Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers…
Except for the opening, this origin film is set in 1942 when the democratic world was fighting the Nazis.
Thanks to a good script that takes time to build up its main character, Captain America, which I was al most dreading to see, kept my attention despite its preposterous “science” and all the overused CGI effects that so often make such films seem like big screen video games.
Asthmatic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is the prototype of those ads every comic book used to run about Charles Atlas promising to turn a 98 pound weakling into a he-man capable of beating the bullies who humiliate him in front of girls by kicking sand in his face. After being beaten by some toughs the Steve is befriended by soldier “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who admires the lad’s courage in the face of the bigger toughs. Steve keeps trying to enlist in the Army so he can fight the Nazis, but is turned down time after time, until at last a sympathetic doctor passes him on as approved.
In basic training Steve is practically a washout due to his frail body, the bane of gruff Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), who nonetheless also admires his pluck. Then Steve becomes involved in one of those comic book science projects run by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German genius who had fled Hitler because he did not want his super body serum used by the Nazis. In no time Steve’s puny body is transformed into the hulk that comes to be known as Captain America. Dr. Erskine does not get much screen time because an agent of the evil Nazi scientist Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) hunts him down and kills him before he can produce more super soldiers.
The War Department at first sees Captain America as more value on the war bond circuit than on the battlefield. Steve is forced to dress in a red and white blue costume and perform physical feats on a stage amidst a bevy of female dancers. The public loves the display, but not the troops overseas when Captain America’s USO show is sent to entertain them. The battle-hardened G.I.’s scoff at the glitzy stage heroics with its costumed hero. This attitude soon changes when word arrives that Steve’s friend Bucky and his companions have been captured by the Nazis. Leading a daring rescue against great odds, Captain America returns triumphantly with all the prisoners.
The last half of the film pits Captain America against Schmidt, who has morphed into the super villain The Red Skull. The titanic struggle between hero and villain will appeal to action fans. Especially those who read Marvel Comics, but everything is so preposterous that the believability level is the same as that of the Tooth Fairy. The earnestness of Chris Evans, plus the use of such fine actors as Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones, lift this above most other action hero movies. Hayley Atwell is also very watchable as the British officer who comes as close to a love interest as Marvel Comics allows. The movie captures well through costumes, sets, and cars the feeling of the Forties, the only false note being the depiction of the Army as being a mixture of races—back then racism was so rampant that African Americans were segregated from whites.
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