Oh Captain, my Captain – Captain America: The First Avenger

28 Jul , 2011,
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Captain America: The First Avenger - Poster Art

Move over, Harry Potter, because Captain America‘s in town.

The film, about the origins of Marvel’s star spangled man, is the fourth and final installment in the company’s lead-ups to The Avengers (due to screen next Summer) and it opens in theaters here this week.

Unlike it’s fellows (which include a fairly average Thor, two Iron Man movies, two Hulks, and enough X-men to change a light bulb), Captain America boasts a vibe that’s markedly audacious. It’s inundated with retro charm, and carried by a screenplay that takes the superhero genre back to it’s Golden Age beginnings.

Taking place in America in the early 40s, the film introduces us to scrawny, but spunky Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans, and liberal amounts of CG), a kid from Brooklyn who’s been trying, and failing to enlist in the US Army due to a plethora of health issues.

At the World Expo, he encounters military scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who is taken by his selfless qualities, and offers the lad a chance to become part of a secret Super Soldier experiment.

The experiment succeeds – Rogers gets all buff and tough, but Nazi infiltrators kill Erskine and destroy the facility, preventing the US Army from ever replicating the experiment.

His heroics and courage under fire manage to land him a gig as a propaganda tool however, and Captain America becomes the war effort’s new poster boy, funky tights, shield and all. He gets his big break, and a chance to do some real soldiering when he discovers that the unit of his best friend Bucky Barnes has been captured by HYDRA and it’s fanatics, and sets out on a solo mission to bust them out.

And that’s just the call to action. Can you believe that?

Chris Evans was likeable and sincere in his role as Steve Rogers. He made a great ‘little guy’ in a dichotomy that was heightened by Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of the sadistic Red Skull. Hayley Atwell comes aboard as spunky love interest Agent Carter, while Tommy Lee Jones was near perfect as Colonel Philips, with his trademark grizzled personality and witticisms.

The writing was solid, playing complement to director Joe Johnston’s mastery of the visual language. His reconstruction of the War era, with it’s sepia wash and muted colors, oozes understated genius, while his keen sense of pacing served up the plot in neat segments that kept my eyes glued to the big screen – an otherwise rare thing to do, considering my low opinion of blockbuster movies.

Captain America’s a great movie, and that’s a label I don’t use often. It’s an evocative movie that reaches beyond the CG and special effects, the cast and the visuals.

Rather, it’s resonant because for a big geek like me, there are certain universal truths I look out for in a comic book adaptation – the triumph of good over evil, self sacrifice and humility. These Captain America manages to serve up, and more.

Oh, and stay after the credits. You’ll be in for a treat.