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IN SHORT: Mighty Marvel at its best. [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action. 125 minutes]
Timely Comic's counterpart to Superman, Captain America, was an average shlub who, thanks to a secret Super Soldier serum injection and a healthy bath of something called Vita-Rays, is transformed into a super man who can run four times faster than the fastest human; has the strength of (at least) ten men and can sling a shield to phenomenal effect. His original shield was an unwieldy triangular thing which disappeared from continuity with Captain America #2.
That doesn't mean it doesn't show up in the movie Captain America, which is terrifically written for you reg'lar folks, and stuffed with all sorts of stuff to make fanboys and girls as happy as can be.
First, understand that on the day of our screening New York was deep in its part of the heat wave tormenting the country. With temps in the upper 90s all day, even half an hour or so exposed outdoors (got to get to the theater, after all) was enough to drain all the energy from our withering body. It may be that, were we not totally exhausted from the heat, that our reaction to Captain America would have been much more enthusiastic.
Captain America begins in the earliest days of the Marvel Universe. As his son will do decades later, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is introduced showing off his inventions -- floating cars and such -- for a "world of tomorrow". Marvel fans should watch closely for a brief cameo by what will eventually be called The Human Torch. . . but not here. The real story of Captain America is that of a scrawny kid from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Rogers has tried at least five times to serve his country, using different names or birth places, but his listof medical inadequacies runs at least two pages long. He's told to enjoy the fact that he'll be the lone fish swimming in a sea full of man-eating women.
Two significant events occur. First, Rogers meets a mysterious bearded man at the draft board. He is Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), with enough clout to overturn Rogers' 4F draft rating and get him into the Army as part of a "secret program". Second is Steve's reunion with best friend, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), already in uniform and ready to ship out with the 107th Infantry. The pair have one last double date -- Bucky is smooth with the ladies -- and when some loudmouth jerk mouths off at the movies a scuffle ensues and, apparently as usual, Bucky saves Stever's scrawny butt.
Dr. Erskine's program involves two steps. The first is an injection of a "super soldier" serum, whose composition so secret that only Erskine knows the exact formula. Then subject Rogers is dosed by something called Vita-Rays (thanks to Howard Stark). When all is said and done, scrawny Steve Rogers looks like something out of an old Charles Atlas body building ad. But the super secret experiment has been infiltrated by a Nazi agent -- so it is thought -- and Dr. Erskine is killed just as his experiment, apparently, succeeds. There will be only one "Captain America."
But Erskine and his program had been tried once before, in his motherland of Germany (guess why Abraham Erskine fled his Nazi Germany...). There, without the use of Stark's Vita-Rays, it failed. It transformed one Johann Schmidt into a murderous maniac called the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who, as leader of an evil organization called HYDRA, has designs not only on defeating the US in WWII... he wants to rule the entire world!. We'll come back to him later.
Cap is paraded about from city to city, selling war bonds to the fine citizens of the US of A. He is also despised by the average GI Joe. Nothing changes from being bullied in civvies to being bullied (despised) in uniform. His bond tour is supervised by one Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and boot camp is run by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). It doesn't take long for Cap to get fed up with selling bonds. With Howard Stark on the team as weapons designer for Cap -- the first thing he does is replace Cap's shield with a disc made of a substance called "vibranium" -- it's off to war.
We're simplifying things: Cap, hearing that the 107th Infantry has been captured, sets off to rescue friend Bucky and returns with a whole mess of freed soldiers and his own battle team, the Howling Commandos; Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), James Montgomery Falsworth (JJ Feild) and Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci).
On the Red Skull's HYDRA team, one Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) has become the Skull's replacement for Erskine, and their focus is on the mysterious cosmic cube called the Tesseract, which has made brief appearences in other Marvel movies. Their plan, to destroy the major cities of the world all at once, brings Cap and the Skull together in a battle to the death.
Substituting HYDRA for Nazis is something that will become important, we guess, in next year's The Avengers. All of Captain America, right up to the closing credits is a great comic book movie made movie-real.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Captain America, he would have paid . . .
Yes, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) does make an appearance, but not with the Howling Commandos and not in the WWII timeframe. How much of appearance he makes depends on what you see in your theater. We saw an advance screening which didn't have the usual teaser after the end credits. If there isn't a tease in your local theaters you might hear a whole messa booing in your theater. It sure happened in ours.
Aint nothing like a fanboy scorned . . .
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