Plot: Deep into a difficult World War 2 campaign, the US Army green-lights an experimental scientific project which transforms weedy Steve Rogers into beefy and overtly patriotic super soldier Captain America.
Thoughts: With explosive super-hero love-fest The Avengers becoming at long last a reality (the first glimpses of nerdist royalty peeking over the folds of 2012) Marvel Studios have initiated the final stage in their high-octane super-powered take over of the 2011 summer market. The most highly celebrated of all the Avengers, Captain America’s story has leaped through hoops, ducked budget cuts and narrowly avoided the scrap heap to blast itself onto screens across the world, commandeered by master of nostalgia Joe Johnston who, once again echoes the classic films of yesteryear through the explosively modern vehicle of the blockbuster.
As a story of triumph and bravery, Captain America ticks all the boxes. Narnia veterans Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely [screenwriters] build the action-centric narrative around a simply tremendous first act, giving the film the perfect foundations to build and grow on the character of Steve Rogers and his quest to fight for his country. When we’re first introduced to scrawny solider Steve, nothing but admiration is felt for both his attitude and his undying determination to fight for his freedom, laying the ground work for one of the most down-to-earth, charming and like-able characters you will ever see take centre-stage in a comic-book adaptation. A digitally-weakened Chris Evans portrays early-Rogers with such frustration and acceptance of his cause, you can’t help but gush over his irrational cuteness and with Stanley Tucci providing fantastic back-up as a helpful experimental scientist, Rogers truly feels almost like a child, wishing and longing to grow into the man of tomorrow, the ultimate fighter.
And low and behold, he does so, as Johnston shoves both feet on the gas pedal the very second Evans reveals his newer bulkier exterior, firing off one of the best chase sequences of the year, Rogers’ enhanced, yet relatively human abilities beginning to emerge gradually but triumphantly through his heroic new screen presence. The action only accelerates from here, slowing down only briefly for pockets of plot to be neatly folded in amongst the well handled sub-plots including the Captain’s love interest, with new girl Hayley Atwell fiercely holding her own whilst rubbing shoulders with some of America’s finest acting talent. Hugo Weaving puts in another devilishly evil performance as master villain Red Skull, a former Nazi who specializes in the occult, his plans for the destruction of the Allied cities both generically uniform but necessary; and Tommy Lee Jones comes ever so close to stealing the show with his humorously deadpan authoritarian Colonel Phillips.
Although pumped high on the steroids of brain-busting action and a uniquely un-obvious plot, Captain America does have it’s problems. Many may find the extended chase sequences and combat situations hazardously over-indulgent (not to mention being far too ostentatious to pass for real warfare) and, although it solidly promotes the otherwise complicated story, many will not be blamed for finding the dialogue both cheap and cheesy.
However, packed with witty yet sleazy one liners, edge-of-your-seat action, pitch-perfect performances and enough patriotism to make even Team America vomit, ‘Captain America – The First Avenger’ is the perfect example of an excellent comic-book movie. It sticks relatively close to the source material, peppers itself with jovial in-jokes and entertains its audience to the very end with a delightfully giddy action driven narrative which both excites and ever-so-slightly stimulates. It exists not to truthfully re-tell the horrors of World War II, nor to realistically entertain the possibility of a real-world super-hero. It simply lives to bring the shamelessly nationalistic character of Captain America to life, and do so in the most ambitious and fruitfully respectful way possible.
Thrusting the classic tale of ‘Good vs. Evil’ to whole new realms, Captain America may just be Marvel’s finest effort to date, perfectly timed to lead so gracefully into next summer’s eagerly anticipated nerdgasm, The Avengers. Johnston blends classic Marvel legend with playful 40’s homage to create one of the summer’s finest films.
As a final note, as necessary with pretty much all Marvel movies, stay behind after the rather arduous credits sequence to get an exclusive yet surprisingly small glimpse at Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ featuring glances at all the characters readying for action.