Not Just a Kid from Brooklyn
Poor Steve Rogers. All he can think about is becoming a soldier and shipping off to fight bullies during World War II. Unfortunately, Steve’s small stature and health problems make this impossible, which doesn’t stop him from trying. Captain America: The First Avenger depicts how this brave, skinny “kid from Brooklyn” becomes the powerful hero called Captain America. Most fans of the Marvel comic books that inspired this movie will probably be pleased with the way it plays out on screen. The film makes you feel like you’re back in the 1940s when patriotic fervor filled the air in the good old USA. It also boasts plenty of explosive action scenes, a bizarre villain, and sci-fi weaponry/gadgets galore. However, the story seems a bit jumbled at times, and many sequences needed sharper editing.
From beginning to end, there’s much to admire about Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). As the film opens, we meet a young man who looks more like a child than an adult. Although I had trouble with the cgi image of Evans’ head on such a small body, I decided to concentrate more on the character than his appearance. Here’s a little guy who exemplifies courage! It’s very easy to empathize with him, mostly because Evans (The Fantastic Four) is very believable during this part of the film. When Steve finally gets accepted into the military, we can’t help feeling happy for him. His acceptance comes as the result of a recommendation from a scientist (the versatile Stanley Tucci), the man instrumental in selecting him for a dangerous experiment that transforms Steve into a super soldier. The rest of the film concerns Steve’s adjustment to his Captain America fame and how he becomes involved in trying to thwart the maniacal plans of Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who is more frightening than the Nazis and prepared to use an extraordinary energy force for his own nefarious goals.
Director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman) struggles with pacing here, allowing some sections of the film to get out of hand. For example, the showbiz sequences run too long and look overly campy -- although, as a longtime hoofer, I did enjoy the red-white-and-blue tap dance routine. The shoot-em-up battles also seem to go on and on. Plus Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who worked on all those terrific Chronicles of Narnia screenplays, skip around too much in this particular offering, which could account for the jumbled feeling I mentioned earlier.
Acting honors go to Hayley Atwell (The Duchess) for her splendid performance as Peggy Carter, a strong female military agent who takes a special interest in Steve/Captain America. Atwell projects just the right amount of authority and compassion in this break-out role. Tommy Lee Jones (No Country for Old Men) appears in a few scenes as crusty Colonel Chester Phillips – and it’s always a treat to see him do his thing. Playing a crazed villain, Weaving (V for Vendetta) has his moments, but I couldn’t help wishing that Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) had been cast as Red Skull. As far as Evans is concerned, I think he’s given better performances in his previous films (especially Cellular). He looks pretty uncomfortable as Captain America -- but in all fairness, that’s the way Steve Rogers felt most of the time. And in the preview for The Avengers (which is shown right after the extensive end-credits roll), Evans is definitely in the Zone. So be sure to stay through those credits if you’re a Captain America fan.
(Released by Paramount Pictures/Marvel Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.