If you dislike America, stop reading this and make sure you avoid watching “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Now, for all the rest of you that either are Americans, like America or love America, and don’t mind indulging in a bit of unabashed patriotism, and more than a bit of intense, adrenaline charged action, you have found the movie you have been waiting for. “Captain America” overcomes a mediocre storyline with a combination of superb acting, an obvious care for the Marvel subject matter, thrilling action sequences, and a pure American spirit about it that will test your ability to control the urge to jump up and yell “America!”
“Captain America” is essentially your stereotypical superhero/action movie, but infused with a heavy dose of “USA.” Steve Rogers (excellently portrayed by Chris Evans) is a brave-hearted, but feeble-bodied young man from Brooklyn, who is selected to be the recipient of a top-secret super soldier serum for the purpose of helping to tip World War II in favor of the Allies. Meanwhile, the even-worse-than-your-average-Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), otherwise known as Red Skull, who was also injected with the serum, heads the Nazi’s top secret science research division: HYDRA. These are Nazis with even more ambitious plans than Hitler himself, as Skull harnesses the power of an ancient tool of the Norse gods (the cosmic cube) to power the most destructive and terrifying weapons the world has yet known for the purpose of not merely subduing Europe, but the entire world. The film follows our Captain as he leads American forces (and, of course, his British special forces girlfriend) from HYDRA base to HYDRA base, systematically pulverizing poor Skull’s work in a satisfyingly in-your-face American style.
Despite the storyline being utterly predictable and holding not a single surprise, “Captain America” is an enjoyable thrill ride because it harkens back to classic action films we’ve all seen before, and embraces the stereotype and embellishes it. All the ingredients are there: the noble, honorable hero; the diabolical evil genius with hordes of well armed minions; the villain’s short scientist accomplice; the older, bitingly sarcastic, and hard as nails American officer; and, of course, the headstrong sidekick girlfriend, who also happens to be an excellent shot. But what takes a movie that comes perilously close to a “been there, done that feel” and turns it into a classic is “The First Avenger’s” heart.
All the actors pour themselves into their parts, and it is obvious that all involved enjoyed making the movie. Chris Evans shines as Steve Rogers, portraying both sides of the character wonderfully: the weakling whose only strength is his pure, honest, never back down mentality (a decidedly American trait) and also the famed Captain, whose only weakness is an awkwardness around the ladies. Hugo Weaving takes the Red Skull and pours himself into making the character as evil as possible, and we as the audience reap the rewards. From his slick black car to his numerous laser weapons, to his Stormtrooper-esque hordes of minions, huge evil looking aircraft and oversized tanks, Skull is just a plain awesome villain in every sense of the term. Tommy Lee Jones nails his role as Colonel Phillips, his biting sarcasm and one-liners turning more than few lame moments in the film into scenes that will make you laugh out loud. (Plus he’s a beast with a shotgun) Hayley Atwell also does an admirable job as Peggy Carter, saving a romance subplot that has “forced” written all over it, and keeping it believable, even if it is not pulling at your heartstrings. (In actuality a rather impressive feat, as the Captain America/Peggy Carter relationship has “only in Hollywood” written all over it. Maybe it’s just that we don’t like seeing Captain America fall for a Brit…)
Ultimately, it is the glorious over the top action sequences that will leave the biggest impression on you, if not simply because they have such an American flair. One roughly five minute sequence in which Captain America charges a HYDRA base and attacks it head on alone is worth the price of admission. Our beloved hero weaves his way through a forest, pursued by countless masked soldiers on their own bikes, in a sequence reminiscent to the speeder bike chase in “Return of the Jedi.” As the Captain busts his way through a roadblock and goes to town on what looks to be hundreds of Skull’s men, you can’t help but feel your heart race and adrenaline skyrocket. Everything about it is just plain American. He brazenly grapples, punches and kicks, dodging, blocking and performing quite a few nifty tricks with his shield in one of the most “just plain awesome” superhero vs. evil henchman sequences seen since “The Dark Knight.”
All in all, “Captain America” is your normal action film, but with a decidedly American twist and spirit that carries the film. Watching Steve Rogers, dressed in that infamous red, white, and blue, dismantle the hordes of evil henchmen of an evil Nazi is just about the most fun I have ever had sitting in a movie theater. From start to finish “Captain America” is just plain American. It’s our hero, leading our boys, doing things our way taking on that most evil of evils: Nazis. “I have seen the future,” the Red Skull says to our star spangled crusader, “and it has no flags.” Thankfully though, this movie has such an American sense of in-your-face, me versus you, good versus evil, line in the sand, whatever it takes spirit with a good dose of patriotism that we as the audience know that Skull was wrong.
Go ahead: sit through this movie without once shouting, saying, or even whispering: “America!” I dare you.