<strong>O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!</strong> Chris Evans does his star-spangled role justice (and effectively sets up a segue to next summer’s The Avengers) in <em>Captain America: The First Avenger</em>.

Ironically or not, part of the charm of Captain America, in his first upgrade from the comic-book page to the big screen, is the humbler and sometimes antithetical nature of his entitlement as a superhero. Sure, this powerhouse lead (nicely played here by Chris Evans) defies gravity, rules, enemies by the dozen, and assorted laws of physics, but he’s also a vulnerable human being who lets his amped-up musculature and the forces of good—not to mention a mondo shield—do a lot of the work of deflecting bullets.

But he’s also somehow more real than his superhero peers. He’s a serum–pumped-up former 98-pound weakling, and he has the blessing of retro techno surroundings and the moral non-ambiguity of fighting his fight during the “good war” in the ’40s. Not incidentally, he also gets the pretty, not-to-be-trifled-with girl-in-uniform (Hayley Atwell, a Brit). And as we see in this first and box-office-smashing installment of what could be some serious sequel fodder, the Captain starts his life as a superhero with unceremonious beginnings, as a propaganda-machinery sideshow, before the “real” work of fending off foes and evildoers begins.

Just in time for last week’s San Diego Comic-Con, the latest Marvel sensation to hit movie screens has arrived, and it’s a winning package. Lawsuits and various delays have kept Captain America in movie limbo for many years, but from all appearances and audience responses, a new sequel gravy train has been born. At least in this initial incarnation, the pieces are in place, including a refreshing blend of high-tech and vintage comic bookishness in its visual scheme. For further reality and artistic caliber check, Tommy Lee Jones appears in one of his archetypal gruff-but-loveable authority roles as an officer, and Stanley Tucci gives it some added oomph in his brief role as the good scientist prevailed upon by bad forces.

Even for the casual comic-book film buffs among us, we’re effectively drawn into the first chapter of the life of this “star-spangled man with a plan,” even as we may be wary of the inevitable sequels gobbling up summer screen time in the future.


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