Audiences should be tired of the onslaught of summer time superhero movies, and with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER joining the crowded movie theaters this weekend, the pressure is on for the Marvel comic to deliver.  Depending on who you talk to, you'll either love or just think it okay.


Adapting the Captain America origins story initially caused some concern over how they were going to modernize the 1940s setting and the superhero's patriotic red, white and blue stripes get-up, but those elements ended up working in their favor.  The film starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving and Stanley Tucci feels fresh and sets itself apart from the other the superhero movies.



Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to enlist for World War 2, but his scrawny frame and sickly state get him rejected from the military.  He's not a quitter and attempts once again.  Dr. Erskine (Tucci), a German doctor working for the Americans, sees his determination and good heart, and recruits him as a candidate for his super soldier serum. Once he becomes Captain America, he's shipped off as a salesman for war time bonds in a USO musical which is hilarious and he's proud to be part of.  When he finds out his best friend Bucky and other soldiers are missing, he uses his super poweres to find him.  He then takes on the role of a real superhero and forms his fighter group who go after Red Skull (Weaving) and his henchmen.

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First of all, director Joe Johnston and his special effects team did an amazing and flawless job recreating a smaller, scrappy looking Chris Evans using CGI. However, there were cutaways to an obvious body double but only for a split second.  Hugo Weaving's transformation into the menacing Red Skull was also quite impressive, although a few press members said it reminded them of the Jim Carrey movie The Mask. It's an obvious comparison which made sense only after it was brought up, but Hugo Weaving's performance made the character even more real that you forget it's special effects and prostethics.

Captain America: The First Avenger movie poster and reviewChris Evans really did a perfect job transforming into the scrawny Steve Rogers and capturing the sincerity of the character that would become the basis of Steve Rogers as Captain America.   Having already played a superhero in Fanstastic Four, Chris Evans had to prove this one would be different and he achieved it. He clearly did his homework and delivered a unique and stand out performance.  He plays Steve Rogers with innocence that is real, but not in a goody-two shoes way.  There was a nice balance to the personality.  It makes sense for that time period which was not so jaded yet.

Kudos to writer Christopher Markus, Stephen McFreely and Marvel for not resorting to making Captain America the reluctant hero or the a wise-cracking saviour that's dominated the big screen this year.  Steve Rogers progression into a superhero was unique in that it wasn't immediate. It occurred naturally without resorting to the usual formula. The USO musicals were very clever.  They also wrote a great part in the Howard Stark role, played nicely by Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia) who obviously studied the Iron Man movies in order to get some of Downey's Tony Stark qualities or is it vice versa because the father came first. 

Steve's love interest  Peggy Carter was also written well without catering to the usual female comic book stereotypes.  British actress Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter with grace, but at the same time with toughness.  The tone is set when she knocks out a soldier for demeaning her position in the military. You don't mess with this woman and she keeps her wits about her throughout.  

Having a seasoned director like Joe Johnston was probably an advantage to the production, which easily could've gone south. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was a little slower-paced than most action films, but the story took its time setting up characters, the period and the backstory  which tightened the movie. This movie definitely has a comic-book feel to it which often doesn't translate onto most big screen adaptations.  Joe Johnston recently said they used Raiders of the Lost Ark as a template for this film and that's exactly what they achieved.  It's a good old-fashion adventure in the vain of the original Indian Jones movie.

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The period costumes are also worth mentioning.  While the American military uniforms captured the time period, Red Skull and his henchmen's  wardrobe had a sort of new meets old quality to them that added a layer of coolness.  Hugo Weaving's Nazi-inspired wardrobe also infused a bit of futuristic feel to it.  While Captain America's fighting outfit reflects a much toned-down look than the original costume, the film had fun with the original superhero outfit.   After the experiment, Captain America is relegated to a USO tours promoting the war and selling war time bonds.   For the musical numbers, Steve Rogers dons a red, white and blue stripped costume which was hilarious and a nice way to incorporate the iconic yet ridiculous suit.


Everyone knows Captain America is coming back for The Avengers movie in a modern setting with Robert Downey Jr.  as Iron Man, Thor, and other Marvel comic book heroes.  The finale addresses how they bring him into the modern period.  As usual, Nick Fury shows up. This part proved too forced and out of place.   They couldn't wait to address it in The Avengers movie?  But it had to be dealt somehow. Sorry to say there was no offerings of a clip after the credits rolled, but perhaps that was only for the press screenings.

X-Men First Class has been the best superhero film this summer and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER comes in a close second.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is In theaters July 22, 2011.

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