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A review of Captain America: The First Avenger

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Posted: Friday, July 22, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:11 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

It’s no question that Director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Jurassic Park III) took a couple of pages from his movie “Rocketeer” to help mold this coming-of-strength comic story into an action-filled period piece that jumps off the screen.

“Captain America” was so genuinely wholesome, you’ll actually feel like you’re watching a movie from the 1940s.

Johnston gets everything right with the overall feel and look of the film. Set in Brooklyn circa 1942, we see a frail and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) who continues to sign up for the army even after being denied multiple times. However, Rogers doesn’t quit and eventually gets recruited by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) for the Super Solider Program. With help from the Dr. Erskine’s Super Solider Serum and Howard Stark’s (Dominic West) advanced machinery, a 90-pound Rogers is transformed to the muscle-bound, fast-footed Captain America.

I’m used to seeing Chris Evans in cockier roles, but in this film Evans is as humble and charming as he’s ever been, especially as the softhearted and digitally shrunken version of Rogers. I thought the other cast members, who were used to more serious and responsible roles were going to shadow Evans, but that didn’t happen; he held his role like it was as natural as breathing. So when he heads shield first into the fight against the Nazis’ secret science group Hydra, he recruits his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) who only builds on top of his already heroic stature.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely changed Stan’s character--which was typically written as Cap’s sidekick within the Marvel universe--into a heartier, more brash solider. This works well for Stan and allows him to be the Bucky who trades quips and shoots sniper rifles, instead of the pint-sized kid who smiles while doing back-flips. Along with Bucky, Cap has the beautiful, tough, pistol-totting Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) by his side. Carter plays her part expertly, not only as Rogers’ cherry-red lipped love interest, but also as his brazen comrade.

The other supporting Allied soldiers (Col. Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and slew of rag-tag “Howlin” commandos) share the same hard-nosed personas that make them just as dedicated as Cap to chasing down and destroying Hydra’s evil leader Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

Weaving is at home in his role and is no stranger to being a film’s main antagonist. His character’s sneering red face and eerie German accent give the actor a surprisingly creepy appeal over the film’s mostly uplifting story.

The Red Skull’s main goal is to use a mystical “Cosmic Cube” to harness God-like power, but this doesn’t stop Cap from racing toward Red Skull with his unstoppable “vibranium” shield and iconic red, white and blue uniform, created by Starks Enterprise.

The 3D effect is almost useless for the film; it is Steve Rogers’ modest upbringing and supernatural transition that drive the story. The action scenes are second only to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s 70-year-old tale of a boy from Brooklyn who never gave in.

The film does a great job tying in the other movies from the Marvel Universe: showing Starks' role in the Super Soldier Program, the source of the Cosmic Cube and even a cameo by Nick Fury. Joss Whedon, the director of next May’s “Avenger,” has a good chance to present a cohesive story.

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