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Author: JoAnne Hyde
July 21, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER focuses on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes and Peggy Carter to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull.

Captain America: The First Avenger takes theaters by storm today as audiences experience a taste of World War II since the majority of the film takes place during that time period. Most of the story is told in flashback with a present-day frame at the beginning and end.

Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, wonderfully portrayed by Chris Evans, is the 90-pound weakling with the heart of a hero. Despite being declared 4F, unfit for duty, numerous times, he keeps trying to volunteer to defend home and country and is rejected time after time. That is, until Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a brilliant scientist and refugee from Nazi Germany, offers him the chance to transform into a “super soldier” via a risky serum Erskine has invented. Unbeknownst to Rogers is that while still under Nazi control, the serum was tried before being perfected by the villainous Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). For reasons that will become apparent due to the side effects of the imperfect version of the serum, Schmidt’s alter-ego, The Red Skull, has decided that the Nazi agenda is too timid, so he has become a renegade who is trying to create his own agenda of world domination known as Hydra. You may think, at first, that Captain America will be battling Nazis, but you’ll soon learn that the real enemy is Schmidt and his minions, who look like mini-Darth Vaders in their black suits and helmets.

Tommy Lee Jones gives his usual gruff, tough-guy performance, but he is quite effective as the general who’s completely skeptical about the whole Captain America thing. In fact, he’s not disappointed when, at first, Captain America is assigned to the USO to go on tour to promote war bond sales. Steve Rogers is, however, very disappointed, but he adjusts to his role until he encounters “real” soldiers, war-hardened and unreceptive to his hero status, whom he finally gets to rescue from harm’s way and, thus, get into the action. One of these soldiers is his best buddy from boyhood, James “Bucky” Barnes, well-played by Sebastian Stan. After the rescue, Barnes and his buddies join Rogers to fight against Hydra, naturally.

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One problem I had with the film is that while these characters were interesting, the audience doesn’t really learn much about them. In fact, I wouldn’t have known their names if I hadn’t looked up the cast list. They each have several funny lines, but there’s no real background stories -- so you don’t really know them. Yet, they’re very important to the resolution of the plot.

A very pleasant surprise is Hayley Atwell who portrays Peggy Carter, British agent and love interest of Steve Rogers. She’s no ditzy dame who defers to the male characters. She’s a gutsy gal who can stand her ground and shoot with the best of them. The love aspect, however, gets the short shrift in the story and often feels as if it was included just because these super heroes always have a girlfriend.

There is as much action in the film as anyone could possibly desire, and it’s a typical, summer-film crowd-pleaser. The preview crowd applauded at the end and most of them stayed through the credits to see a promised trailer for the upcoming The Avengers which actually did not happen. Instead, there was just a statement that Captain America would be seen in that film.

The CGI “body shrinking” technique used on Evan’s character for the first part of the film is fascinating, and the beefed-up (beautifully beefed-up I might add!) Captain America physique was extremely difficult to come by and maintain, Evans has said in interviews. I’m sorry he had to suffer for his art, but he came out looking mighty good! Even though the film is filled with action, it still seemed to me to drag a bit, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the plot is thin -- typical super hero against super villain stuff -- without enough character development or inner turmoil.

Frankly, Chris Nolan’s BATMAN films have spoiled me so that now I expect a little more complexity than this film offers. However, this film does offer plenty of thrills and dazzling special effects.

GRADE: B

JoAnne Hyde Likes film.
She likes to write.
So she combines those two loves by reviewing films for BOF

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