Captain America: The First Avenger is a throw-back to the good 'ole days and a great one at that. Don't know who Captain America is? You sure will after Joe Johnston's big screen adaptation of the original Marvel superhero.
Chris Evans shines as the pure-hearted American soldier, Steve Rogers - a man who just wants to fight for his country. When we first meet Steve, he is a 5 foot 4 - 98 pound scrawny pipsqueak with the endurance of a 200 pound man. Scrawny Steve looks incredible thanks to stunning visual effects and accurate proportional comparison against the other characters.
The film, set in a WWII plagued 1942, is complete with all the details you'd expect in a period piece - right down to the hair-do's, miliary gear, and WWII rifles.
Steve longs to be part of the wartime hype, attempting to enlist many times under different alias' in a bid to serve his country. His constant rejection only makes him try harder and he quickly catches the eye of a German-America scientist, Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who injects him with an experimental cell-enhancement serum to make him the best soldier in America. But Erskine isn't looking for just anyone, he's looking for a man with "heart," which Rogers can provide in spades.
As always, Tucci brings a perfect amount of humor and stunning range to his performance - it would have been nice to see him just a little bit longer, but alas all good things must come to an end.
After an intense transformation in a little pod, Steve reappears as a gorgeous Greek god ready to take on anything and everything that stands in his way. He's a little unstable in his new skin, but shows off his new-found strength when a spy infiltrates the compound.
The spy is part of the evil force behind the war - a Nazi secret scientific division known as HYDRA, run by the notorious Red Skull.
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Before Steve is able to take on the important HYDRA mission, he is subjected to the kitschy performance aspect of the '40's USO stage shows. Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) doesn't know what to do with this new star and decides it would be best to make a spectacle out of him.
And we're subjected to it as well. The USO show is definitely entertaining, but is a highly corny anthem right smack in the middle. Just as we're ready for all the action, we have to watch Steve stand awkwardly on-stage, playing on all the old wartime propaganda films of the '40. It continues for far too long!
When Steve finally meets Red Skull, we are treated to the insatiable Hugo Weaving, decked out in a red Michael Jackson-esque lookalike costume. He is intent on using the power of the gods to take over the world, interestingly using a blue cube that is from another planet (Thor anyone?) to carry out his evil domination.
The strong female presence is not overlooked either. For a film set in the '40's, where there's an perfectly acceptable excuse to present the damsel in distress, Peggy Carter, played with a sensual charm by British actress Hayley Atwell, is one strong kick-ass woman. Unlike many male-centered comic book's, Peggy is presented as an equal - a true partner in every sense of the word.
The subtle romance between Steve and Peggy adds the perfect ambiance - the token sex scene would have been easy and appreciated by the teenage boy fanbase, but also would have cheapened the grace and charm the film evokes. Staying true to Steve's innocence, the romance maintains those same values, which ends up coming across sexier and more mysterious.
Evans brings just that right amount of innocence to the role. He's the perfect Captain America - boyish good looks, but doesn't know it and a heart of gold, without coming across as too self-righteous. The film is a great throw-back to a time when America produced a feeling of nostalgia and grace for countries around the world and everyone needed a force to look up to - perhaps Captain America can reignite that American charm.