Captain America is a comics hero that needs to be handled more deftly than others. He’s a true hero – not so much representing the country that is his name, but the underdog. In an era where the United States is no longer looked at through rose-colored glasses, a superhero wearing the flag colors is more likely to get burned with mockery than embraced. Fortunately, an early scene in the rather excellent new film nails it when Steve Rodgers explains his desire to fight: Rather than agree with the question of if he wants to kill Nazis, he shakes his head and responds, “I just don’t like bullies.”
Rodgers is a 98-pound weakling whose desire to stand up against tyranny is done from such a pure place that, by being in the right place at the right time, he is chosen to become the first super-soldier through a mysterious process that is destined to die with its creator. (The effects of displacing Chris Evan’s body with another actor’s are unnervingly seamless.) Set up against a dark alter-ego of sort, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, threatening and sometimes quite funny), Steve overcomes a lot of odds to become the embodiment of a hero, whilst suffering real, painful loss. The film is not sugar-coated, and rather moving at times.
Ultimately, this is a prequel for the new Avengers film set for next summer, and it handles it’s task with pitch-perfect tone.