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Captain America: The First Avenger - Movie review

Despite lots of hype, Captain America is just another cookie cutter comic book movie from the Marvel assembly line.

By Peter Rainer / July 22, 2011

In this film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures, Chris Evans is shown in a scene from the film 'Captain America: The First Avenger.'

Paramount Pictures/AP

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Don’t you wish there was a superhero who could rid us of all the mediocre superhero movies? As good a place as any to start would be “Captain America: The First Avenger” – which, incidentally, you might be interested to know, is being marketed in Russia simply as “The First Avenger.” (Glasnost only went so far.)

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Despite all the advance hype preceding its release, “Captain America,” yet another 3-D Marvel Comics concoction, straggles onto the screen with little reason to exist except as a marketing machine. The first comic book, which was so arrantly patriotic that it featured our hero socking Hitler in the jaw, came out in 1941. Since all superheroes require a back story, this first (last maybe?—pretty please?) installment of the saga takes us back to that retro time when men were men and women wore long skirts.

The man in question, Brooklyn’s Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), is a 98-pound weakling who wants desperately to join the Army and serve his country but is immovably classified 4-F. His spunk, however, does not go unnoticed by German-American Army scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who, courtesy of equipment more appropriate to Dr. Strangelove, converts Steve from milquetoast to beefcake.

Although still an innocent who is shy around girls, Steve is, outwardly at least, a warrior. Swathed in his American flag costume, he leads his men into battle while pursuing Nazi mad scientist Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who was himself subjected to Dr. Erskine’s ministrations back in the old country and is now so bonkers that he thinks he can take over the world without Hitler’s help. After this movie and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards,” maybe we can declare a moratorium for a while on faux Nazi fantasias?

Director Joe Johnston and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are clearly preparing us for a sequel, one that is set in the present day, but is there any law that says these films have to keep getting made? Once is more than enough. Twice, thrice, ad infinitum is a punishable offense.

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