see him grow and develop the necessary confidence to become a great soldier.
Just as he did in the superhero film “The Rocketeer,” director Joe Johnston perfectly captures the energy of World War II society through his realistic depiction of the non-fantastical elements in the movie. Johnston balances the seriousness with campy propaganda like Captain America comic books, newsreels and extravagant patriotic musical numbers.
“Chronicles of Narnia” scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pen a surprisingly humorous screenplay. The majority of their jokes come at the expense of our scrawny hero Rogers, however there are still amusing exchanges outside of those gags thanks to actors with precise comedic timing like Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones.
Other solid non-comedic performances come from Dominic Cooper, who plays inventor Howard Stark, and Hugo Weaving as the lead villain Red Skull. Dominic Cooper not only physically looks like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), but he plays the part with a fun Howard Hughes-like quality. Weaving is downright creepy as the Red Skull, and his German accent is flawless.
The only real shortcoming in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is the 3-D, which appears gimmicky in some scenes, while barely noticeable in others. As seems to be the trend with recent films, the 3-D is not worth the extra ticket price. The only other possible complaint this reviewer can come up with is that “Captain America” should have been released earlier in the summer, so we didn’t have to wait this long for a good old fashioned superhero film.
My Grade: A-