Actor Chris Evans has the power to be a superhero
BY JOE TYRRELL
Amongst Hollywood's chief weapons are superheroes, Nazis and recycled ideas, so "Captain America: The First Avenger" represents the state-of-the-summer-art.
Rated TB for "Tween Boy," this brisk World War II adventure is a half step up from most of the comic book-inspired features that have cluttered our cineplexes in recent months and years.
That's fitting, because this comic began with more of an agenda than most. Created by writer Joe Simon and artist "Jack Kirby" (Jacob K), the first issue of "Captain America" appeared in March 1941, nine months before the United States entered the war. But the cover showed the hero slugging Adolf Hitler.
Unlike most comic-book flicks not featuring Batman, the script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely requires a leading man who has some power of acting. Although he may be best known from yet another superhero franchise, as the Fantastic 4's Johnny Storm, Chris Evans exhibits the necessary skills.
Computer-downsized into scrawny Steve Rogers, whose bouillabaisse of ailments continually thwarts his attempts to join his buddies enlisting in the service, Evans makes the character's fundamental decency and courage apparent.
While buff best pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) gets the ladies, Steve catches the eye of sane scientist Abraham Erskine. A German émigré hoping to build a better world but willing to settle for a super soldier, Erskine is charmingly played by Stanley Tucci as though he suspects he's really in a Mel Brooks movie.
Erskine has anticipated our steroid era and soon sticks willing volunteer Steve full of precious body-building fluids, then slaps him into a metal sarcophagus to be bombarded with manta rays, or something.
From labs to factories, motorcycles to planes, the imaginary and inexplicable 1940s technology is another highlight of this movie, with Rick Heinrichs heading the production design team. Today, the look might be called Light Steampunk, but since this in set 70 years ago, Retro Futurism will have to do. (Characters even perform the neat trick of visiting the 1939 World's Fair in 1942.)
Even as Erskine and his team work for the Allies, though, the forces of evil have assembled their own tech team, albeit more mystically oriented. The always reliable Hugo Weaving is in fine form as their leader, Johann Schmidt, a mastermind so diabolical that he cannot abide Nazi inefficiency.