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Review: Captain America - The First Avenger

Captain America is a rarity of sorts in the modern blockbuster. There is no sense of postmodern reflection for frail Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) only a sense of duty that shines brighter than his translucently pale chest. Steve Rogers longs to do his part for the United States in war time, he has volunteered to join the armed services multiple times and each time receives notice that he does not meet the physical qualifications.

Steve feels lost in a generation of men whose bravery is defined by service. He can't even take enjoyment in an matinee showing without rising to defend those in arms. Character is not lacking for Rogers, only body mass.

Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) takes pity on the charmingly persistent Rogers and clears him for boot camp. Steve has more than his fair share of critics in Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Carter (Haley Atwell). More than proving his mettle during boot camp, Steve is offered to join a trial experiment for the Super Soldier serum created by Dr. Erskine and Howard Stark. The serum thought to be the over-the-top measure to beat the Nazis and Red Skull’s Hydra works and Captain America is born.

The film is filled with the sort of old school World War II action that is missing from the cinema anymore. Chris Evans is the ultimate boy scout, a man from a time where duty was king, and the film relies upon its ability to wax nostalgic about the yesteryear of its greatest heroes. Alan Menken's "Star Spangled Man" is one such rousing example.

There are no false notes about Captain America either, none of that trademark cynicism always present in modern war films. This very easily could have been made in the 1940s with Gary Cooper, it is that authentic.

Steve is just a man that hates bullies whether they take the form of an ignorant moviegoer, or a maniac hell-bent on the destruction of the modern world. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), is that maniac, managing to avoid the pitfalls of a rote Nazi villain and instead provides a worthwhile foil to the super soldier in red, white and blue.

There were worries that a film about Captain America would either be entirely too unrealistic, or campy, fortunately the film is neither. What makes the film an oddity, though, is the action scenes are not the big draw. A man resolving himself to fight an enemy under any cost is much more satisfying.


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