By TRESSA ECKERMAN, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Since Sam Reimi’s “Spider-Man” debuted in 2002, superhero movies have become the new norm. However, in the last few summers, they’ve grown old and tired, and it seemed that “Captain America: The First Avenger” would be another casuality.
It’s an origins story that takes place in 1942. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny kid from Brooklyn whose dream is to enlist in the military with his childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). He keeps getting turned down because of his multiple illnesses until Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German doctor working for the U.S. government, sees something in him and gets him into the army. It’s there that Rogers meets Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British agent, and Colonel Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones).
It’s not long before Dr. Erskine and Howard Stark (the woefully underused Dominic Cooper) recruit Rogers to be the first in a line of “Super-Soldiers.” While still being human, he would also be so advanced that he’d essentially be able to fight the war alone. After arriving in Europe, he faces off with villain Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving).
Like most superhero movies, the plot isn’t important. What makes this movie work where so many like it have failed is the characters and the atmosphere. It’s good old-fashioned pulp fun with a heavy dose of rah-rah Americana. Chris Evans is the perfect all-American boy, strong-jawed and smart-mouthed, who isn’t content to sit on the sidelines while others fight.
“I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from,” he tells Dr. Erskine, when asked if he wants to kill Nazis early in the film.
As far as I’m concerned, it could have been the charming Bucky Barnes and witty Howard Stark show with a little bit of Colonel Philips thrown in for good measure. These are easily the best characters in the film and each of them, in their own way, gives the movie its heart.
The problem with “Captain America” is the pacing. The first half of the film has great moments, but they are slowed down by scenes that don’t really move. The movie really takes off when Captain America goes to Europe and director Joe Johnston treats us to some really breathtaking action sequences.
But even with its problems, “Captain America: The First Avenger” still comes out ahead of so many other recent superhero movies. Maybe its charm lies in the what makes the Captain America character so great: he’s ultimately “just a kid from Brooklyn.”