RESTON, VA, January 7, 2012 ― It’s the early 1940s and America is deeply enmeshed in the Second World War. Stateside, nearly every able-bodied man is entering the U.S. armed to help beat back the worldwide twin threats of the Nazis in Europe and Imperial Japan in the Pacific. Nearly every able-bodied man, that is, except for skinny, asthmatic Steve Rogers of Brooklyn, New York.
Steve’s civilian status is not for lack of trying. Again and again he volunteers to serve his country, but is flunked out during his military physical. But he suddenly lucks out. His sheer audacity gets him drafted into one of those beloved, cinematic “top secret U.S. government research projects.” This one hopes to morph ordinary guys into American super-soldiers.
Serving as guinea pig Steve Rogers volunteers to take the final step by entering a sophisticated machine whose state-of-the-art science instantly transforms him into sort of a cross encompassing Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Atlas, and the Million Dollar Man.
Steve’s still human, of course. But he can jump higher, hit harder, and take more punishment than any platoon of soldiers. And wielding his special, nearly invulnerable shield, he can repel anything from machine-gun fire to small rocket attacks. He’s now Captain America, ready to lead our armed forces against the Nazis as well as mounting an attack on super-Nazis that pose a threat to even Hitler himself, not to mention the world.
And that’s just the initial buildup to “Captain America: The First Avenger,” yet another Marvel superhero flick released last summer to surprising acclaim. For those of you who missed it, like this reviewer, the film has recently come out in a DVD edition as well as a 3-D version for those who have the equipment to view it in this format. (For a trailer of the film, click the video below.)
Unlike “Green Lantern,” which dazzled with special effects but fizzled in mis-direction and plot confusion, “Captain America” has a strong plot line, mostly sympathetic characters, and an unusual, swashbuckling, pre-Vietnam Era boyish patriotism that believably brings us back to a simpler, more coherent America when we were the good guys for sure, no questions asked or brooked.
The sheer authenticity of the period mood was, and is, almost shocking, coming out of a modern Hollywood that trashes the U.S. whenever it can, including its generally beloved government, which, in cinema anyway, is always indulging in some nefarious plot.
In fact, a nefarious Nazi plot is at the center of this film, and the U.S. government super-soldier project is merely a last, desperate attempt to outflank the perceived (and often actual) superiority of Hitler’s weapons scientists and manufacturers.
The film’s unabashed, old-fashioned patriotism is a genuine treat in our ongoing age of nihilism and America-trashing, and this element as well may have gone a long way to making the film a 2011 summer box office stand off, appealing to the majority of today’s citizens who actually still think the U.S. is a swell place to live, warts and all.
Directed by Joe Johnston, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and starring Chris Evans as Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, this film’s nearly flawless storyline introduces us to the one superhero time seems to have forgotten, whether you favor the DC or the Marvel comic universe, the latter of which gave birth to the character.
The special effects are terrific, too, by the way, including an amazing computer technique that, by silently resizing Chris Evans in the early innings of the film, allows him to assume full dimensions after he exits the government’s machine. You’ll find yourself rubbing your eyes in disbelief that both Steves—the 90-pound weakling and the Terminator clone—are really the same actor.
The DVD version packs considerable punch on home video, particularly if you’ve gone to the extra time and expense to assemble a full-blown home theater system.
But what actually makes this film interesting in the greater scheme of things are the sneaky little hints of more excitement in the future that are buried in it. Like the brief but significant appearance of American industrialist and Howard Hughes lookalike Howard Stark, whose labs are instrumental in inventing the Captain America technologies. Yes, comic book fans, he’s the dad of Tony Stark, the equally near-mad scientist who will become Iron Man.
Do we sniff a sequel here? Yes we do. In addition to the hint about the Stark family, we also meet a couple other characters and situations that look forward to the long-rumored “Avengers” film—now due out next summer—that will bring together a batch of long-running Marvel characters including Cap, Iron Man, Thor (who also recently had his own film) and others. Which at least will help us get poor Steve out of the Arctic ice he was buried in at the conclusion of “Captain America.” For a rough version of “Avengers” trailer, click the video link below.)
The “Avengers” flick will offer a quirky flavor of the DC Universe’s Justice League of America, in which a bunch of that label’s superheroes band together from time to time to fight off some massive alien entity. It should be interesting to see how Marvel’s writers/filmmakers—now part of the Disney empire—will handle a concept that DC has yet to bring off the ground, save in animated features.
In the meantime, we still have “Captain America” on its stunning new DVD versions. Pick up a copy (or look for it on pay-per-view cable offerings) and thrill once again to Chris Evans’ brave but charming Cap, Hayley Atwell’s feisty British love interest, and, alas, General Tommy Lee Jones’ lamest acting chops, in this wondrous recreation of an American hero whose time may have come round again.
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of theWashington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing insights, visit his WT Communitiescolumn,The Prudent Man in Politics.
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