This fast-paced origin story about the Marvel superhero pumps you up for The Avengers this spring.
Director: Joe Johnston Rating: PG-13 Studio: Paramount
Captain America: The First Avenger features the fifth Marvel Studios superhero to muscle his way onto the big screen and, against all odds, the movie is old-fashioned American escapist entertainment. Director Joe Johnston's fast-paced origin story about the World War II-era superhero was a critical and financial success and pumps us up to see Cap team up with Iron Man, Hulk and Thor next year in The Avengers.
Leading man Chris Evans—who has always been built like a superhero and who played one before in two Fantastic Four movies as Human Torch—is introduced in Captain America as 90-pound weakling Steve Rogers thanks to some digital downsizing. The asthmatic little guy has the spirit of soldiers three times his size and desperately wants to enlist in the army to serve during World War II but keeps getting declined due to a laundry list of health problems. He is eventually recruited into a secret super-soldier program and, thanks to a muscle-building serum, is transformed into a wall of red-white-and-blue hurt for the Nazis.
Not wanting to be a lab rat, the newly-ripped Steve does the rounds at fundraisers dressed as Captain America to raise money for the war. These cheesy musical numbers might at first seem out of place in a superhero flick, but they're actually cornball fun and help immerse us in 1940s America. While trying to rouse the troops overseas, Steve gets behind enemy lines with the assistance of British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and frees many captured American soldiers. It is there that he meets the sinister Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a Nazi officer named Johann Schmidt who broke away from serving as Hitler's head of advanced weaponry to serve his own needs for world domination as commander of the terrorist organization HYDRA.
Red Skull has taken the same strength-enhancing serum as Cap, so the two are equally matched as Cap tries to stop the crimson-headed Nazi madman from harnessing the power of a mystical tesseract and destroying key American cities. Steve takes down the Skull's airship over the Arctic and ends up frozen for almost 70 years until he is thawed out in present-day New York City and wakes up in a very different world.
Captain America was shown in 3D in theaters and is also available on Blu-ray 3D at home for those who want to replicate the experience—something definitely worth checking out if you have the setup. No matter what dimension you watch it in, Captain America is one of the better superhero movies to soar onto screens lately. Not only is Evans perfectly cast as Cap (he just won "Best Superhero" at the 2011 Scream Awards), but Matrix villain Weaving gets to be deliciously evil again as Red Skull, Atwell is tough but sweet as the other half of the blossoming Cap romance that is literally put on ice for seven decades, and Tommy Lee Jones steals scenes as wisecracking, crusty Col. Chester Phillips.
There are also the expected ties to the other Avengers with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper)—the father of Iron Man's Tony Stark—playing a major part in outfitting Cap with his vibranium shield, and Samuel L. Jackson popping up at the end as the head of the Avengers, Nick Fury. Be sure to watch after the credits as Fury drops in on Cap during a boxing workout to convince him to join a mission that will—what else?—save the world.