Captain America: The First Avenger (2011; dir. Joe Johnston) offers one of the better film adaptations I’ve seen of a comic book hero. It’s set in the early 1940s, with the United States preparing to engage Hitler’s troops in combat. The United States needs a secret weapon, and a scientist has devised a means to turn ordinary soldiers into super-soldiers. The process involves needles and iron-maiden-like machines and green liquids and numerous other devices (most of which glow, make noise, and emit sparks), but it does work. That’s how our hero Steve Rogers, a puny weakling who begs and lies his way into the army because he wants to serve his country, becomes Captain America. None of this makes much sense, of course, unless you’ve read enough comic books (as a boy, I read them), in which case it makes perfect sense. The Nazis make great villains, of course, as do the public relations people who try to turn Captain America into a swill for selling bonds and recruiting soldiers.
There’s no real break-out moment of super hero glory in this film, as there have been at moments in the early Superman and Batman and Spiderman films, but noise, action, guns, military trucks, and fighting abound. The film is entertaining and never boring and requires no thought. In fact, it’s better if you don’t apply to much thought to the film—just watch it.
The end of this film, which moves Captain America from the 1940s to 2010, is a bit contrived and forced. The 1940s plot doesn’t really come to a conclusion. It just stops. Then Captain America, catapulted by some absurd 1940s contrivance into the future, finds himself in Times Square of New York City, all in preparation for another film, The Avengers (2012; dir. Josh Whedon) in which Captain America teams up with Iron Man and Thor and some other super fellows. Oh boy.