Captain America: The First Avenger is the best Marvel Comics film adaptation yet since their release of the first Iron Man film (which I also tremendously enjoyed, in no small part to Robert Downey, Jr. nailing the essence of that flick's protagonist). If you enjoy period romps like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Rocketeer, and the Mummy, then this is the superhero flick for you.
With a story set in the 1940s during WWII and book-ended by two scenes that take place in the present day, director Joe Johnston provides a fun, straightforward superhero film that delivers the goods like a champ (not surprising, considering his hand in the Rocketeer film and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series).
Chris Evans does an excellent job portraying the earnestness and moral strength of character possessed by Captain America's alter ego Steve Rogers
, both before and after his transformation from 98 pound weakling to Adonis-like star spangled champion of truth, justice and the American way. Hugo Weaving is equally adroit in his portrayal of Captain America's nemesis and opposite number, the villainous and megalomaniacal Red Skull. Dominic Cooper's turn as Howard Stark (the Howard Hughes-ian father of Tony Stark/Iron Man) left me eagerly awaiting the sparks that should fly when Chris Evans' Captain America and Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man meet on the silver screen in the upcoming Avengers film in 2012.
The cinematography and set design was excellent, whether it capturing an idealized spirit of New York in the 1940s or any of the other locales in the film. Musically, there's a USO patriotic song and dance number that could have been pulled straight from Irving Berlin, which serves as the high point of the film's otherwise unmemorable score. It would have been nice to have had a clear and identifiable hero's theme, a la John Williams' Raiders March from Indiana Jones or his theme from Superman, but at least the score wasn't distracting or tonally off.
All in all, the movie delivered what I wanted to see - Captain America fighting fascists. My only real quibble with the film was taking the Red Skull away from a pointed role in the Nazi leadership and instead placing him into the generically villainous world dominating tentacles of Hydra. Nazis make great villains - they were wrong and needed to be stopped, plain and simple. I suppose with the film having a PG13 rating and all the kids flocking to see it, maybe someone somewhere in Hollywood thought honest-to-goodness Nazis might have been a bit much, but I for one would have enjoyed a little more Saving Private Ryan mixed into the film's DNA.
PS: Make sure you stick around for the post-credits teaser scene, which will leave you waiting for Joss Whedon's The Avengers in 2012!
RATING: 4 out 5 Stars (and Stripes)!