Captain America The First Avenger
This superb comic book adaptation completes the jigsaw for Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster Avengers movie, which will feature Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941 Captain America is one of the original heroes from the Marvel stable, and has been played previously by Dick Purcell in 1944, Arthur Pierce in a 1966 tv series, Reb Brown, and Matt Salinger in a 1990 movie.
The setting for this origin story is the 1940’s, and the world is at war. Hitler has conquered much of Europe. His best scientist Johann Schmidt (played with scenery chewing relish by Hugo Weaving) is harnessing technology and creating weapons of mass destruction that will bring the war to an early conclusion. But Schmidt is also obsessed with the occult, and has plans for world domination. With the aid of the Tesseract - a strange mystical object from Norway with special powers - he may well achieve his aim.
Meanwhile In America, Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a former colleague of Strauss’s who defected before war erupted, is also working on a similar project to create a super strong soldier. Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans, who previously appeared as a superhero in The Fantastic Four) is a 90-pound asthmatic weakling who is declared unfit for military service despite his enthusiasm to enlist. Things change for Rogers when Erskine selects him to become the guinea pig in his secret experiment. Before long, Rogers is transformed into a strapping, muscled warrior.
But he is considered more of a sideshow, shunted off to make patriotic movies and spruik war bonds. When his best friend James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) goes missing behind enemy lines, Rogers heads off to war in the guise of Captain America. Armed with an indestructible Vibranium shield he is almost invincible. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles Of Narnia, etc) remain faithful to the jingoistic spirit of the original comic book and there is something old fashioned about Captain America that becomes endearing. The film has the flavour of a Saturday afternoon matinee or boy’s own adventure yarn. There are some great special effects here, and having helmed films like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, etc, director Joe Johnston is a dab hand at this kind of CGI-enhanced cinema. There are some anachronistic touches of sci-fi, with Schmidt’s fantastical laser weapons and modern technology. Johnston is a protégé of Spielberg’s, and he also handles the spectacular action sequences well. Johnston also steeps the film in authentic period detail. There are also solid contributions from cinematographer Shelly Johnson and production designer Rick Heinrichs.
Evans does a good job as the likeable square-jawed superhero, and he brings a touch of humour to the material. Tommy lee Jones lends his usual gruff and sarcastic presence to his role as Colonel Phillips, who is in charge of the super soldier project. And Hayley Atwell brings beauty and a feisty quality to her role as Peggy Carter, a British Intelligence officer liaising with the project. Dominic Cooper has fun as multi-millionaire inventor Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man’s Tony Stark. Toby Jones plays Schmidt’s brilliant collaborator Dr Arnim Zola.
Like so many other big budget action movies of late, Captain America has been retrofitted for 3D, although again the process really adds little to the film.
There’s even a clever post-credits sequence that whets the appetite for the upcoming Avengers movie! Captain America is a solid action adventure, and one of the better comic book adaptations to hit the big screen in recent years.