reviewed by Tom-Tom
Finally a decent Captain America film. We the faithful have waited. We waited through the obscenely bad 1991 disaster where Cap’s number skill seemed to be faking sickness and then stealing people’s cars and the Red Skull was Italian snatched by proto-Nazis while playing the piano as a young boy. It was mean spirited and a low point in superhero films if not films in general. Here we get a stellar cast with the likes of Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones not to mention the classy, quirky Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter and a reborn Chris Evans in a new role far from his surfer boy hothead demeanors in films like the Fantastic Four, Cellular, and Scott Pilgrim to a genuine, ingenuous but purehearted young man whose 5 foot nothing height and sickly disposition don’t deter him from standing up to bullies (and getting summarily pummeled by them) and attempting to enlist in the armed services to aid the Allies both American and otherwise in their battle against the Nazis. This an rare instance in which CGI technology is utilized to diminish rather than enhance the demeanor of a character and it is well done. The rippling muscles and brawny bearing of the Cap to be is 100% Chris Evans, a remarkable achievement in the making of a superhero much like the 100% natural Hulk of the Lou Ferrigno years.
Captain America often gets the shaft in Hero Top Ten Lists due to his purity of heart and not being a badass like Deadpool, Wolverine, or (thanks more in part to Robert Downey Jr. than to the comic book character) Iron Man. He’s often lumped with Superman as a perfectly moral guy with no sense of internal struggle making the right choices natural for him. In the wonderfully paced setup, we learn exactly the kind of guy Steve Rogers (Cap’s alter ego) is. When asked by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci in a short but wonderful performance)why he is in such a hurry to kill Germans, Steve replies a bit bashfully, “I don’t want to kill anyone. But I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” Steve’s subsequent training by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones at his Fugitive-like best barking out orders in rapid fire Texan) and Agent Carter who responds to a recruit’s remark about her British accent with a fierce right cross, is harrowing but in typical form, he refuses to give up and even demonstrates he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice when tested by Phillips. These qualities all convince us (or at least me) that Steve is definitely the man for the job. The job is being the first candidate in an experiment to become America’s first super soldier via a serum
The transformation is exciting and borrows not a little from Frankenstein with sparks and bursting circuits, dials and switches thrown back with wild abandon. The effects of the serum are immediately demonstrated in a thrilling chase in 1940’s Brooklyn after an agent of Hydra, the subdivision of the Nazi Party run by Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull played to perfection by the always excellent Hugo Weaving. The Skull is a super soldier himself but of an imperfect design with unsightly side-effects. He is even further down the rabbit hole than Hitler himself in his hopes for the conquest of the world. He seeks to achieve this via the Tesseract, (the cosmic cube in comic book parlance), a blue glowing cubical powerhouse from which he and Doctor Arnim Zola (Toby Jones, pitch perfect for the role) draw energy to power disintegration guns.
After a rather corny musical interlude in which Cap plays showboat for War Bonds, the real action begins as Cap earns the right to his abilities and proves Erskine’s faith in him in a daring rescue attempt. The rest of the film cycles through a series of these adventures leading up to a big showdown with the Skull with the typically high stakes we know to expect in war films not to mention those starring superheroes. The action and suspense are well balanced and I found myself moved by the conclusion. The characters and dialogue are all compelling and snappy like actual films from the era. The action is never over the top but rather suspenseful. Captain America:The First Avenger sets the stage for a responsible superhero who cares about every single life and makes the sacrifices first before others. What a fresh new generation of heroes Cap began.