The Avengers Captain America: The First Avenger
dir Joe Johnston
scr Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
prd Kevin Feige, Amir Madani
with Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, JJ Feild, Kenneth Choi, Bruno Ricci, Lex Shrapnel, Richard Armitage, Samuel L Jackson
release US 22.Jul.11, UK 29.Jul.11
11/US Paramount 2h04
Captain America: The First Avenger
Holding out for a hero: Evans and Atwell

jones weaving cooper
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Captain America: Civil War (2016)

31st Shadows Awards

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Captain America: The First Avenger Director Johnston once again channels Steven Spielberg, this time for a raucously entertaining Indiana Jones-style adventure. With the energetic punch of a vintage serial, it actually leaves us wanting more.

In 1942 New York, Steve Rogers (Evans) is desperate to join the war in Europe with his buddy James (Stan), but is too weedy to fight. Then a scientist (Tucci) spots him, and soon he's partnered with gorgeous Agent Carter (Atwell) and put in a top-secret programme that amplifies his muscles and will-power. But as "Captain America" he's just a propaganda tool until he gets a chance to prove himself on the front line as a key weapon against the deeply evil Nazi Schmidt (Weaving).

Shot more like a rollicking adventure than a typical superhero movie, the script spends just about enough time on the origin story to grab our attention, including nifty effects that render Evans as a 90-pound weakling. Then the action kicks off, powering through one set piece after another. Refreshingly, it never bothers to deepen the story with random sideplots, superfluous characters or knowing winks. So it's a lot of fun to watch.

The action sequences are thrilling without being too suspenseful and, for the most part, the filmmakers keep the stunts and explosions within believable proportions. In fact, the film has a wonderfully dishevelled look, combining more rough-and-ready filmmaking touches with the slick 1940s clothes and architecture. Which almost makes it feel like one of the propaganda films it so cleverly recreates.

The actors are clearly enjoying it too, throwing away witty lines while glaring at each other manfully. Tommy Lee Jones is terrific as the sardonic Col Phillips, while Weaving amusingly goes for broke as this summer's second nose-free villain (after Voldemort). The feisty-sexy Atwell provides just the right amount of romantic tension. And Evans seems utterly effortless as the hero, conveying just the right balance of courage and anxiety.

Frankly, this is one of the most enjoyable Marvel Comics movies in recent years. Without the snarky asides (Iron Man), god-like posturing (Thor) and dark-soul torment (Hulk), this is the Avenger we can both identify with and root for. Let's hope he takes centre stage when they all team up on-screen next year.

cert 12 themes, violence 21.Jul.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall