Captain America – The First Avenger is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight and it competes with Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2 for being the best Marvel adaptation. It isn’t the smartest movie ever made, not is it terribly original, but what it does, it does very well. It is a crowd-pleasing action movie, which is good enough.
The first portion of the movie consists of the travails of Steve Rogers, portrayed by a digitally altered Chris Evans. Steve is small, weak, and beset with health problems, but his spirit is strong, leading him to fight for decency even when he knows he is going to lose. A research scientist notices this about Rogers and soon he is selected to participate in a top secret project to create a better army. He comes out the other end of it as Captain America.
Evans does good work, especially during this first portion. It’s difficult work, because Captain America, like Superman in DC Comics, is envisioned as being pretty flawless. Still, Evans does great physical acting, making his own body an obstacle in the first half, even after he has grown into it. He finds the humor in odd scenes, but still conveys the sincerity that is trademark Captain America. It helps that he is surrounded by a great supporting cast, including Tommy Lee Jones as a cynical general, Hayley Atwell as his tough broad love interest, and Stanley Tucci as the scientist whose formula transforms him. Hugo Weaving also does good work as his soon-to-be nemesis.
The film does suffer from a bit too much CGI. It is hard to take some of the stunts seriously, as you can see the digital enhancements. However, the look of the movie (aside from these awkward moments) is perfect. The Hydra agents, Cap’s motorcycle, and the shield all look perfect. Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky, looks exactly like a Jack Kirby drawing. There are plenty of Easter Eggs for the observant in this film (though not as many as in X-Men First Class, I gather).
Unfortunately, the movie suffers at the end from a tacked on coda. Just do what I do and pretend that nothing happens after the scene with the garbage can lid. It’s a better ending than the one we wind up with.
If you a looking for a movie where the hero is unabashedly decent and a good role-model, this is your movie. Aside from a bad turn in the last 5-10 minutes, it is good storytelling, serving a propulsive plot. I can’t think of a better movie to take your PG-aged child to this summer.