What we need right now is an American hero. And how about a big dash of patriotism thrown in for good measure? Super soldier Steve Rogers is one of those guys, and he's a super-hero. He's Captain America, The First Avenger.
The comic book crusader made his first appearance in 1941 and a big salute goes out to the filmmakers of the new movie "Captain America" for keeping the character there.
The film opens with would-be recruits holding up newspapers that carry the headlines of the day. It is, in fact, 1941, and the world is at war. As the camera pans across the recruits, one scrawny soul stands out, shorter and skinny than all the rest. He's 98-pound asthmatic weakling Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the guy who is always getting beat up in back alleys and who has never danced with a girl. But he wants nothing more than to represent the U.S. and fight for his country, he says. Each time he goes through the process, his file is stamped "4-F" (unfit for combat). He goes from recruiting site to recruiting site, using different names and different cities. (Yes, that is illegal.)
Finally, German scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci forcing a German accent) likes Steve's unwavering spirit. Erskine believes, despite his shortcomings, that he's the right fit for an experimental Army program that is using a secret serum to develop an army of super soldiers.
But they aren't just fighting Adolf Hitler in this war; there's someone even more dastardly heading up the Nazi's own experimental program, HYDRA. He's the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who has had his own experiences with Dr. Erskine's subhuman serum.
Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) is waging his own personal war against Red Skull and HYDRA and needs a super soldier to help. When Steve Rogers becomes the beefy Captain America, he'll become Phillips' best fighting machine and Red Skull's biggest headache.
But Rogers doesn't see action right away. He ends up being a poster boy to get the public to buy Savings Bonds and spends more time shaking hands with politicians and starring in cheesy ads than on the front line.
Quicker than you can say Uncle Sam, though, he's flexing his muscles and going up against the evil Red Skull.
Director Joe Johnston gives in somewhat to making the film a realistic war picture, but maintains the surrealism so enjoyable about Marvel heroes brought to screen. There's a comic book haze that's cast over the film throughout and, in 3-D, it's absolutely stunning. Johnston was behind the 1991 film "The Rocketeer," which had the same misty quality and, once again, it works so well setting the mood.
Probably the most jarring, and albeit the most difficult for the filmmakers to pull off, was having Evans' body shrunk to half its size in the first part of the movie. With some help from CGI they were able to do it, but it's hard to buy as realistic. At least they didn't plop Evans' head on someone else's body, but even the shrink wrap effect they employed needs a bit of work.
On the back end of the film, there's more disturbance as they set up Evans as Captain America for his next Paramount Pictures starring role in "The Avengers." After almost two hours waxing nostalgic we're forced into a noisy Times Square cracked into reality by an imposing Samuel L. Jackson bringing everyone into the 21st century and, what feels like assaulting the audience, to get out of their dream state.
But what's stuffed into this hero sandwich is pure enjoyment, with plenty of action, a little bit of sweet romance thrown in (beautiful Brit Hayley Atwell plays Rogers' love interest Peggy Carter), inside jokes that will have Marvel fans swooning, and just about everything you'd expect from America's original, true blue superhero.