Marvel Studios continues its solid efforts at bringing comic book characters to life with “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
If only Green Lantern worked for Marvel.
Set in 1942, Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid from Brooklyn who wants to go overseas and fight the Nazis. He’s unfit to serve but that doesn’t keep him from trying to enlist again and again. His efforts attract the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who cuts through the red tape and gets Rogers into basic training.
Rogers struggles to keep up with the other recruits and doesn’t impress the top brass at the post — Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). But it’s his heart, determination, self-sacrifice and unwillingness to quit that make him Erskine’s choice for a secret government project. The Colonel eventually agrees.
Erskine has developed a special serum which — in connection with Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) “vitarays” — will turn a 98-pound weakling into Charles Atlas. Puny Rogers undergoes the procedure and comes out looking like Adonis. But before they can celebrate, Erskine is killed by a Nazi spy, ensuring that the Super Soldier program begins and ends with Steve Rogers.
The spy was working for Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), also known as the Red Skull. One of Hitler’s top operatives, Schmidt controls the Nazi’s special science division known as Hydra. A student of Norse mythology, Schmidt has found an artifact that he believes will give him ultimate power.
Col. Phillips decides he doesn’t want Rogers around, and the young soldier is turned into Captain America — a propaganda tool to help sell war bonds. While he’s very popular on the home front, the star-spangled man doesn’t have the respect of the troops. Nor is he doing what he signed on to do.
When Rogers learns that several soldiers, including his childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), are prisoners on a Hydra base, he decides to go in alone to rescue them. With help from Stark and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Rogers makes his way to the base and frees the soldiers — earning their respect as well as that of the Colonel.
Having earned the Captain America moniker, Rogers is allowed to put together a special team of operatives to try to bring down Hydra and its leader.
“Captain America” is a fun, old-fashioned superhero romp. It’s not as flashy or action-packed as a lot of the current crop of summer blockbusters, but that’s not a bad thing. The film reflects the look and feel of an earlier era and spends time with its characters to let them breathe and feel real.
Director Joe Johnston made a similar ’40s era superhero film with “The Rocketeer” and shows he still knows what he’s doing. The special effects are fine but not overwhelming. The fine cast gives the story added weight — especially Tucci, Jones, Evans, Cooper and Weaving. Toby Jones also does nice work as the Red Skull’s chief scientist.
Did it work for me? “Thor” is still the top superhero movie of 2011 for me, but “Captain America” comes in a close tie for second with “X-Men: First Class.”
Did the 3D work for me? It’s OK, but not worth the extra bucks. If you’re going to do Captain America in 3D, then his shield should look like it’s heading straight for my face. It didn’t.
Should I sit through the credits? Traditionally all Marvel Studios films end with a teaser after the credits, usually to promote the next movie in the all-encompassing “Avengers” franchise they’ve been building toward. There was no teaser at the end of the version I saw Wednesday night.
However, there is one out there because someone bootlegged it and put it online and several people — including myself — saw it before Marvel pulled it down. It was a pretty awesome teaser and I was looking forward to seeing it for real on the big screen but since they didn’t show it for some reason I can’t really recommend anyone else sit through boring credits on the off-chance that they were just cheating the previews crowd.
They probably were, though, so you may want to sit through the credits. That “Star Spangled Man” song is kinda catchy and will get you through most of it.