July 27, 2011
Chris Evans must be getting used to playing a chiselled superhero by now.
He was the fire-wielding Human Torch in the forgettable Fantastic Four franchise and now headlines Marvel’s latest venture, the fun and action-packed Captain America: The First Avenger.
To play the “star spangled man with a plan” (yep, that’s an actual line), Evans packed on a reported 15 pounds of muscle, but he’s no beefcake for the first third of the movie.
Thanks to the help of special effects, when the film starts, it’s 1941 and Steve Rogers (Evans) is a brave but skinny dweeb desperate to join the army.
He’s deemed unfit for military service, but a kind German scientist (Stanley Tucci) sees promise beneath Rogers’ spindly frame and selects him to be a guinea pig in his top secret research project.
All it takes is a special serum and voila! Weakling Rogers becomes super soldier Captain America.
It’s a great back-story for the straightforward character and gets you rooting for him to succeed as the underdog.
Against the other Marvel characters, Captain America doesn’t have Iron Man’s suit or the cool powers of Thor or The Hulk.
Instead, he’s an enhanced human, equipped with a shield that can withstand pretty much anything.
And he’ll need it against evil villain Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his organisation Hydra.
Red Skull also played in the laboratory with the scientist’s serum and is a enhanced human, but with disastrous side-affects.
Intent on global domination, he’s found a mysterious blue cube left on earth by the gods, which contains a power source great enough to wipe out the eastern seaboard of America in one hour.
And seeing as he is a whole bunch of crazy and thinks he is akin to a god, Red Skull’s pretty keen on using it in some hi-tech weaponry.
What’s annoying is that you never really fully understand what the blue cube is, and how Red Skull knew about it and what to do with it.
Audiences will probably have to wait until next year’s The Avengers to find out what it all means.
Weaving is near unrecognisable for most of the film, but even so, he has a powerful presence as a kind of a cross between Darth Vader and his Matrix character Agent Smith.
The backdrop of WWII provides an excellent vehicle for his story, as it’s explained that Hydra originally began as the science division for the Nazis.
Reminders of this remain, like the Nazi-esque clothes worn by Red Skull and his minions, and their less-than-subtle call of, “Hail Hydra!”.
Generally, the period costuming of the entire film is excellent, but much of Hydra’s weaponry and research facilities just looks too modern.
As Captain America, Evans gives a solid performance that makes the character’s borderline corny patriotism easier to swallow.
But you don’t ever really feel emotionally for this super soldier, even when tragic events occur.
As his love interest Peggy Carter, Hayley Atwell isn’t the predictable damsel in distress of other superhero films and believably pulls off being a capable English agent.
Luckily, the sappiness of some of her scenes with Evans are also saved by the brilliant Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips.
He’s arguably the best character in the film – a straightforward, no nonsense officer with a dry wit and knockout quips.
Brit Dominic Hooper is believable as Howard Stark – the father of Iron Man (aka Tony Stark), but doesn’t bring the same level of charisma to the table that Robert Downey Jr does.
Captain America might not be the most exciting Marvel superhero in theory, but on screen, it is thoroughly enjoyable and better than several of its predecessors.
Captain America: The First Avenger opens in Australian cinemas on July 28.