“I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” says Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Make that a skinny kid from Brooklyn, a 98-pound weakling who wants to serve his country as America enters World War II. He’s laughed at but ends up being recruited for government-funded secret program to create a super soldier. Col. Chester Phillips (a wonderfully acerbic Tommy Lee Jones) is dubious, but German emigre scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) believes in Rodgers-or at least in what he can become.
After enduring the experimental procedure, Rogers goes from beanstalk to beefcake and spends an inordinate amount of time shirtless as he chases a Hydra assassin through the streets of 1940s Brooklyn. Oh, you don’t know about Hydra? Well, it turns out Nazis aren’t evil enough so they created a secret research group to develop weapons and their own super soldiers, headed by Johann Schmidt, aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Their catchy motto is “Kill one head and two more will replace it,” which should give potential henchmen pause, but apparently they offer awesome survivor benefits because they keep coming as fast as they can be killed.
Captain America is little more than a war bonds salesman and Rogers is frustrated that all he can do is run around in tights while others fight and die on the front lines. On one moral boosting trip tot he front he learns that a group of Americans has been cut off and captured by Hydra. The colonel knows he’ll lose more than he can save but the Captain is having none of it especially since his best friend from Brooklyn is one of the missing. He goes in alone behind enemy lines and manages to free the POWs while destroying the secret Hydra facility nearly singlehandedly (it’s a movie, and a comic book movie okay?).
Once he proves his mettle, the Army unleashes him to hunt down Hydra. The Captain picks out a veritable United Colors of Benetton of soldiers from the group he freed, including an Irish lumberjack with a bowler hat, an Asian American from California and a French- and German-speaking Howard University graduate. It does manage to work, at least up on the screen, and Captain and crew wreck Hydra’s plans-or so they think until they uncover an even more secret plan to wipe out the East Coast.
Who can save us from the German menace? The Captain, of course!
Visually, the movie is great, though you don’t need to see it in 3-D. The costuming and period sets are perfectly recreated. The film is a bit thin-if you check the title, you should realize it is more of an introduction to the upcoming “Avengers” movie, and it shows. This is actually a film that could have been a bit longer, but if it’s hot outside and you need to cool off, you could do far worse than “Captain America.”