For comic book fans, super-hero movies have a tendency to disappoint as often as they thrill. We tend to look upon them with skepticism, unsure if Hollywood genuinely cares about the characters as we do, or are they just out to make a buck. Captain America: The First Avenger is for me one of the few that succeeds where so many fail. It is an inspiring thrill ride, with a subtle message that transcends politics and cultural boundaries.
I won’t bother with the origin of Captain America, since as comic book fans we are all familiar with it. And if you don’t know it, I won’t spoil the movie for you. But screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely managed to get at the heart of the character in a typical two-prong attack: Chris Evans, as Steve Rogers/Captain America, ably manages to portray the good Captain without coming across as silly, cheesy or as some laughable caricature. Stanley Tucci, as Dr. Abraham Erskine, is able to identify for the audience what it is about Rogers that makes him the perfect candidate for the Operation: Rebirth program. He simply is, as the doctor puts it, “a good man.”
All of these qualities come through, not in the action sequences, but in the dialogue, which at times is funny, poignant, and heartfelt. To no great surprise, Tommy Lee Jones gets many of the best lines (perhaps he's still channeling his Same Gerard character from The Fugitive). Whether that’s a result of the acting or the writing is hard to say, but it works for everyone involved, and that’s all that matters.
Of course, it’s different in matters involving the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), whose over-the-top posturing as the self-proclaimed Master of the Master Race only serves to illustrate who certifiably insane he is (and with good reason, as Dr. Erskine explains).
Set during WW II, the story is told in a straight-forward fashion, with little in the way of stylized camera trickery or production design. It inhabits a real world in which science helps create the ultimate soldier, and is thereby believable. But it’s the character of Steve Rogers who, even before his transformation, serves as an inspiration to others to be, simply put, “a good man.”
If you have the opportunity to see it in 3D, I recommend it. Some of the shield slinging may seem excessive, the 3d makes it worthwhile. And look for a number of Marvel Comics Easter eggs, most notably during the World's Fair scene.