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Big screen Captain America something to Marvel at

Big screen Captain America something to Marvel at

Captain America: the First Avenger

Starts Friday at Scotiabank

Tired of comic book-inspired films yet? There have been three already this year (Thor, another X-Men, Green Lantern), making 2011 a fanboys dream.

But even if youre not a Marvel zealot, you might want to give this years trend one more try. Captain America with its gee-whiz dialogue and retro stylingis one film that feels as though it belongs on the big screen, instead of on Saturday morning cartoons.

Chris Evans, who cut his superhero teeth on the Fantastic Four films, plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid desperate to get into the army during the Second World War. Owing to his size, his chronic asthma and a long list of ailments, Steve keeps getting 4Fd, until the day a doctor eavesdrops on Steves passionate plea to get sent overseas.

The German-born Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) asks Steve if he wants to go kill some Nazis. I dont like bullies, I dont care where theyre from, is Steves reasonable response. After basic training, Steve is selected by Erskine and Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) to participate in a top-secret project, one that will make him a super soldier.

In the films first great magic trick, Evans goes from puny to pumped, emerging a foot taller and a great deal more muscular after the experiment. Noting the change with more than professional approval is Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British agent working on the project.

A serum that makes good men great and bad men evil? The Nazis already have it. The maniacal Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) hunts its source to Norway, laughing, while ze fuhrer digs for trinkets in ze desert. Schmidt plans to harness the super serums energy and take over the world with the help of his super scientists, who salute Schmidt instead of Hitler.

After some heroics, stateside the project hits a stalemate, and Steve is relegated to flogging war bonds in his Captain America costume with a troupe of dancing dollies behind him, then to movie andironicallycomic book fame. This is when he goes rogue, enlisting the help of inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) to rescue American soldiers trapped by Schmidt, who has now morphed into the Red Skull, thanks to his overuse of the serum. (Stay away from steroids, kids, lest your body do the same.)

As Captain America with newly minted street cred, Steve whittles away the baddies until the inevitable faceoff with Schmidt/Red Skull occurs, culminating in a long nap in the Arctic and a meeting with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the middle of Times Square. Because for those of you napping through the past few years, I should explain that the appearance of Howard Stark, who is Iron Mans father, and of Fury, are tie-ins to next years big-budget Avengers movie. Thus The First Avenger in the Captain America title. Get it?

The set-up for Steves transformation from weakling to Captain America is so carefully delineated that we dont really mind the lag in action in the third act; there is plenty of heart and humour to see us through. Tucci, Toby Jones (as Schmidts minion) and Weaving have great fun doing deliberately hammy German accents: I was just dying for someone to say ve have vays of making you talk. The love story between Peggy and Steve is appropriately chaste and in keeping with the period feel, and it anchors the story as it blows into full-boar CG battle mayhem.

Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, also with Hugo Weaving, October Sky, Jumanji) throws some Raiders seasoning in here, with a dash of Star Wars gadgetry, but these feel like part of the overall plan rather than cheap rip-offs.

Assuredly, Captain Canuck could take Captain America in todays economy (Feel the strength of our mighty dollar, zap!) but given the dismal state of things south of the border, a little rah-rah flag flying could go a long way, morale-wise, and Captain America: the First Avenger is just the ticket. Maybe Obama should buy a pair of tights?

jcrawfordfilm@gmail