The legend of the American hero is given a shot in the arm and pat on the back in the old school action/adventure Captain America: The First Avenger.
Released during a time when disdain for America is at its highest, Captain America could possibly be the hardest adaptation that Marvel studios have faced. In fact, considering this superhero is essentially wearing the American flag, it should be considered a minor miracle that it works so well.
Yet it is with intelligence, humour and fighting spirit that Captain America stands tall as one of the finest superhero movies, not to mention one of the most well acted thanks to its cast of young and veteran talent.
Stepping up to wear the red, white and blue is Chris Evans, previously seen in similar fare such as The Fantastic Four and The Losers. When we first met Evans it isn’t as the heroic buff Avenger, but as a scrawny kid from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers, with an impressive feat of visual effects transforming Evans into a dweeb version of himself.
The year is 1942 and America has joined the fight against the Nazi’s. Eager to serve is young Rogers, yet his feeble form and many ailments see him constantly denied. Viewing the fighting spirit, honour and proud patriotism (not to be confused with fanaticism) within Rogers is German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskrine (Stanley Tucci), who escaped Nazi rule to work with the American’s on a top secret experimental project to develop an army of super soldiers.
Rogers eagerly volunteers, and faster than a fat chick eats cake he is transformed into the perfect warrior: buff, fast and ready to kick fascist ass!
Evans is perfectly cast in the title role, which was hotly contested in a well publicised casting process. In look and physicality the man pulls off the clean cut American superhero figure, and layers it with humour and “oh gosh ma’am!” humility to make for an effective and ethical hero.
Yet a hero is nothing without a super villain and Captain America features a humdinger in The Red Skull, who is too evil for the Nazi’s, leads a terrorist organisation named Hydra and is dedicated to bringing the world down in flames.
Playing The Red Skull is Hugo Weaving, who brings his experience of playing sinister and one hell of an accent to the role. Also great are Stanley Tucci as the before mentioned Dr. Erskrine, Hayley Atwell as strong willed British agent Peggy Carter, Dominic Cooper as a young version of Howard Stark (father of Iron Man), and an in form Tommy Lee Jones as no-nonsense Colonel Chester Phillips.
The choice of Joe Johnston as director is an inspired one. While his remake of The Wolfman was critically blasted (with the exception of this humble critic), Johnston’ 1991 film The Rocketeer still stands as an underrated WWII era tale of adventure, heroism, and good vs evil.
The man simply has a knack visually and structurally for this type of storytelling, and has no qualms in poking fun at the Captain America legend, with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely taking on decades of comic book history and creating a smart, thrilling and at times satirical look at the American hero.
It’s been a while since ol’ glory stood tall in a movie. All together now: “O say can we sing...”