I like to call them the 12:01s, the film fans that flock en-masse to the late-night screenings of the latest and greatest screen adaptations of classic comic books -- last night in a balmy Washington, DC, I once again joined these legions of comic fans and college kids for the 'local premiere' of Captain America : The First Avenger.
We were quickly transported from a smelly theater with barely functional air-conditioning to 1940s Brooklyn, New York where a skinny asthmatic believes he can not only help save the world from the bullies on those mean streets but from the German armies terrorizing Europe.
From these very first moments the film dodges all pretense and makes no apologies, this is Captain AMERICA and the next two hours of your life are going to be saturated with red, white and blue action. While a few countries will release the film under a modified name -- there is certainly no escaping the central plot - Captain America and his brothers in arms represent the best of all that is good and right in the world.
Chris Evans, already an experienced Marvel hero from his time with the Fantastic Four, takes on the titular role -- part Uncle Sam and part lab rat, the brave but physically weak Steve Rogers looks for any opportunity to serve his country. His chance comes in the form of a top secret injection crafted by Howard Stark (ahem... Iron Man's dad) and Dr. Abraham Erskine, an escaped German medical scientist played by a compelling Stanley Tucci. While these establishing scenes could certainly trigger a Roger Clemens-style debate on the merits of Performance Enhancing Drugs -- we are quickly ushered away from this moral gray area and enter a time warp to the age of USO Girls, War Bonds and Hollywood antics. Our humble boy from Brooklyn is now the face of the American soldier.
But our Captain is hungry for more than cheerleading -- he wants to see action and as if Nazis weren't enough of a challenge, a new and even scarier enemy emerges in the form of Hugo Weaving's Red Skull and his HYDRA foot soldiers. Defying orders from his superior officer (Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips) and with the help of his one true love (British actress Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter) the Captain assembles a diverse squad of fearless butt-kickers to take back Europe.
Through a maze of pseudo-Nordic mythology, action montages, flag-waving and shield-spinning a palatable plot emerges -- but the 12:01s among us can't help but think that the last hour of the film was little more than an extended trailer for next summer's The Avengers, which will bring together Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and the lesser-known Hawkeye.
When all is said and done this was a solid comic book movie with an extra dose of Americana -- our US military of the WWII era are shown to be heroes and liberators, defenders of freedom and a guiding light to the rest of the world... but did we really need a man in blue tights to tell us that?