In the run up to the much anticipated Avengers film, Marvel Studios have finally released the last origin story of the tale ahead of its release next summer. Captain America: The first Avenger grants us a look into the beginnings of Earth’s most noble hero while maintaining the recent Marvel pattern of giving us a film that is not only well paced and action packed, but also true to the original text.
Set in the middle of the Second World War, Captain America follows the path of a young recruit by the name of Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) whose frail physique means he is forced to watch on the sidelines as the rest of his generation heads off to fight the Fuehrer. But after being given the chance to volunteer for a secret project by Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), Rogers is injected with a serum which increases every physical attribute to superhuman levels. Under the command of Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), the newly crowned Captain America is pitted against Nazi Johann Schimdt (Hugo Weaving), a high ranking Nazi officer with a few hidden surprises of his own.
One thing that will become apparent is that this is a much simpler concept than some of the other Marvel titles of recent years. There is no damnation of the military-industrial complex here, nor will you find any grand journeys of self discovery and humility. At its heart, Captain America is decidedly old school, a throwback to the simplicity of old westerns where you could cheer the good guy and boo the baddie. Given its 1940s setting this style works well, giving us an uncomplicated, noble hero to see us through. Visually the film owes more to the like of Band of Brothers and Inglorious Basterds than it does Thor or Iron man, with Joe Johnson and his team having done a great job of recreating the look and feel of both the period and the conflict.
As Captain America, Evans always had a tough job on his hands. If played wrongly the character could have come across as boring or self righteous, but he manages to tread the line and bring us a Cap who is both noble and naive, a man who wants to do the right thing no matter what it costs him personally. Jones snaps and snarls his way through the film as Colonel Phillips, while Weaving brings a healthy dose of megalomania to the murderous Schmidt. Balancing out all the testosterone is relative unknown Hayley Atwell as English intelligence officer and love interest Peggy Carter, who along with good supporting turns from the likes of Tucci and Dominic Cooper does a nice job of keeping the whole thing ticking over.
All this said CA isn’t without its flaws. A slightly ponderous middle third means there are some who could feel a little bored, while the lack of certain characters will no down have some fanboys reaching for their keyboards with rage. In addition the final climactic battle felt a little stale after the build up, and seemed to be little more than a set up for the Avengers film. But overall this is a super hero film of the rarest breed, one that isn’t about hidden commentaries or the internal conflicts of the protagonist but instead focuses on the classic battle of good vs. evil, wrapped in a sugary coating of comic goodness.
And for that, I salute them.