Captain America: Bringing the comic book to the big screen

The summer superhero flood of movies continues with the release of yet another Avengers-prequel, Captain America: The First Avenger.

In comparison to the other Avengers-prequel movies this summer, I’d rank Captain America squarely in the middle. It’s better than Green Lantern, but not quite as good as Thor. This time it’s clear that the movie exists solely as a setup for another movie, evidenced by the name of the next movie being in the title. I do think Captain America can stand on its own, however.

What makes Captain America a fairly good movie experience is a cool retro vibe, a fun song-and-dance sequence and some nifty CGI work. It’s very much an origin story, which is helpful for someone like me, who has never read a Captain America comic book before.

The retro vibe is due to the 1940s, World War II setting in which the film takes place. The early setup is engaging, as the audience will really feel for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a diminutive young man who desperately wants to sign up for the military but is always turned away because of his various ailments.

Captain America isn’t Evans’ first crack at a comic book movie. He played Johnny Storm in two Fantastic Four movies, Jensen in The Losers and Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim vs. World. However, he really gets a chance to stand out in Captain America as Steve, an ordinary guy who gets some extraordinary powers that allow him to save the world.

Steve’s powers come from his signing up to be a lab rat (a science experiment) and injected with a serum that gives him some super strong abilities. The visual techniques used to transform Evans from his tall, muscular physique to just his head on a diminutive person looked very realistic.

Steve is eventually able to put his powers to good use as Captain America fighting for the United States in World War II.

The drawbacks to Captain America are that it’s bit slow at times and really felt like it took a while to get going. The main villain Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is also forgettable. Haley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, a British military officer and Captain America’s love interest. The character was often a bit dull for me, and I didn’t think there was enough chemistry between Atwell and Evans.

I liked the tie-in to Tony Stark/Iron Man, as his father, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), has a pretty big role in Captain America.

The movie is very pro-America (surprise, surprise, though thankfully it doesn’t beat you over the head with it). It would have made a good 4th of July weekend release, though I suppose Transformers already had that weekend locked up.

There is a “superhero formula” and Captain America doesn’t deviate from what audiences have come to expect. Therefore, it is definitely starting to feel like, if you’ve seen one comic book movie, you’ve seen them all. Gone are the anticipation and excitement over the lone summer comic book adaptation on the big screen.

Still, Captain America provides above-average entertainment for moviegoers looking for some summer fun. ••

Movie Grade: B