In a summer movie season that seems overpopulated with comic book heroes, aliens & transforming robots, director Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger is a successful adventure movie based on the classic character created during the 1940s by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby. As the film opens, it's World War II, and a scrawny young man named Steve Rogers continually applies for the draft. He has a lot of heart, but keeps being rejected because of his size, and a variety of ailments. Enter Dr. Abraham Erskine (well played by Stanley Tucci), who is working on a secret formula that will transform an ordinary man into a “super soldier.” Erskine is impressed by Steve’s dedication & energy, and recruits him for the super-soldier program. After going through training at Camp Lehigh in New York, Rogers is chosen to be the test subject for the “super-soldier” experiment.
Meanwhile, a Nazi colonel named Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is pursuing a mysterious artifact he believes will give him the power to rule the world. While he is working for Hitler, Schmidt has plans of his own for world domination. He also has a connection to Erskine that ends with tragic results. Inevitably, the paths of Rogers & Schmidt will cross, and the fate of the world will hang in the balance. Director Johnston (who also helmed the underrated The Rocketeer (1991), another period superhero film) keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the action sequences are well-staged and exciting. There are good performances from Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America (trivia note; Evans also played The Human Torch, another Marvel hero, in the two “Fantastic Four” films), and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, an agent assigned to help Steve on his missions. Tommy Lee Jones is solid in a supporting role as Colonel Chester Phillips, who’s in charge of the special unit that works with Captain America. Weaving is great fun as the villain, who turns out to be an archenemy of Cap’s from the comics world.
The film is a slam bang, old-fashioned WWII adventure movie (with some fantasy & sci-fi elements thrown into the mix), and you don’t need to be a comics reader to enjoy it. However, there are multiple in-jokes and nods to classic Marvel characters and moments from the comics for fans. There are also cameos and tie-ins to other characters from the Marvel movie universe. And make sure to stay all the way through the credits for an extra scene that you’ll especially enjoy if you are a fan.
Captain America: The First Avenger is an entertaining film that re-introduces the classic character to a new audience. In a summer movie season that’s already overflowing with action heroes, explosions and sequels, it’s an old-fashioned action film that delivers on its promise.
Note: While you can view the film in 3D, this reviewer saw the film in its 2D version, and it was perfectly fine in that dimension.