This pumped-up action movie featuring Marvel Comics’ red-white-and-blue superhero Captain America is played refreshingly straight, in keeping with its upright title character. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is a plucky but puny youngster from Brooklyn whom a scientist (Stanley Tucci) transforms into a strapping super-soldier during World War II with an experimental serum.
Dubbed Captain America, Steve is consigned to morale-boosting propaganda tours, but when his best friend gets captured at the frontline in Europe, his superior officer, Tommy Lee Jones’s gruff Colonel Chester, can no longer hold him back from the fray. Armed with his trademark shield, Captain America goes into action and finds himself up against Hugo Weaving’s evil Nazi commandant and his soldier hordes. With its lovingly rendered period settings and costumes, the film has a delightfully nostalgic feel but the special effects are right up to date. Especially nifty is the way they make Evans seem scrawny as the pre-transformation Steve.
Hayley Atwell shines as his British-agent love interest, while Weaving makes the most of his villainous role. Fleeter than most of its current comic-book-movie rivals, Captain America has some of the same rollicking Saturday matinee spirit as Raiders of the Lost Ark, even if it can’t match the earlier film’s pace and panache.