I can say that, at least in a limited sense, I'm a Captain America fan. I only have a few issues of the comic from the mainstream Marvel Comics universe, but I've bought about everything I can of his appearances in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. His character is Marvel's analog to DC's Superman (or what Superman USED to be like). Honest, morally conservative, brave and self-sacrificing. In a post-modern world of gritty or insecure "heroes", Captain America is one of the few in comics who actually comes across like a hero in every sense of the word and stands as an example we can aspire to be like.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER captures all of these elements wonderfully (as the last SUPERMAN movie should have), and for that alone stands out as unique and worthy of attention. But it also has most of the other stuff you enjoy seeing superhero movies for.
Steve Rogers is a scrawny young man who wants badly to enlist in the army, but never passes the physical exam. An opportunity presents itself for him to be part of an experimental "super soldier" program, which ultimately heightens every natural capability he has in dramatic ways, enabling him to fight for the good of others. And to do so better than anybody else!
Emotional Weight to Key Moments
A major theme of the movie is helping the downtrodden and standing up to "bullies". And as the action plays out there are several moments where it is gratifying to see the weak being defended and rescued. These elements, along with the character of Steve Rogers, provide some emotional weight to key moments in the movie.
The performances are great across the board. Chris Evans moved me with his sincere desire to do good, Hugo Weaving was captivating and menacing as The Red Skull, and some great bits from Tommy Lee Jones as a military supervisor were gold nuggets.
Explosive Action but Not Quite There
The action is great and explosive. The blending of sci-fi technology with World War 2 is a lot of fun and makes for some of the best visuals and action beats in the movie. Unfortunately, I think that the specific abilities granted to Rogers by the super soldier experiment are not very well defined or given focus. His abilities receive almost no more attention than all the other sci-fi elements in the film, which seems to miss the mark somehow in a superhero flick. In the end, although the action and visuals are great, they lack that "wow factor" that makes for a truly unforgettable experience.
As I said before, the themes of defending the defenseless, heroism and self-sacrifice are very present, and executed well enough that they might lead to worthwhile conversation or comments after the movie. Captain America is not someone who is heroic because he feels obligated by his abilities (Spider-man), because he wants to redeem himself and have purpose (Iron Man) or to deal with his insecurity (X-men). He is heroic because in the most pure and selfless way he sees the state of the world and as a result wants to help others and make the wrong things right. An old stereotype during the Golden Age of comics, but a bold, unique and welcome vision in the world of today.
Although the movie didn't quite reach its full potential, it's a great movie in a long line of great Marvel Comics movies, and also offers inspiration that you can carry out of the theater with you. (But don't leave before the end of the credits!)
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
What Others Are Saying:
PluggedInOnline: Captain America is as pure and honest a hero as you'll find these days - one like we haven't seen in a long, long time - so good he could only be a work of fiction. Yet within this fiction are some resonant themes and an inescapable optimism and goodness.
PreviewOnline: I must admit that despite all the killing and destruction, I found the Captain more interesting, with a well-developed story and some witty dialogue, than other letdowns this summer.
ChristianityToday: This film is a capable, safe and simple - if bland - movie squarely focused on the hero's creation and derring-do during World War II. However, in the final minutes, the energy suddenly ramps up and the character comes alive.
Crosswalk: With a milquetoast action hero and a relatively generic bad guy, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is a pretty dull movie.