Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Comic's Captain America hasn't fared the best when it's come to live action adaptations. In the 1990s, two direct to VHS adaptations appeared (not even the appearance of Ned Beatty or Christopher Lee were enough to save them) however, have been largely forgotten. 30 years on and now with a $140 million budget, Marvel have taken another chance on the character in the Joe Johnson helmed, Captain America: The First Avenger.

This serves as an origins story prior to next years The Avengers. Here we see a young Steve Rogers constantly knocked back from joining the US Army in the heat of WW2, however he soon gets a chance to prove himself after becoming part of an advanced super soldier project. It would seem a perfect fit for director, Joe Johnson, who's shown great talent in more nostalgic style adventure films like The Rocketeer. And overall, his direction is extremely competent - however the The First Avenger does sometimes feel too glossy for it's own good - lot's of futuristic props and chrome coloured locations really detract from the film's potentially excellent 1940s feel. Although, at it's best the film could draw comparisons to A Matter of Life and Death, Where Eagles Dare and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which is by no means a bad thing.

The direction albeit extremely capable, does feel somewhat cliched at points, primarily scenes like Captain America jumping through a backdrop of flames in slow motion. However, in a simple tale of good vs. evil like Captain America: The First Avenger sometimes this straight-forward style pays off. Captain America is also the first (and hopefully not the last!) Marvel film to grace us with a musical number, which is toe-tappingly excellent and really transports us to the backdrop of America in WW2.

Among the films strongest assets is it's cast. Uber-hunk Chris Evans takes the title role on, creating a generally likeable character and realistic hero. At points the character's niceness and innocence become somewhat annoying, but when that happens Hugo Weaving's deranged Nazi, Johann Schmidt is there to punch him in the face. That said, Weaving is wonderfully over the top in the role (think Bruno Ganz in Downfall meets the Nazis of 'Allo 'Allo). Tommy Lee Jones is also a welcome addition to the cast, his dry sense of humour makes the character a primary scene stealer and fortunately he's well used and gets a fair amount of screen time.  English rose, Hayley Atwell takes on the cliched female agent/love interest role but manages to add a certain to spark to it making her one of Marvel's more interesting leading ladies. Dominic Cooper, despite a dodgy American accent is incredibly cool as Howard Stark and always a pleasure to watch. And finally, the excellent Stanley Tucci also puts in a memorable turn as the scientist behind the super soldier program.

Captain America: The First Avenger is pure escapist fun - so much so that the cliched dialogue and occasional overly patriotic scenes don't detract from the films enjoyment. There's enough humour, strong performances and impressive action scenes to keep most viewers amused for the 124 minute run time.

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