Captain America . . . Fuck Yeah!
So the biggest question mark of this year's onslaught of superhero flicks actually turned out to be really good. I still prefer X-Men: First Class, but The First Avenger (as it's known in US hating countries) is probably the most fun movie of the summer, even if it is basically a two hour preview for The Avengers.
After a present day prologue the film flashes back to the 1940's for Steve Rogers' origins and the first big surprise is that Chris Evans nails the character. I thought Johnny Storm would be totally wrong for the role, but he perfectly captures Cap's earnestness, heroics and basic decency without ever winking at the audience. It's almost an hour into the movie before he gets his powers, but like Superman and Spider-Man before it the origin story is so well done I was never bored. And the digital trickery that shrinks Evans' body to a tiny, puny frame is seamless.
Aside from the sheer sense of fun throughout (the film often recalls the best of the Indiana Jones series, including a nasty propeller death for one of the baddies) what really lifts the film up are the performances. Stanely Tucci is delightful as the scientist who creates the super soldier serum, Hayley Atwell is charming and pretty as the love interest, Tommy Lee Jones is amusing as the gruff Colonel and Hugo Weaving is menacing as always playing the sinister if underdeveloped Red Skull.
Joe Johnston's no nonsense directing style works well for what could have been an over the top and cheesy propaganda piece (one shudders to think how Michael Bay would have directed this - the film would probably have had an extra hour of flag waving). The special effects are good and the attention to period detail, as in Johnston's The Rocketeer, is perfect without drawing attention to itself. There are some fun montage sequences that leave the door open for further WWII adventures.
The bittersweet ending is surprisingly faithful to the comic (I liked that they never bothered to explain how Cap survived getting frozen in ice without aging for 70 years). And the Avengers trailer after the end credits perfectly wetted my appetite for what should, hopefully, be the best of all the Marvel Studios movies.