CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (director: Joe Johnston; screenwriters: Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely; cinematographer: Shelly Johnson; editors: Jeffrey Ford/Robert Dalva; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Tommy Lee Jones (Col. Chester Phillips), Hugo Weaving (Johann Schmidt/the Red Skull), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), Neal McDonough (Dum Dum Dugan), Derek Luke (Gabe Jones), Ken Choi (Morita), Stanley Tucci (Abraham Erskine); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Kevin Feige; Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment; 2011- in 3-D)
“It delivers the comic book action required.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Perhaps what the world now needs is a superhero savior, and who could ask for someone more capable, cleaner and more sympathetic than Captain America! He first appeared in Timely Comics, a precursor to Marvel, in March of 1941. It was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Director Joe Johnston(“The Wolfman”/”Hidalgo”/”October Sky”)tells of the origin of the Captain America myth. It’s a good watch for comic book fans (plenty of insider jokes), fanboys and those seeking a decent summer blockbuster escapist action film, while others might or might not buy into such comic book hokum (and I can’t blame them if they don’t). Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely diligently follow the Marvel comic book serial storyline, do a good job of recreating the 1940’s look, have a humorous bond drive segment and follow to the letter the winning formulaic way to craft a superhero adventure story. The filmmaker keeps it mildly entertaining, though never to the point it’s more challenging than entertaining.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny 90-pound Brooklyn kid, who is bullied and suffers from many physical ailments including asthma. He tries unsuccessfully a number of times to pass a World War II army physical so he can do his part in fighting Hitler, but is always declared 4-F. Steve has the good fortune to meet German expat research scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) at a recruiting station in NYC, who thinks this good-natured patriotic wimp is a perfect fit for his new secret experimental supersoldier program, Strategic Scientific Research, and pulls strings to get him a 1-A classification making him eligible to join the team. The program from the military end is run by the army’s gruff veteran, Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), while the attractive Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is the British military liaison, and inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) works in the lab. Carter soon becomes Rogers’ love interest, in a strictly PG-13 relationship (a chaste one that might have taken place in a 1940’s pic).
Dr. Erskine takes a liking to the feisty Rogers and selects the weakling soldier, even if his soldiering doesn’t please the colonel, to be the first in his special unit to receive his experimental magical-rays. Thereby Steve emerges from the experiment taller and with a muscle-toned body like a world-class body builder, and gets tagged with the handle of Captain America. The kid from Brooklyn is now a killing machine and after an heroic act of saving a youngster from a violent Nazi spy, goes on a world-wide propaganda tour to get people to buy war bonds or to just entertain the troops while dressed in a cute superhero costume that comes with a stars-and-stripes shield that has special powers.
There’s plenty of your standard Hollywood action sequences, enhanced by CGI effects, and they include a spectacular escape scene with Captain America’s old pal and protector from the neighborhood, now an army sergeant, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), busted out of a prison he’s held at with 400 hundred other soldiers by a mad scientist Nazi fanatic who runs the lethal secret Hydra organization.
There’s plenty of heroics from Captain America, who leaves the propaganda tour on his own to single-handedly take on the private Germany army run by the crypto researcher of supernatural powers, a freak with a red face now called Red Skull, aka Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). Red Skull is completely insane and has gone rogue (having his men salute Heil Hydra instead of Heil Hitler). The megalomaniac wishes to rule the world and is willing to destroy everything to accomplish his aims. It’s up to Captain America to take on this Nazi villain and save the free world.
It delivers the comic book action required, but lacks any sophistication in storytelling. I enjoyed it because I was in the mood to see something summer-lite, and found both the hero and supporting cast to my liking. It reminded me of those old-fashioned World War II pics from the 1940s, the ones you are likely to fondly remember without trying to justify why you liked them.
REVIEWED ON 7/24/2011 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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