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Back to those patriot games

hollywood Updated: Aug 13, 2011 01:28 IST

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The cavalcade of comic-book superheroes marches on. Close on the heels of the recent debut of fellow Avenger, Thor, comes yet another new entrant into Marvel’s movie universe.

The origin story for the stars ‘n’ stripes brandishing super soldier moves at a lightning pace but comes up a little short in the thrills department.

The script is no more than a familiar gung-ho guys versus goons scenario. It also falters when it allows the arsenal of visual effects to take centre stage at the expense of coherent storytelling and character development. As ever, the 3D conversion is a hindrance.

Set during World War II, Captain America starts life as a scrawny wannabe army recruit (Evans, digitally emaciated via Benjamin Button–style CGI). In spite of his ailments, he tried to enlist again on several occasions. Motivated by unflagging patriotism, the puny reject ultimately volunteers for a top secret military experiment which transforms him into the invincible titular warrior.

Initially exploited as a propaganda icon to help sell defense bonds, the newly enhanced strongman eventually sets out to save America from the clutches of a megalomaniac Nazi (Hugo Weaving, sufficiently sinister).

It turns out that his unhinged foe has formidable superpowers himself, thanks to a gizmo that emits mysterious blue rays.

Director Johnston (The Wolfman) lovingly recreates the 1940s ambience, right down to the vintage cars, costumes and shop front displays.

However, he seems unable to resist piling on the mind-numbing action. Like a roller-coaster ride for two-plus hours, the viewer needs a break between the non-stop skirmishes.

As it is, most of the chase/ combat sequences are leaden and joyless. Chris Evans provides sufficient brawn but precious little onscreen charisma. As his ruby-lipped love interest, British actress Hayley Atwell barely makes an impact. Oscar-winning character actor Tommy Lee Jones fetches up as a cranky colonel. Both he and Stanley Tucci in the all-too-brief role of the genius scientist effortlessly steal the show.

Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the character of the all-American superhero first appeared in the Marvel Comics issue of March 1941. Fans of Captain America may find plenty to like in his current big screen avatar. For the rest, the spectacle comes across as so much sound and fury signifying zilch.

As for the epilogue set in present-day New York, it merely serves as a precursor to the forthcoming The Avengers behemoth that will unite The Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk. The baddies brigade had better beware.