Captain America lives up to the hype
Back in the days of World War II, Uncle Sam extended the call and young men crammed recruiting offices and enlisted in the Armed Forces. Unlike unpopular “wars,” the teens and men had no qualms about enlisting. They felt less than masculine if no branch of the military service wanted them.
Young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a 90-pound asthmatic, badly wanted to be “able bodied,” but recruiters told him he was “4F” — unfit for military duty. Unwilling to take rejection for an answer, the young man, who was often a victim of alley attacks, volunteers for an experimental “super soldier” program. The transformation would soon be under way.
Filmed with a worn darkened tone, “Captain America: The First Avenger” pristinely captures the era threatened not simply by Hitler but a separate organization known as Hydra and led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
Strengthened by meaningful snap crackle pop (“someone get that [skinny] kid a sandwich”) dialogue, the film grasps a commodity often neglected or forgotten in superhero flicks: It immediately establishes empathy for Rogers through an aforementioned alley beating. His good-natured personality compounds with determined resolution.
“Captain America” contains elements of the 1940s (chorus line, bond drives, and Nazis), but the film blasts into a cliffhanger on steroids through 21st-Century effects, including foot and car chases through New York City and a drop on a speeding train. Initially, assigned to entertainment “promotional” activities, Rogers abilities go past a simpleton wearing tights and holding a shield. Eventually, Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell), a member of the experimental team, helps smuggle him on a rescue mission, where one-on-one fights and specialized weaponry debut.
Don’t be fooled that this is a super hero at war flick. The superstitions, the occult and mastery of extraordinary destructive powers elevate the stakes. Yet, students of history ably understand subtle symbolic insertions, such that the development of more powerful weapons equates elements of the nuclear bomb building Manhattan Project.
Evans evokes both a humble aspect (“Asking a woman to dance is terrifying”) and the requisite bravery, endurance and sacrifice.
By the way, don’t leave your seats, there’s a tantalizing Summer 2012 preview after the credits.
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