Just as the US trade deficit threatens to recast the country as a global weakling, along comes Captain America.
Proud, decisive and muscular, he’s here to kick Nazi butt and set up Marvel Studios for their über-franchise event of next summer, The Avengers. His own feature is solidly entertaining, unpretentious fun. With its blue-eyed hero, boo-hiss villain and constant pyrotechnics, the Captain succeeds as the slightly squarer, vanilla companion to his Avenger buddy Thor.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is peevish, a word culled from Wuthering Heights to describe the kind of Brooklyn guy who gets beaten up in every alleyway in town and has a list of ailments longer than his arm preventing his enrolment in the WWII US war effort. He’s a decent chap desperate to get enlisted like his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and not just so he can get laid. Luckily for him, his unstoppable Scrappy-doo attitude is spotted and he’s pitched into a top secret program to create the ultimate super soldier.
A word on the special effects here, as it appears CGI is used to create the Clark Kent version of Steve Rogers; with Chris Evans’ face appearing on a wee Jimmy Krankie-like body. Whereas, after he’s popped into an iron lung contraption and pumped full of ‘vita-rays’ to create Captain America – there is no special effect, it looks like good old fashioned gym work from Chris Evans that turned him into Lou Ferigno, in a good way. He does look the part and Hayley Atwell’s yummy English love-interest Peggy can’t resist touching one of those domed pecs of American imperialism.
So Tommy Lee Jones is the grouchy drill instructor who reluctantly accepts Steve as part of his unit and the scientific boffin behind the super soldier tech is Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) – who we know goes on to father one Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark.
And what of the villains? Unlike Thor, whose antagonists were all a bit Hamlet for my liking, and Green Lantern, with its amorphous clouds of crap, Captain America has a fantastic bad guy: Johann Schmidt.
Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is a sadistic Nazi who believes in the occult powers, even more than Hitler. When a source of otherworldly destruction comes into his hands, in the form of a tesseract cube, he sets out his stall for world domination; demanding allegiance not to the Führer but to his own Hydra science division.
Weaving gives great villain. I can’t place his German accent regionally but he has great fun enunciating every vowel and s-l-o-w-i-n-g his delivery down to make his evil points. Visually, when Schmidt is revealed at Red Skull, he’s effective too. Red Skull is Hellboy red, hairless, skeletal and all kitted out in a Nazi fetish gear, like his gas-mask wearing troops.
The action scenes are brisk and well-choreographed as both hero and villain attempt to single-handedly win the war across the battle-fields of Europe. In keeping with this Marvel universe, it’s a resolutely bloodless affair, without the serious tone of Chris Nolan’s Batman series but that’s fine; it is just a different flavour of superhero movie.
Chris Evans does a great job of reinterpreting the square-jawed hero. He’s funny and vulnerable when he needs to be, especially when first trying out those goofy Captain America outfits.
The bottom line on this week’s comic book outing (the fourth of the summer) is that Captain America: First Avenger is fun to watch. Unlike other heroes, he doesn’t have a tortured back-story, nothing nuanced, just some fast-moving rotoscope-looking action in unnecessary 3D. In the end, you will know how the Captain fits into the bigger picture for The Avengers and those of you who have been paying attention will stay to the end of the credits to see….something that (quite rightly) has not been shown to the press. Enjoy.