As just a kid from Brooklyn, Captain America makes a name for himself in this extremely entertaining and engaging superhero flick. Like Superman, Captain America is Marvel Comics answer to the Red, White, and Blue, and while this movie could have been a simple set up to Marvel's The Avengers, it manages to be its own movie. Part of this is because it takes place first in the timeline of all of the Marvel Studios' movies, so there are fewer references to the other heroes who come later down the line, but this movie also focuses on showing the transformation of Steve Rogers, from scrawny kid getting beat up in the alleys of Brooklyn, to the symbol of hope for America in World War II.
The movie is almost entirely set in the 1940s, featuring the Greatest Generation in all of its glory, with this movie somewhat playing as a love letter to that simpler time where evil was evil, and good was good. When a small fry guy named Steve Rogers gets rejected five different times to be enlisted in the Army, he gets a lucky shot from a military scientist, Dr. Erskine, who tests an experimental super soldier formula on Rogers, and voila! We now have a superhero. But it takes more than muscles to be a true hero, and even though Rogers managed to impress Erskine with his compassion, fortitude, and morals, he must do the same for the big guns at the military if he wants to see actual action aside from being a part of song and dance numbers and movie serials to sell war bonds.
Director Joe Johnston plays around with the 1940s setting, with the whole movie filmed in sepia tones evoking the look of the pop culture from the period. The story plays like one long Saturday matinee serial, filled with tons of pulp and improbable science fiction, but those were stalwarts of the adventure stories of the time. What Johnston does best though, is mastering Rogers' journey from zero to hero. As Captain America, Steve Rogers uses his compassion, fortitude, and morals, to do near impossible missions, as is seen in a scene where Rogers saves over 400 prisoners of war all on his own, proving to the Army that he should be on the front line of the war effort and not helping with morale back home. Throughout the whole movie, Rogers bonds with an American agent named Peggy Carter, winning her heart through the same inner heroism that made him Captain America. Carter is a pin up girl in looks, but a girl who can show up the boys in attitude. Add on to this all, a great maniacal villain in Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving in some of the greatest make up work in a while), and you have a solid adventure yarn.
While the final scene left me scratching my head a bit, feeling tacked on, and the scene before giving the real closure to the story, I think Marvel was trying to pump up The Avengers even more, so I get it, though it still deterred from an otherwise emotional ending. Even with this small bump in the road, it's really the only blemish in this extremely well made and polished superhero flick that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but neither breaks it. Solid, entertaining, and heroic, everything a good superhero movie should be, which is exactly what this movie is.
I give Captain America: The First Avenger an A!