Well, if you’re going to make a movie like this, a pure WWII period piece with very ‘forties and very American concepts of decency, heroism, good and evil; if you’re going to prioritise wit over irony, morality over mischief, romance over raunch to this degree, then you might as well make it this perfectly.
Whether or not you go see Captain America will therefore probably be down to whether or not you’re pigsick of the current slew of superhero movies and/or the origin story within that genre. For example, next year we’ll be seeing The Amazing Spiderman with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider again, learning how to spin a web & swing round the city again, impotently stand by while his beloved Uncle Ben is slain by the thug he should have bopped on the head again, etc. Do you truly want to know how Peter Parker became Spiderman? Do you want to know how Steve Rogers becomes Captain America? Only those with a semblance of inner geek really need to know.
For the rest of us, the execution is fortunately entertaining enough even if the chipmunk-turned-superhunk story is a smidge overfamiliar. Asthmatic sparrow-chested straight arrow Steve Rogers jumps at the chance to finally fulfill his dream of fighting the Nazis when a superdoctor offers to inject him with supersoldier serum. Unfortunately the good doc is gunned down in the process, leaving our hero the last of his kind and a major disappointment to the bigwigs who’d had high hopes of a super army. Quicker than you can say Uncle Sam, massively moobed ’Captain America’ is bouncing across the states plugging US Bonds backed by dancing girls and basically feeling unfulfilled. Meanwhile Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is harnassing the power of Asgard to create a series of doomsday weapons. Can Cap fulfil his true destiny, thwart the Red Skull’s apocalyptic plan, and win the girl?
The 21st Century bookends to this story are just setups for next summer’s Avengers movie, trailed - in typical Marvel style - after the end credits, but if that trail proves anything it’s that Marvel have cast their central roles absolutely perfectly time after time. Downey Jnr’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and now Chris Evans’ Captain America.
Those of you, like me, who only knew Evans as Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four movies will barely recognise him here. He brings a dignified resolve to the role of Steve Rogers that I didn’t think him capable of, even when his head’s been CG’ed onto the body of a human whippet. He even manages to inject some dry humour into the patriotic proceedings, although his totally sexless yearning for English rose Peggy Carter is a touch too chaste for me, as if the superserum also had bromidic cobbler-shrinking properties. I’m sure it was done to maintain the purity of the classic serial vibe, but it comes a little too close to scrubbing Rogers too comic-book clean for adult consumption.
That aside, the sepia-tinged tone and old-war-movie pacing are near perfect, and director Joe Johnston adopts the same tender, almost elegiac, approach that made The Rocketeer such a nostalgic pleasure over twenty years ago. And Tommy Lee Jones is hilarious.
If you can stomach the sheer undiluted American-ness of it then it’s a great night out. If you’re a geek whose yet to recover from your Thorgasm then this’ll probably put you in an erotic coma. Either way, the stakes are now sky high for The Avengers.