Evoking memories of “The Rocketeer” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the latest comic book adaptation, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is a fun little throwback.
With director Joe Johnston (who also happened to direct “The Rocketeer”) at the helm, this is a breezy, two-hour action excursion that might not be quite up to the standards of other Marvel entries such as “Iron Man” and “Thor,” but it works, thanks to a whole lot of nostalgic charm.
Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a 90-some-pound weakling who is determined to enter the military and do his part to help fight World War II.
After a handful of rejections, Rogers gets his chance - he’s chosen by a scientist (Stanley Tucci) to be part of a secret government project.
The project is a success when Rogers is transformed into a super soldier, but an accident makes it virtually impossible to re-create the process. Because of the accident, the government decides to use Rogers as a rallying point for the troops instead of putting him on the battlefield.
Rogers travels through Europe playing the role of Captain America during USO shows, but finally gets the chance to save his country when a rogue Nazi agent named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) threatens to turn the tide of World War II in his favor.
Johnston gives “Captain America” the same “Rah! Rah!” vibe that worked so well in “The Rocketeer,” and the results are mostly positive.
Evans is fine in the lead as the computer-generated weakling who transforms into a dashing hero, but he gets a lot of help with a strong and talented supporting cast.
Weaving has a lot of fun as the heavy and Tucci makes a nice mentor, but both are upstaged by Tommy Lee Jones, a no-nonsense colonel who aids Captain America, and Hayley Atwell, the love interest. Providing the perfect mix of brains and sex appeal, she is a walking, talking pin-up girl who brings more to the table than you would expect.
“Captain America” may be too corny for its own good, not afraid to substitute action for (gasp!) verbal exchange between the characters. But I appreciated the old-school approach, which won me over as the film progressed.
This might not be an elite-level comic book movie, but it’s still a lot of fun - definitely a step above “The Green Lantern.”
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Source Code” (A-), the perfect example of how fun science fiction can be when done right.
This slickly crafted, time-shifting thriller from director Duncan Jones takes an intriguing premise and mixes it with some compelling twists and turns that make it an entertaining ride from start to finish.
“Source Code” begins with a soldier named Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) waking up on a Chicago commuter train in the body of an unknown man.
Confused at first, Stevens soon learns that he is part of a government mission that allows a person to share brain waves with another person for a specific amount of time (eight minutes in this case) - a sort of time travel of the mind. Stevens also learns his mission is to find the bomber on the train and to allow the government to stop him or her before carrying out a second attack on the city.
The film turns into a series of do-overs, with Stevens going back into the eight-minute sequence, slowly unlocking the pieces of the puzzle and developing relationships with the people on the train - including a young woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan).
That relationship, as well as Stevens’ quest to find out how he got in the mission, gives “Source Code” a human and emotional element that drives the action. At first it felt like it could be a distraction, but I must admit the payoff made it worthwhile.
Gyllenhaal is very good here - it’s a performance that reminded me of Guy Pearce in “Memento.” Monaghan is used well, as are Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright as two government agents assisting Stevens on the mission.
Jones, who also directed the underrated sci-fi film “Moon,” is perhaps the biggest strength of “Source Code.” His eye for action and science fiction pacing works well here, with Jones taking a simple premise and turning it into a sleek, 90-minute jigsaw puzzle.
“Source Code” is a challenging piece of work, but it is well worth it - one of the best major releases to date in 2011.
“Source Code” is rated PG-13 for some violence, including disturbing images, and language and is now available on DVD.