I admit that I don’t know what to make of this, that there’s been a run of comic-book movies that have managed to be plausible and thrilling, not cheap knockoffs rushed out to exploit a fad. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the former. It features a terrific performance by Chis Evans as the Cap, a modicum of special effects and CGI, a slimy villain played by Hugo Weaving, and the famous backdrop of World War II. So help me, I found myself liking the movie despite my preconceptions.
Steve Rogers (Evans) is a spindly, sickly young man who’s full of desire to go fight those dastardly Nazis, but he’s just too frail for the military, so he’s classified 4F. Several times, in fact, under different names. A mysterious scientist named Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recruits Rogers to be part of a secret project: he’ll inject Rogers’ major organs and arteries with a new serum that will turn him into a super soldier. The military, represented by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), and the CIA, represented by Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) are very interested in the results. Well, the results aren’t too good, as the Nazis grab the serum and prevent anyone from making more super soldiers. But at least the US has Rogers, right? He’s now super strong, fast, and agile.
But one man is not an army, so instead of leading troops to victory Rogers is instead hired as a sort of USO cheerleader for war bonds. Yep, seriously. But you can’t keep the good Captain down for long, and soon he is indeed leading some crazy mission to rescue his best friend Bucky and assorted Allied troops while also looking out for the nefarious Red Skull, head of Hitler’s science division.
It’s well cast. Evans is believable as both the skinny Rogers and the pumped-up Captain America. He’s earnest without seeming to take himself or the movie too seriously. Tucci, Jones, Weaving and newcomer Atwell are top notch as well.
Even bearing in mind that this movie is merely a setup for the big Avengers film coming out soon (as were other movies, like Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk), one can easily lose oneself in the great old-time action-adventure feel this one has, reminiscent of 1991′s The Rocketeer. You have mad scientists, mythical technology, Nazis, all-American good guys, lots of neat guns. It’s not a loud bore like Transformers, and the action scenes are well staged, as are the pyrotechnics. Throw in a believable plot (at least in the realm of comic-book movies), and this one’s above average for the genre. I’ve probably said this before about other movies, but this is definitely one that’s what a comic-book movie should be – daring, easy to follow, full of pulse-pounding action, and human.
Captain America: The First Avenger: ***