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USA 2011
Directed by
Joe Johnston
124 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Captain America: The First Avenger

Synopsis: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a 90 pound weakling who wants to serve in the US Army during WW2. He gets his shot when Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) spots him trying to enlist for the fifth time. He’s part of a secret government research facility trying to create a super-soldier. But the Nazis have their own plans, and soon Rogers is on a collision course with Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) and his organisation, Hydra.

Beginning with a scrawny Rogers trying to enlist, we watch as he’s knocked back again and again. He doesn’t lack for spirit, but he’s just not made of the right stuff. Then, thanks to a secret serum he’s transformed into a super-soldier, but he still isn’t wanted. Program chief Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) envisioned an army of super-soldiers, but thanks to Nazi sabotage he ends up with just one. So Rogers becomes Captain America, a costumed symbol like Uncle Sam, trotted out across the US to encourage people to buy war bonds. It’s not your typical comic book path to heroism, and it’s a smart nod towards the historical propaganda value of a character who first turned up in comic books in 1941. This unflattering beginning is what makes Captain America something special in the superhero genre..

Of course, destiny has greater things in mind for him, and while on a USO tour in Italy he discovers his best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), has been captured by Hydra. So, prop shield in hand, he launches a one-man commando raid on the base to rescue his friend. And thus is born Captain America, the war hero. With the men he rescued he forms a commando squad and goes after Hydra and Schmidt. The main plotline concerns a cube that provides unlimited energy, and Schmidt’s plans to use that power for world domination. But the focus is really on Rogers, and his evolution from an image into something of substance.

Captain America rockets along at a good clip, never bores and only occasionally falters. The final face-off between Rogers and Schmidt feels a little underdone, and the way Schmidt is dispatched isn’t exactly the most satisfying of ends to a villain, but it’s still very entertaining. It’s simple, Boys Own Adventure stuff: the bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, there’s no grey and heroism wins out, though at a cost. There’s no post-modern self-reflexivity, no attempt to darken the character or make the story “gritty”, just a good dose of sharp wit and lots of great characters. A perfect companion piece to Johnston’s previous 1940’s action film, The Rocketeer, Captain America (let’s ignore that stupid subtitle) is a deftly-made piece of pulpy nostalgic fun.




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