This is the last in the individual, interconnected Marvel prequels, following “Iron Man, “The Hulk” and “Thor,” leading up to next summer’s star-studded “The Avengers.”
Based on the hero, created back in 1941 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, it revolves around Steve Rogers, a patriotic Brooklyn kid who dreams of becoming a World War II hero. Problem is: every time he tries to enlist in the Allied Forces, scrawny, asthmatic, 98-pound Steve is rejected for medical /physical reasons. But German émigré scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recognizes his dedication and recruits him for Project Rebirth, a top-secret, experimental procedure, transforming him into the cell-enhanced, invincible Super Soldier known as Captain America.
In his new persona, strapping Steve joins forces with his buddy, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and British military liaison Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) under the command of Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) to destroy the Nazis’ hotshot science division known as HYDRA, under the diabolical auspices of villainous Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), whose cohorts chorus, “Heil Hydra!”
Simplistically written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and formulaically directed by Joe Johnston (“The Rocketeer,” “Jurassic Park III,” “Wolfman”), it’s an old-fashioned action-adventure. Like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark, Chris Evans is perfectly cast as Steve Rogers. Evans previously played another comic-book hero, the smart-alecky Human Torch, in both “Fantastic Four” movies, but this is a far more well-rounded portrayal. As for the origin segment, Evans’s face is grafted onto a skinny, 5’ 4” teenager’s body using digital technology.
Hayley Atwell doesn’t fare as well. In Marvel comics, her character of Peggy Carter is a smart, savvy, self-assured operative but, here, she serves as Steve’s romantic interest/moral compass. Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving add stalwart support, along with Dominic Cooper as wealthy industrialist/inventor Howard Stark.
Bottom line: it’s more fun than “Thor,” “Green Hornet” and “Green Lantern.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a solid, stylish, superhero 8, saluting the red, white and blue.