DIRECTED BY Joe Johnston
STARS Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving
Even moviegoers suffering from superhero burnout might want to stand up and salute Captain America, which doesn't match the excellence of X-Men: First-Class but ranks ahead of fellow summer stablemates Thor and Green Lantern.
I've long held a soft spot for 1991's The Rocketeer and 2004's Hidalgo, two box office underachievers that refreshingly stripped away the modern era's automatic coat of cynicism and instead delivered old-fashioned thrills with no trace of irony or condescension. Both films were helmed by Joe Johnston, and coming off the disastrous monster muddle The Wolfman, he's thankfully back in his gee-whiz element here. Captain America has a purity about its politics (not hard when the villains are Nazis) and everything is presented in strictly black and white — or, if you prefer, red, white and blue — terms, resulting in solid matinee fodder.
Chris Evans, in his second tour of duty for Marvel (having essayed the part of the Human Torch in two chintzy Fantastic Four flicks), stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid whose 4F status repeatedly prevents him from being accepted into the army during World War II. But responding to the youth's inner decency rather than his outward lack of muscles, a kindly scientist (Stanley Tucci) decides that he would make the perfect test subject for a serum expected to create the ultimate super-soldier. The experiment is a success — the sickly Steve Rogers now sports a Charles Atlas physique — but only after being mainly relegated to appearing in a colorful costume to drum up support for war bonds is he able to go after the man who has emerged as his arch-nemesis: Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a vicious Nazi whose use of the same serum has transformed him into the appropriately named Red Skull.