Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Finally! After years of teasing and Samuel L. Jackson cameos, the “Avengers” movie is almost ready. We just needed to meet the one that started it all. And here he is. Ladies and gentlemen, standing a robust 5’ tall and weighing a whopping 120 pounds, I give you “Captain America!” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In what appears to be present day Antarctica, a discovery has been made. A large item is buried in the ice. When a team is lowered inside, they come across a lot of frost and a large metal disc emblazoned with a single star. Hmmm. Jump back to Norway in 1942. In a near empty castle lies a secret. A secret that Adolph Hitler wants for himself. However, while the fuehrer’s men are “out in the desert looking for religious artifacts” (a nice “Raiders of the Lost Ark” reference, thank you very much), one of his most treacherous henchmen searches for that secret: the Cosmic Cube, one of the most powerful jewels of Odin and seen briefly during the afore-mentioned Samuel L. Jackson cameo earlier this year in “Thor.” Said henchman, Johann Schmidt (Weaving) has another name in Hitler’s Third Reich: the Red Skull. Meanwhile, in New York City, Steve Rogers (Evans) is attempting, for the fourth time, to enlist in the Army. Due to his slight frame and penchant for attracting practically every ailment known to man, Steve is classified 4F, making him unsuitable for military service. This is upsetting to Steve whose best friend, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is heading off to Europe to battle the Nazis. A chance meeting with Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) gives Steve one more chance, a chance that changes the course of the war for good.
Like “Spider-Man” and “Thor” before it, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is the story of a genuinely good man thrust into something he doesn’t fully comprehend. In order to serve his country, Steve agrees to be part of an experiment being conducted by Dr. Erskine and Colonel Phillips (Jones). Unknown to Rogers, Herr Schmidt was also a guinea pig for Dr. Erskine, with less than spectacular results. That’s why they call him the Red Skull!
As the final piece of the “Avengers” puzzle, “Captain America” is a film that keeps the audience up to date on the upcoming “Avengers” film. Colonel Phillips and Dr. Erskine have a third partner in their work, military defense specialist Howard Stark, better known as Tony (Iron Man) Stark’s father. Steve is told that Schmidt’s experiment was a failure because of the man involved. The experiment is triggered by what you are as a person. “Good people become great,” he’s told. “Bad people become worse.” Indeed. After the experiment Steve, whose unscheduled chasing of a Nazi spy gains him the cover of most newspapers, is swept off by a local congressman to dress up as the highly patriotic “Captain America” and sell war bonds. The gig works until Steve is sent to entertain a unit overseas. This is Bucky’s unit, and Steve learns that 80% of the men in the unit have been presumed dead. Not believing this, Steve dons his bond selling suit and heads out to comic book immortality.
As directed by Joe Johnston, who has helmed popular fanboy films including “The Rocketeer” and “The Wolfman,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a comic book truly brought to life. The heroes are colorful, the villains are nasty and the gadgets most impressive. The cast does a fine job of giving life to their characters, making them more then 2D drawings on a page. Evans, who has gone down the super hero route before in “The Fantastic Four” films, gives Steve a quiet humanity that is needed to make the character believable. He truly IS a good man. Weaving, his face recalling Harry Potter’s Lord Voldermort with a bad sun burn, is commanding as the man who believes he and he alone is meant to rule the world. The supporting cast handle their roles well, especially a group that Steve rescues who form an almost “Hogan’s Heroes” like band of merry men. The special effects are well done, as are the many battle scenes between “Cap” and the Red Skulls’ toadies. Though not the best of the “Avenger” films, it’s certainly not the worse.