Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America’s used to reboots. He was one of the most popular comic book heroes in the world during his wartime heyday, but once the 50s dawned the Hitler-punching superman was canned for a decade or so when his fans lost interest. However, he rocketed back to the big time in the 60s when the fledgling Avengers found his body frozen in a block of ice and reanimated him to lead their team. The Cap has been a comics stalwart ever since; but in an age of dark, anarchic and eminently realistic superhero films, how will his bright colours and uncomplicated patriotism stand up? Quite well, as it turns out.
It’s 1941, and all right-thinking young American men are enlisting in the US Army to give Hitler a bloody nose – all, that is, except for Steve Rogers of Brooklyn, NYC. Steve (Evans) is a brave, principled young man who wants nothing more than to join up, but he’s unfortunately also a consumptive little weed with a list of ailments longer than he is tall. His dreams of serving his country seem destined to be dashed, but when refugee German scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears his plight he offers Steve a chance – only a chance, mind – of changing his fate.
Erskine has developed a secret formula which stimulates the human body to grow to its full potential, creating Olympic athletes with the strength of ten in just seconds. Steve is submitted for the treatment under the auspices of the beautiful Agent Carter (Atwell), but a terrorist attack destroys the secret of the serum and leaves the newly buff Steve a lonely oddity. It looks as if he may never make it to the front line, but when Nazi general Johann Schmidt (Weaving) goes rogue along with his secretive, cultlike Deep Science division, there’s only one man up to the job of bringing him down…
The hugely successful and popular Thor, which starred Chris Hemsworth as a substantially cooler hero than Captain America (man got a HAMMER), was always going to be a hard act for Marvel to follow. I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Captain America is an uncompromisingly exciting romp through a fictionalised Forties world where Nazis have faceless Stormtrooper masks and laser rifles, 3D gouts of flame billow around the place like a Balrog’s bedsheets five hours after a particularly potent Orc curry, everyone bases their outfits on characters from Indiana Jones and Dominic Cooper (playing Tony Stark/Iron Man’s father Howard) has literally built a hovercar. Standard.
There are clunky aspects aplenty, but there’s lots to love as well. The overarching plot is solid enough to excuse the slew of filler scenes slotted in to break up the action, the extraordinarily convincing CG work which turned Chris Evans into a 98 pound weakling more than makes up for yet another shoddy 3D conversion job, and the utterly delicious combination of Tommy Lee Jones (“Get that man a sandwich!”), Stanley Tucci (“Do you want to kill Nazis?”) and Dominic Cooper (can’t remember any quotes, but he twinkled like nobody’s business) means you’ll barely notice the bits where poor, talented, perennially underused Chris Evans has to limp through another line about how unassuming and quietly noble he is. Hugo Weaving reprises his role as Agent Smith (except this time with more leather), Hayley Atwell is cracking – and gorgeous – as the surprisingly feisty and well-written female lead and Samuel L Jackson now officially gives even less of a shit than Anthony ‘cyber eyepatch, bitches!’ Hopkins.
So, then – three and a quarter stars for two hours of generally competent nonsense, but a cheeky extra quarter star for the easter egg which awaits you if you sit through twenty-five hours of credits – a lightning scene about which I won’t say anything (other than that it’s very satisfying) and then the first Avengers trailer! It’s AMAZING. Don’t miss Captain America; it’s not that it’s amazingly good, but if you drop the ball now you’ll be hopelessly lost by next year. The assembly has begun, and it looks rather exciting.