Uncle Sam Wants You!” the posters shouted during the 1940s, but what if you were too scrawny to pass the physical and fight for your country? That’s the dilemma faced by Brooklyn weakling Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Enter German-American scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who picks Rogers to join a squad of men he’s turning into enhanced super-soldiers for the U.S. Army. Rogers struggles through the training but shows courage and empathy, and when it’s time to test out Erskine’s serum — with a little help from Stark Industries and grandfather Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) — it’s Rogers who is picked to go first.
Rogers emerges from the machine ripped and ready to defend his country, able to run lightning fast, swim deep into the water and much more. Helpful for fighting Nazis! Erskine’s previous experiment was for the Germans, and the result was the insane Johann Schmidt and his alter-ego Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Good guy, meet bad guy.
The cool, beautiful Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is the love interest for Rogers, and while she’s attracted to his compassionate nature, there’s never a spark between them. Later in the film, when he’s sacrificing himself for the country, their banter is embarassingly unbelievable.
Hugo Weaving brings a certain evil energy to his role as Red Skull, but where it needed a larger-than-life villain — complete with minions and mysterious weapons — he was too tame, not at all frightening and no challenge to Captain America’s superior strength.
I was also quite surprised by the role that sidekick Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) had: He’s vital in the comic book series, but in the movie he’s almost invisible.
Marvel Comics has been slowly but surely introducing filmgoers to the major comic book characters that comprise the crime-fighting team The Avengers. Hence “The First Avenger” part of the title. In addition to Captain America, the crew includes Iron Man (Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (as portrayed by Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (as portrayed by Edward Norton).
Captain America: The First Avenger offers a superior film, a story with more human interest, a much more sympathetic and likable protagonist, and a logical explanation for his superpowers.
I’m a sucker for the era, and the production team has done a splendid job of evoking mid- 1940s America, from the World’s Fair that Rogers and Bucky visit to the street scenes and street patter of Brooklyn of the earlier part of this past century.
Even with the shortcomings, the movie has excellent special effects. Rogers’ weakling-tohero story is satisfying, and his gradual appreciation for the powers he’s been granted are fun to watch.
It’s good fun and one of the best comic-book films I’ve seen in years.