Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell
Directed by Joe Johnston
It's about time that a 90-pound weakling got to kick sand in the face of the other heroes in the Marvel Comics universe. I'm talking Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the Brooklyn kid who tries futilely to pass a World War II Army physical that will get him up in Hitler's face. Luckily, Steve meets Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a doctor who thinks this good-natured wimp is a perfect fit for his supersoldier experiment. A few Vita-rays later, and Steve – digital miracles have turned Evans into a convincing beanpole – pumps up into the hard-bodied Captain America, a mega fighting and propaganda machine.
Here's the funny thing: Despite all the Captain America rah-rah in costume and indestructible shield, the movie is at its best when the story sticks with skinny Steve. Evans, who played the Human Torch in two less-than-fantastic Fantastic Four films, brings such humor, heart and vigor to virtuous Steve that our rooting interest holds even when the action gets to be standard-issue, as it did in director Joe Johnston's The Rocketeer. Hayley Atwell excels as the Captain's soldier crush. And Hugo Weaving huffs and puffs mightily as the Red Skull, the rogue Nazi freak who heads the Hydra plot for world takeover. But it's Evans, playing it old-school, who has us looking forward to The Avengers next year, when the pioneering Captain leads Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk on present-day adventures. Evans makes a hell of an MVP.
• Video: Peter Travers Reviews Captain America: The First Avenger in "At the Movies With Peter Travers"
• The 12 Must-See Summer Movies — Plus Five Unheralded Gems and Five More to Skip
• The Best and Worst Movies of 2011 — So Far
star ratingIFC Films
star ratingTwentieth Century Fox
star ratingMagnolia Pictures
star ratingThe Weinstein Company
star ratingWarner Bros. Pictures
star ratingParamount Pictures