It’s a cliche that nice guys finish last and bad boys get the girl – but it’s a cliche for a reason. If I had to pick between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark as the guy I’d bring home to mom and dad, Steve would win hands down. However, if I’m picking the guy I’d want to whisk me away for a weekend in Vegas, Steve ain’t cutting it – because he’s a nice guy, and nice guys can only get you so far. Steve’s movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is just like him – nice. And at the box office, as in life, nice only gets you so far.
“Captain America” is the final origin story in the Marvel comic series that will culminate in the “Avengers” movie due out in 2012. Packing Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America (and the mega-stars attached to those characters) into one movie will guarantee a stratospheric box office take, and hopefully a great movie too. We already have the 4-1-1 on Iron Man Tony Stark – times two – the Hulky Dr. Bruce Banner, and the Norse god Thor, so now we need to learn a bit about Captain America Steve Rogers. He started out as a 90 lb weakling dying to get into the US Army and fight in World War II. His anti-soldier “nice guy” tenacity gets him drafted into a super-secret scientific program that turns him into an uber-fighter, and the rest is comic book history.
This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s good. It’s not all rah-rah-America, which is also good. Rogers is put to work, but not at the front – he’s sent out on tour with dancing girls and a tacky costume to promote war bonds. It’s only after he’s ribbed by the real soldiers that he grows a pair and vows to bring down the evil Red Skull, Hitler’s head of science. There’s also a cool tie-in with Iron Man as Rogers works with Mr. Stark senior, the US government’s best weapons designer. I think the comic fanboys and girls will be happy to see some of Cap’s squad in the story, but like the movie version of Thor’s peeps, there’s not much to them.
This is the second turn at superhero-dom for Chris Evans, who played the Human Torch in the locally-shot Fantastic Four
movies. He’s equally compelling as the pre-experiment wimpy Steve and the post-experiment hefty Steve – the character is developed enough that you find yourself rooting for him. Director Joe Johnston, who cut his teeth with Steven Spielberg’s Industrial Light & Magic, used complex computer work to literally “shrink” Evans in the early scenes, and it’s seamless. Tommy Lee Jones shines as the gruff and cynical Col. Chester Phillips, as does Stanley Tucci in a too-brief turn as Dr. Erskine. Hugo Weaving is devilish as Red Skull – and strangely lacking the same body part as the villainous Lord Voldemort, but I digress. Rogers’ love interest is in the form of the sultry British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and there’s good chemistry between them.
Unfortunately, everything is on the bland side. The nice people are really nice, the evil guys are pretty much what you’d expect, and no one behaves in any surprising sort of way. I left knowing I liked the movie but not sure exactly why. As far as summer entertainment goes, it gets the job done, but Evans lacks the charismatic zing of Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, and Johnston doesn’t seem to have the directorial flair of Iron Man’s Jon Favreau. And aside from one instance where I literally jumped in my seat, the 3-D adds absolutely nothing. I hope it’s abandoned by the time “The Avengers” gets here.
2 hrs 4 minutes
Rated PG for frequent scenes of violence
3 out of 5 stars