Chris Evans is no stranger to playing characters with superpowers, playing a cocky Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four franchise, and arrogant Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but his turn as the leading man in Captain America: The First Avenger is decidedly more endearing. Set against the backdrop of World War II, where men from all across America are lining up to serve their country, Brooklynite Steve Rogers is rejected from enlisting in the Army again and again due to his tiny stature and long list of physical ailments. Steve has lots of problems: asthma, social anxiety, and a tendency of getting beat down by bullies because he stands up for common decency. Thankfully, these same characteristics are what get him drafted into a secret government project called the Strategic Scientific Reserve run by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), and assisted by the technological genius of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) that will turn ordinary humans into super soldiers to fight Hitler's army.
The plot also centers around Johann Schmidt, the leader in Hitler's own scientific project called Hydra, who is tasked with obtaining an artifact called the "jewel of Odin's treasure room," which will undoubtedly give a wartime advantage to the Germans. As it turns out, Johann was actually the failed first test subject for Dr. Erskine's super solder project, and once he learns that the American project has been successful, he gets a giant chip on his shoulder and breaks off from Hitler to turn Hydra into an army dedicated to destroying the world with the power of the gods he now possesses.
To see why I think Captain America could be one of the best superhero comic adaptations yet, just keep reading.
Not only is Captain America a great action movie, complete with all the explosions, chase scenes, and hand-to-hand combat you'd expect from a Summer blockbuster, but the story is incredibly relatable and filled with surprising emotion. If you've ever been bullied, you'll know exactly how tiny Steve feels when he's pummeled by stronger men, gets rejected by women, and teased about his size, and you'll cheer on his determination. Steve doesn't turn into an egomaniac once he's been juiced with a hot bod and strong muscles, though — he stays humble and remains an introvert despite all the attention he gets as Captain America, which gives us a real reason to root for him. Chris Evans plays out these emotions excellently, and I left the theater believing in the character, and believing in him.
But Captain America isn't all about drama and feelings. Film veteran Tommy Lee Jones steals the spotlight in every scene he's in and provides standout comic relief as Colonel Chester Phillips. And while Sebastian Stan didn't get a ton of screen time, I loved his jump from Gossip Girl bad boy to Steven's best friend, "Bucky" Barnes.
As a fan of comic book superheroes, I have to give it up to Chris Evans and director Joe Johnston for making Captain America a sleek, retro-inspired action movie that doesn't skimp on the heart. Thankfully, the love story that's peppered throughout the film doesn't really make your eyes roll, as it takes a backseat to Steven's relationships with his friends and comrades, as well as his determination to stand up to the world's most ruthless bullies. You'll leave the theater feeling uplifted and excited about what's next in the Avengers playbook.
Photos courtesy of Paramount