Trouble with Comics

Captain America (2011)

Marvel continues to grow their film version of the Marvel Universe with this period adventure, which of course tells the tale of scrawny young patriot Steve Rogers, who becomes the burly, superpowered Captain America, WWII hero who is eventually thawed out by the end with the promise of modern era adventures as one of the mighty Avengers.

Director Joe (The Rocketeer) Johnston knows from period adventure, and he also knows how to create believable, likable characters. Although star Chris Evans isn’t the most nuanced or even charismatic of actors, he knows how to deliver his lines effectively, and fortunately Johnston gives him plenty to work with. Rogers isn’t just a hero but a good friend, shy with women, and filled with compassion for the little guy, because he’s just a little guy at heart. That’s what ultimately sells the movie, though the action sequences and old fashioned romance at the heart of it are pretty good, too.

As far as the rest of the cast, Tommy Lee Jones walks through his role, but his walking through is better than most actors, and Haley Atwell is a comely, fierce Peggy Carter, probably a stronger character than she has been portrayed in most of her comics appearances. Steve’s friend and eventual sidekick Bucky isn’t given as much to do as comics fans would probably wish for, nor are Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos much more than winking Easter eggs, but still, they’re fine. Hugo Weaving is a terrific Red Skull, and I only wished we caught a glimpse of Arnim Zola in his Kirby-designed, face-in-chest version, but maybe next time. Dominic Cooper as Tony’s dad, Howard Stark, has real presence, and is very enjoyable as essentially a more focused version of his son. I can’t imagine many comics fans objecting to the change in continuity here to closely tie Stark with the origin of Cap, since it’s done so well. Also look out for the nod to Phineas Horton and the Human Torch, but no Namor. A solid effort that even my mom, never a superhero fan, thought was good, old-fashioned fun. As always with the Marvel films, stay through the credits (a terrific title sequence) for a sneak peek at the next film, in this case Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Do not bother with the 3D version—the film wasn’t shot in 3D and almost no shots take advantage of it. 

—Christopher Allen