I'll admit it: my understanding of Captain America is pretty thin. I've always thought of Steve Rogers as more of golden age character, not particularly relevant today. Perhaps even a bit cheesy. I've read a few random Avengers stories, but I don't think I've ever actually read a single issue of Captain America, although I have read countless other books where he is mentioned or appears.
So I went into this movie pretty blind, but super excited: the trailers looked good. The seamless transfer of handsome head to scrawny guy body was especially amazing. And I've seen every other film in the Avengers set-up so it's not like I was going to skip it.
But then I was informed that the star was the guy from The Fantastic Four. This stinking pile of crap and its sequel still makes my skin crawl. The only worse comic book movie in the last 10 years or so is probably Elektra. Ok, purge sad thoughts from your brain.
Lets start with the Art Direction: it was absolutely awesome. The movie dripped with a cool 40s art style, with enough odd looking modernizations to make it all work. It wasn't steam punk. It wasn't art deco. It wasn't historically accurate. But it was awesome. Every aspect of the world was wonderfully realized to give us a parallel WWII that I totally bought into.
Next lets talk acting: I was pleasantly surprised. Chris Evans was just wonderful, and thats saying something considering I found him almost unwatchable in that other movie that I won't mention again in this review. I hope that the body that played his torso in the first 20 gets some real credit- it's not quite as significant as the whole Natalie Portman / Black Swan ballet controversy from some months back, but still Evans' work was just great. Humble. Honest. And dare I say inspiring? He's a boy scout. He's Marvel's Superman. And it all works.
The rest of the cast is solid: Hugo Weaving's prosthetics were cool, although he was better before he removes his face. Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones. Nothing special from him, but the role is fulfilled. I really enjoyed Stanley Tucci's role as the genius scientist responsible for the super soldier syrum. Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter is functional but nothing to write home about.
The plot? Tough "Kid from Brooklyn" is giving super soldier syrum, becomes powerful, is used as military propaganda symbol named "Captain America" but eventually becomes a real hero rescuing his fellow soldiers, and taking down the Red Skull: a world dictator stepping out from under Hitler's shadow. And then a brief ending to connect the 1940s Captain America with the present day Avengers.
The special effects are great. This summer's comic book movies have all had a lot of effects, but this is the only one that (for me anyway) never broke my suspension of disbelief. Thor's home world was wonderful, but it dripped with "magic" that bordered on silly. X-Men First Class had a number of FX shots that just didn't quite work. And Green Lantern? It just tried to hard, and missed the mark several times. But Cap's FX are all great. The aforementioned handsome head and skinny body is just amazing, but from motorcycle chase scenes to tanks and giant bomber jets, it is all convincing.
So here's the short summary: the best comic book movie of the summer. Seriously. Don't miss it.