It feels fair to say that when ‘Captain America’ was first announced, no one outside of the 50 states was expecting anything special. As the film’s subtitle alleges, the Captain may be ‘The First Avenger’ but he’s still a patriotic prat in tights whose main powers, much like the real-world superpower that spawned him, seem to be excessive arrogance and blunt force. So respect is due to
and his screenwriters for not only fashioning a nifty, highly entertaining slice of pulpy comic-book action, but for making this most divisive of costumed crusaders universally relatable.
The film’s period setting helps: by taking the character back to his mid-’40s roots and pitting him against history’s most hissable villains, the Nazis, the filmmakers have neatly sidestepped questions of American imperialism. They even take a few witty potshots at patriotic fervour in a terrific mid-film musical sequence, as our genetically buffed-up, weed-turned-warrior hero, Steve Rogers (
), traverses the country selling war bonds and bopping a comedy Adolf on the nose to the delight of baying crowds.
But, with this sticking point out of the way, the film has other problems to contend with: the action scenes are inventive and well constructed but can feel somewhat slight; the characters are well sketched but far too plentiful; and the 3D effects are blurry and confusing – if you can catch this in 2D, you probably should. Most damagingly of all, ‘Captain America’, like ‘Iron Man 2’ and ‘Thor’ before it, is hamstrung by its commitment to the upcoming Marvel superhero ensemble movie, ‘The Avengers’, leading to a deeply unsatisfying non-sequitur ending. The result is pacy and punchy, but not quite a knockout.