Captain America movie poster 2011
"CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER" is a seriously good movie. After a long line of superhero movies, we finally get to see Cap on the big screen. What is impressive is how fresh and exciting a movie it turns out to be. That is no mistake. Considering all the superhero movies that have been made, all that we've learned from them, and all that is riding on this movie as the final setup to the ultimate Marvel team-up movie next year, "THE AVENGERS," Cap really needed to get it right, and he does. Chris Evans in the leading role nails it. Director Joe Johnston nails it. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely nails it. Everyone gets it right in this one.

The movie cleverly maintains an "aw shucks" earnest tone in keeping with the World War II setting and the main character's sterling code of ethics. There's no room for smirks, slackers or ironic hipsters here. Steve Rogers is a scrawny runt, the first time we see him. He keeps enlisting to do his part for his country and he keeps being rejected. Finally, his persistence catches the eye of none other than Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci, the scientist in charge of the U.S. government's supersoldier program, Project Rebirth. In Rogers, Dr. Erskine sees all that is noble and right in a good soldier, and a good man, those critically important attributes needed when creating a superhuman soldier.

With only a brief opening scene set in the present, we are immersed in a dazzlingly recreated world of the '40s for most of the movie. So in tune with the times, so eye-popping in color and detail, you'd have to go as far back as "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK" for something with quite that same sparkle. Again, no mistake here. Director Joe Johnston won an Oscar as a member of the visual-effects team on the Steven Spielberg classic. He also directed one of the most heart-felt superhero movies of all time, "THE ROCKETEER," which is also an amazing period piece.


Captain America movie 2011
The pacing of the movie is impeccable. In a story that sets an idealistic and ambitious Rogers up against the world, constantly having to prove himself, he does that in the movie with wonderfully timed scenes that keep winning the viewer over. Having just received the jolt of his life in transforming into a superhuman, a Nazi spy blows up the lab, swipes a vial of the serum and escapes into a cab outside. Rogers, wearing only his trousers, bolts after him. He manages to turn the cab on its side but the Nazi is too quick and grabs a child as hostage. As Rogers nears him, the spy drops the kid into the river. In keeping with the scrappy times, the kid looks up at Rogers and tells him he can swim and he should keep running.

Rogers must earn his place in the sun inch by inch. He may be America's one and only supersoldier but that doesn't mean much to Colonel Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who helped to oversee the supersoldier project. It is of no concern to him if the only place Rogers seems to fit in is as a USO performer touring the country. It's when Rogers takes his act to the troops that he gets a rude awakening. Other battle-hardened soldiers have no patience for him either. But, as Rogers says, he can put up with that all day long. In time, perhaps he can win the respect of his best pal, Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan. Maybe even win the love of a certain British officer, Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell. And, finally, maybe he'll prove a match for the truly evil villain, The Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving.


It is once Rogers actually does something truly amazing out in combat that he becomes Captain America instead of just playing one on stage. That's when he can take on The Red Skull and the movie can further settle into its homage to comics of yesteryear. "Captain America," in fact, holds a special place in comics and made the most of its unique status. "Green Lantern" shares a similar situation: clunky old comic becomes cool new comic. The original Cap harks back to the '40s. It was a nice enough patriotic comic. It was when it was resurrected by Marvel in the '60s, when Cap was found frozen for 70 years, thawed and prepped to kick ass again, that he was on the path to becoming the awesome Cap we know today, the one that will be in the new "Avengers" movie.

There is only one more scene set in the present and that is a brief scene at the end. It is long enough to let us know that Cap will be okay after he has awoken from a 70 year long nap. Yeah, he'll be just fine. Samuel L. Jackson will make sure of that.


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