For those of you who may be hesitant to see "Captain America: The First Avenger" because you're afraid you'll be watching the Human Torch in a two-hour-long preview for the upcoming "Avengers" movie, have no fear.
I was unhappy with the casting choice of Chris Evans at first, mainly because in the Marvel universe, Captain America and the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four could theoretically run into each other.
Worst case scenario, I could almost picture a horribly cheesy green-screened scene from a Marvel movie sometime in the future where a very patriotic Chris Evans says "Hey, handsome!" to a Chris Evans on fire.
But it turns out, watching "Captain America," you kind of forget about the Human Torch. I think Marvel would just prefer everybody forget about the "Fantastic Four" movies altogether, to be honest.
The other pleasant surprise is that "The Avengers" ties are fairly toned down. Besides some references to Thor's father Odin and a superb performance by Tony Stark's father Howard (Dominic Cooper, "The Duchess"), "Captain America" is really able to stand on its own.
In the film, a scrawny Steve Rogers tries five times to enlist in the U.S. Army at the height of World War II. He is finally given a chance by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones") to be the subject of an experimental serum that amplifies his abilities, making him a super soldier.
Rogers, who at first can only use his newfound talents as a spokesperson selling bonds for the Army, proves his worth by rescuing 400 captured soldiers from the menacing head of HYDRA, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, "The Matrix").
There he learns that, under Hitler's guidance, Schmidt harnessed the "power of the gods," a power source handed down from Oden, which he has channeled into weapons that could destroy the world in a matter of hours.
Schmidt also previously injected himself with Erskine's serum, giving him strength to match Captain America's but also amplifying the evil inside him and thus being aptly named Red Skull.
The action sequences are intense and easy to follow, with a good use of 3D as Captain America flings his shield like a Frisbee toward the camera and rides zip lines onto moving trains.
But it's the supporting characters that really add the heart and humor to the movie. Rogers's best friend James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan, "Rachel Getting Married") believably emotes an established history and camaraderie with our hero. Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones, "No Country for Old Men") has some of the best one-liners that add just the right amount of comic relief right when it's needed. Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, also from "The Duchess") is strong and collected as the female lead and also handy with a gun.
And a special shout-out goes to my favorite "that guy" actor Neal McDonough ("Minority Report") as Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan, who looks fantastic with a handlebar mustache and a bowler hat. He should just look like that always.
The only problem I have with Steve Rogers as a character is that he's noble to the point where he becomes uninteresting. Rogers was chosen for the serum because he was a "good man." At the end, he still is.
He has no inward faults, nothing about himself to realize, which results in almost identical exchanges of dialogue between him and the Red Skull as he had with a bully in a back alley in the first 10 minutes of the film. Not that I think all superheroes should be required to be as brooding as Bruce Wayne, but a little character development isn't too much to ask.
All in all, "Captain America: The First Avenger" is a pleasant and enjoyable summer action superhero movie.
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The First Avenger"
The Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequence of sci-fi violence and action. Running time: 126 minutes.