| The fourth superhero movie this summer has arrived following Thor, the X-Men prequel and Green Lantern. There appears to be no end in sight for the legion of comic book fans who won't be satisfied until Hollywood puts up on the screen every conceivable defender of the goodness of mankind.
This fun summer popcorn movie has plenty of exciting, suspense-filled action. It hits the bull's eye for fighting, explosions, chases, cliffhanger escapes and a daring rescue mission. It even adds sizzle with the bubbling undercurrents of a love affair.
Director Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer," "October Sky" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (all three "The Chronicle of Narnia" movies) want audiences to discover the origin of the Marvel Comics first avenger.
The titular star-spangled muscle man was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in March, 1941. He served as a patriotic poster boy encouraging young American men to sign up and serve their country in World War II. Stan Lee, who appears in a cameo, revived the popular character in 1964.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans best known for playing The Human Torch in two "Fantastic Four" movies) describes himself as nothing special and "just a kid from Brooklyn." This scrawny, 90-pound weakling is eager to enlist and serve his country. He's deemed physically unfit and given a 4-F classification by the medical examiner at the recruitment center.
He catches the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine is impressed by Rogers' non-physical attributes. He is the catalyst in getting Rogers accepted into his experimental program known as the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Rogers undergoes rigid training with a group of men under the command of Col. Chester Phillip (Tommy Lee Jones) and supervised by Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Rogers gets selected to become the first in a new breed of super soldiers.
An amazing transformation occurs when Rogers is injected with a top-secret serum that stimulates muscle growth along with a protective system of regeneration and healing.
The movie rewrites history as Hitler and the Nazis are replaced by a cult group known as Hydra led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, who appeared as Mr. Smith in the "Matrix" trilogy). Schmidt is bent on world domination much like the garden-variety villains in a James Bond flick. When he finally reveals his disfigured head, he becomes Red Skull.
The audience gets caught up in this patriotic fervor. There are key moments when you feel like cheering the hero and either booing or hissing at the bad guy. The obvious influence of Indiana Jones and "Star Wars" is evident in many scenes.
Other important figures include Rogers' closest friend and sidekick, Sgt. James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), the father of "Iron Man," who gives Rogers his iconic shield and is closely based on inventor Howard Hughes.
The chief strength of this production has to be the superb casting choices for the key roles. Evans has a screen charisma that goes beyond his ruggedly handsome frame and piercing blue eyes. He displays a sense of humor and a warm gentle decency.
Atwell is a knockout beauty with a sensual British accent. Jones has the stern and forceful voice of authority and represents a gung-ho leader instilling confidence. Weaving plays the perfect villain drawing the ire and animosity of moviegoers. Tucci provides the necessary exposition and is the linchpin connecting the hero with his archrival nemesis.
The movie requires a huge suspension of belief. Its major drawback is the cheesy stunt work that looks fake and hokey despite being enhanced by computer graphics.
The 3D option is not recommended, because the glasses are uncomfortable and unnecessarily darken the screen. This is another example of post-conversion 3D that doesn't work.
The movie is bookended with scenes set in the future to whet your appetite for next year's "The Avengers" in which Captain America fights crime with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Black Widow.
The packed auditorium at the advance screening broke into applause several times during the two-hour running time. If you are looking for a good way to cool off and beat the heat this weekend, you can't go wrong by vicariously enjoying the company of a living breathing character representing everything right about the red, white and blue.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"