Captain America: The First Avenger
In 1942, a sickly young man is repeatedly deemed unfit for military service. Meanwhile a biochemist/physicist has developed a serum which can transform any meek person into a “super soldier”. Sensing his big heart and aptitude for righteousness, Dr. Abraham Erskine injects Steve Rogers in order to aid the United States in World War II. Steve becomes Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending truth, justice and the American way. He wears a red, white and blue uniform with stars, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.
The development of character is what elevates Captain America from the ordinary. He’s an individual we can really get behind. He adheres to old fashioned ideals like serving his country and has a genuinely good natured personality. Additionally, he starts out as a definite underdog. His success is a celebration of the little guy. He’s so humble and decent, it’s captivating. Not since Superman has a superhero been this likable. Actor Chris Evans, does a nice job embodying the title protagonist. He’s likewise surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and Stanley Tucci all posses the charisma their roles require. A combination of a witty script matched with the right actor for the part goes a long way in making the story so enjoyable.
The production’s retro feel is an absolute throwback to classic Americana. The environment gives the plot real dramatic weight. It suggests a comic book movie that might have come out years ago. The production design is unique. Director Joe Johnston was also responsible for The Rocketeer and the 1940s period recreation here certainly recalls that picture in a positive way. That USO song and dance number for example is a wow! Modern special effects never threaten to overpower the action. They’re used sparingly and not overdone. An overreliance on shoddy CGI has marred more than a few adaptations as of late. I’m looking at you Green Lantern.
All of this inventiveness makes the second half a bit underwhelming. Captain America recruits a team of soldiers to go after the Adolf Hitler’s head of advanced weaponry, Johann Schmidt, known as Red Skull. It’s at this point in the narrative that the adventure wanes a bit. These battle scene are so unexceptional, I can barely remember them. If anything, the strength of the first half highlights the weaknesses of the second. The rote combat action pales as it ultimately progresses to a bland conclusion. Nevertheless, a solid beginning and compelling characters push this comic book adaptation beyond the routine. A worthy effort blending laughs and drama with much to recommend.