Before he dons the red, white and blue suit, though, Captain America is just Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a Brooklyn kid far too puny to fight in World War II. After he’s experimented on by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), Rogers bulks up fast, adding inches to his height and biceps. Unfortunately for the good guys, yet fortunately for those who paid $10 (or more if they went 3D) to see the movie, a Nazi officer named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has also undergone the experiment…but not without its side effects. (If you don’t already know what Red Skull looks like, picture a concoction of Weaving, an alien for Mars Attacks! and red food dye.)
While certainly not the new standard for superhero movies and genre standards are prominent, Captain America isn’t an entirely run-of-the-mill effort. It could have been and it would have still pulled in $175 million, but director Joe Johnston was determined to make the movie both better than the 1990 Matt Salinger movie and, more importantly, a worthy addition to the Avengers franchise.
And it is. The 1940s-set Captain America plays host to better set pieces, design and costumes than any of its siblings. Evans lacks the charisma of Robert Downey, Jr., but who doesn’t? He’s good-looking and built and so is capable as the lead in such a movie. An over-the-top Weaving, Hayley Atwell (as Peggy Carter, love interest and ruby-lipped eye candy), Tommy Lee Jones (as comic relief/Col. Chester Phillips), and Dominic Cooper (as Howard Stark, father of Tony) are solid additions to the cast.
What’s best about Captain America: The First Avenger is that director Johnston (Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman) is able to have fun with both the era’s propaganda and the original comics. Remember that the cover of Captain America #1, released a year into WWII, had the superhero socking Hitler in the jaw, which Johnston plays up in a montage of overblown patriotism that mimes the sort of footage that played before movies 70 years ago.
But while Captain America succeeds in most regards, it fails completely in the most important one: getting me excited for The Avengers. How can it not be an overcrowded circus?
Commentary by director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford: The three deliver a decent and informative track, covering a wide variety of topics on Captain America: The First Avenger. Those touched on include the special effects, shooting in 3D, the cast, Marvel’s comic, and much more.
Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (4:03): This short movie finds S.H.I.E.L.D. member Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) foiling a convenience store robbery.
Outfitting a Hero (10:52): This featurette takes a look at the creation of Captain America’s famous suit, which is more modern in the movie while still remaining faithful to the original design.
Howling Commandos (6:07): This piece takes a look at the large cast of supporting characters who serve as sidekicks to Captain America.
Heightened Technology (5:42): Here, the advanced technology, weapons and vehicles of the story are discussed.
The Transformation (8:50) takes a look at one of Captain America’s most impressive special effects: turning Chris Evans into the puny, underweight Steve Rogers for the earlier sequences.
Behind the Skull (10:23) pays tribute to the movie’s villain, played by Hugo Weaving, and how the team brought him to cinematic fruition.
Captain America’s Origin (3:55) is an all-too-brief look at the beginnings of the Marvel comic with co-creator Joe Simon, who is now 98.
The Assembly Begins (1:46) is a promotional piece for 2012’s The Avengers.
Deleted Scenes (5:32): There are four here, three of which can be viewed with optional commentary with Johnston, Johnson and Ford. They are: “Attack in Norway,” “The Battle at Azzano,” “Steve Rogers Gets His Medal,” and “Steve Rogers Meets Nick Fury.”