There has been no shortage of films and series about World War II in the past seven decades. While pictures such as Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, Band of Brothers and others, have emphasized the idea that victory is a team effort, more recent selections have a different message. As one of the oldest comic book characters around, the star-spangled superhero of Captain America: The First Avenger is just as powerful as he was since the onset of the USA’s involvement in “The Big One.” Though the country he loves may have changed quite a bit, his brand of patriotism is no less needed.

As strapping young men around the United States prepare to fight the scourge of Hitler on behalf of their country, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) can’t seem to get past the recruitment office. Though he has attempted to gain entry into the Army a half-dozen times, the sickly but plucky Brooklyn boy has seen the 4-F stamp on his forms all too often. That all changes when a German refugee scientist (Stanley Tucci) gives him the opportunity to take part in an experiment to become much more than was ever possible.

Training in a government military project, Rogers’ natural bravery and ingenuity make him the perfect candidate to become a one-man fighting force. With a few medical enhancements, the once scrawny scrapper emerges a muscular paragon of perfect health and athleticism. Taking the name Captain America, the man formerly known as Steve Rogers gets ready for combat, though what he didn’t count on was the threat of Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) whose evil plans may go beyond even the Nazis’ agenda.

With many names kicked around during the casting process, Evans may not have been the biggest star to take up such a role, nor the best personality-wise, but he tones down his usual cockiness well enough to settle into the humble, altruistic persona of Captain America. His head may look pretty odd atop a computer-generated shrunken body, but there are no complaints once he takes on his normal, well-toned build.

Still, the effects of the Super Soldier Serum can’t hurt. Unless of course, you’re Schmidt, who, as the recipient of a prototype of the formula, was stricken with a hideous crimson head along with the additional physical prowess. As if Weaving needed an extra feature to play an effective antagonist, adding the Red Skull to a growing list of legendary baddies like Megatron of Transformers and Agent Smith of The Matrix trilogy.

But even those who don’t play augmented semi-super humans, get a chance to shine with Tommy Lee Jones as Rogers’ stone-faced commanding officer, Col. Chester Phillips; Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, a British intelligence officer who quickly falls for post-metamorphosis Cap; and Dominic Cooper as inventor Howard Stark, contributor to war technology, in addition to being the father of a certain armored billionaire we’ve seen once or twice.

As the final single movie before the segue into 2012’s multi-hero epic The Avengers, the adventures of Captain America takes us back before we had Amazing Spider-Men, Mighty Thors, Incredible Hulks or Invincible Iron Men in theaters or even on the comic book racks. With people reading the good Captain’s comic debut within the story of his movie, it’s a very surreal sensation, but one that rings true to life.

With the title related directly to real-life happenings, the series bordered on war propaganda in its initial premiere, but since then, the character of Captain America has become less about hackneyed nationalism, such as “America: Love it or leave it,” and more about a character accepting the evolution of the country he defends. This is touched upon, but not exaggerated, as Rogers feels dissatisfaction being a mascot and marketing tool in the war effort. But, this is first and foremost a period piece, and with faithfully recreated New York streets and 1940s costumes, it feels like a movie serial of the era. A lot of high-tech set pieces add to the thrills that today’s viewers demand, but as long as Cap’s glimmering, stalwart star shield is present, that’s all the fans could need.

Besides being a sound film by itself, Captain America: The First Avenger serves as a lynchpin for all the Marvel Comics titles henceforth. With countless story arcs carrying over from movie to movie, there’s no question that The Avengers is going to be one slam-bang flick led by the hero occasionally known as Ol’ Winghead. It’s enough to make you say, “God bless America.”

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Cincopa WordPress plugin