Captain America

Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

Comic-Con 2011 Tile

Review in a Hurry: One of Marvel Comics' oldest heroes receives the big-screen treatment in a WWII period pic. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) becomes Captain America after he takes an experimental serum and transforms from a 98-pound asthmatic into a dude with serious muscles and really blonde hair. The perfect guy to fight the S.S. officer Red Skull who wants to rule the world!

But with cheap production value, a generic story and powers that barely feel all that super, the first Avenger is a weak superhero flick in a summer that's seen a dud (Green Lantern) and a hit (X-Men: First Class).

The Bigger Picture: After a kinda cool opening in the present day where Cap's shield is found frozen in the Arctic, the story goes back 70 years—back to war. The period detail (old cars! women called dames!) is only a little more convincing than a theme park ride.

So we're stuck watching director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) merge his love for Hogan's Heroes gags with GI Joe-level action. That sounds like at least campy fun, right? It's not.

One of the biggest issues is that Captain America isn't all that super. When, for the first time, Captain has his official government-issued suit and Howard Stark's (Iron Man's dad!) red, white and blue Vibranium shield, he hurtles into the world of...montage? Seriously? We miss the action and have to settle for cinematic short change. When we do witness an actual scene, he's just a guy with a gun and a shield who's stronger than your average soldier.

And then there's Red Skull (a hammy Hugo Weaving) who's scientific tampering made his face look like a bad Halloween mask but gave him a good nickname. His obsession with the occult has led to the discovery of some blue energy that he loads into guns and bombs. Great, so the period flavor is ruined once the Nazis start shooting ray guns. Again, this sounds like silly fun that might satisfy kids. For the rest of us, nothing's ever that exciting and everything is fairly predictable.

Evans wears the suit well. It's just that the character of Captain America is paper-thin. Actually, worse than that. He starts with a bit of an arc thanks to the weakling with a big heart who won't back down angle, but once he dons the suit, that goes out the window.

There are some highlights: Tommy Lee Jones as a de facto, cranky military man earns some chuckles, and Samuel L. Jackson's required cameo as Nick Fury is great.

Converted 3-D? No, it's not worth the extra price. Like Thor the conversion is actually solid, but the world of the first Avenger isn't enhanced by an extra D.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Early on, the U.S. Army decides Cap's better as a symbol for the war effort than an actual hero. So he tours with the Rockettes and thrills really young kids while the GIs keep their eyes on the gals. This entertaining retro scene actually works. And then it's over...

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