We took in Captain America this evening. A week late, but better than never. Since Prof. Blanchard is skinning Canadians rather than doing his usual comic book movie duty, I will pinch hit for him. In brief, the film has its flaws, but is overall good clean American fun.
Starting with the Spiderman series, the introduction of a new comic book hero in film has become a bit cliche. Some guy (it's almost always a guy) is leading average Joe life and through a deus ex machina he attains super powers. He plays around with these powers until he masters them, just in time to foil his arch rival who happens to have gained a similar power in a similar way.
Captain America does not deviate significantly from this story, but its introduction of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, has you so rooting for the guy that you overlook the familiar storyline. A pencil-neck geek, Rogers yearns to join the Army during WWII. After being turned down multiple times due to poor health, a scientist sees in him promise. There is a scene with a fake grenade that cements Rogers' credentials as a hero. It is not Rogers' physical attributes, but his essential goodness that gets him chosen for a special project that will ultimately make him into a muscle-bound superhero.
The film takes a bit of a turn in that Rogers is not allowed to use his powers. Instead, a publicity seeking congressman uses Rogers to sell war bonds. Captain America arises not as a soldier, but as an advertising campaign. Rogers is frustrated by this, but ultimately gets his chance at combat when his best buddy's unit is captured by Hydra, the evil organization headed by Red Skull, a German so demented that even Hitler is not evil enough for him.
What ensues is a standard but well done action film with the appropriate amounts of "blow 'em up" and wise-cracks, mostly from Tommy Lee Jones who, playing a crotchety old colonel, steals virtually every scene he is in. Captain America creates a band of merry men who look like NATO (but not UN) who proceed to make war against Red Skull and his minions. The end is essentially satisfying. As with most recent Marvel films, there is an indication that more is to come. Obviously a film with all (or most) of the Avengers is coming soon.
Remember in "Superman Returns" when the film makers couldn't quite stomach Superman saying he's for "Truth, justice and the American way"? Captain America does not suffer from this complex. While there is nothing blazingly pro-American about the film (as I say, the "good guys" represent all of NATO), it is unambiguously pro-freedom. And, hey, the damn film is called Captain America and he has an American flag on his shield. At no point is this emphasized, but at no point does the film apologize for it. It speaks for itself. During a climatic fight with Red Skull, the antagonist says the future will be a world without flags, and Captain America responds, "Not my future." Again, this is done subtly (just a line in an action scene) but it is there
I have only two criticisms of the film. We expect a film of this sort to have its share of moments when the laws of physics are defied, but this film, especially toward the end, has more than its fair share. I am more sensitive to these things than others, so perhaps you won't mind. Also, I dislike tacked-on love stories in my action films, and the love story in this film seems just that: tacked-on. I think this ended up short-shrifting us from what could have been exciting and witty adventures with CA's "merry men." As it is, we barely see them in action. Again, I get annoyed at what I think are superfluous love stories more than most, so perhaps you can look past this as well.
Finally, a word about 3D. In Aberdeen 3D was our only option for this film. I confess that I wouldn't have chosen to see this film in that format if given the choice (as I chose not to see Harry Potter in 3D a couple weeks ago). I tend to find 3D not worth the extra money. In this case I thought it was worth it. It certainly gave the film a more comic book texture to it. On the other hand, because the 3D glasses are tinted, it made the film a little too dark so at times with no action I eventually began flipping the glasses off.
Overall, I recommend Captain America. I can also second Prof. Blanchard's endorsement of Harry Potter. If you have small children, the new Winnie-the-Pooh film is wonderful. My two year old was transfixed. There is also a short film that precedes it that is absolutely moving.
Update: Thanks to commenter Bugs I have changed the quote in the CA/Red Skull flag discussion above to more accurately represent what Captain America actually says rather than paraphrasing.