Just like the US in World War II, Captain America is the last to get in on the act, but still does more than enough to end the season with a bang.

He's the final of the year's superhero movies. He's been preceded, in entertaining fashion, by fellow buff Marvel-ite Thor - who he's joining in next year's Avengers movie with Iron Man. And he follows the tedious Green Lantern and the terrific X-Men: First Class.

Like the last of those, Captain America goes back to the future in grand style in an origin story that has plenty of fun as it rubs up against both war and comic book history, even if does run out of steam, oddly enough, when the action takes over.

Like First Class, this also reminds that though there have been superhero blockbusters since Christopher Reeve first fought for truth, justice and the American way in '78, the costumed crusaders of the comics hark back to the first half of the 20th century. Captain America harks harder than most.


Not only does it takes place - apart from a contemporary prologue and epilogue - in the 1942-1945 period, it also borrows heavily from Indiana Jones and Star Wars and many a war movie where plucky Allied commandos are shooting their way into Nazi bunkers.

There's a direct reference ("And the Fuhrer is looking for trinkets in the desert ...") to Raiders of the Lost Ark from Johann Schmidt (Weaving), the villain also known as Red Skull, as he uncovers his own casket containing an ancient mystical power. What he could do with that power could win him the war, if only if that wimp Hitler would let him get on with it. His evil plans involve his "Hydra" division, whose stormtroopers look like the nightshift on the Death Star. And, as played by Weaving, he is the second-best nose-less villain of the year after that Potter kid's nemesis, Lord Darth Vadermort or whatever his name is....

Captain America, is of course, the story of the frail but thoroughly decent Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who, after being refused enlistment in the US Army, gets his wish care of scientist Dr Abraham Erskine (Tucci) and an experimental serum.

When plans for an entire beefcake battalion are shot down, the pumped-up Rogers is forced to become a propaganda poster boy, which neatly undercuts the rah-rah-factor of the character and - in another sly touch- inspiration for a comic book, which makes him a reject all over again.

That's until he's finally forced into action, supported by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones in trademark gruff mode), Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper channelling Howard Hughes as Iron Man's Dad) and the muted affections of Agent Peggy Carter (Atwell), who in a movie of high-calibre actors and masses of weaponry, still makes a standout bombshell.

She's a nice fit for the film's period style, while the production design does a good line in retro-futuristic gadgetry, something director Johnson showed before in 1991's The Rocketeer. The CGI which renders Evans as the wimpy Rogers is impressive - though a pivotal train-attack sequence looks oddly videogame and leaves you wondering why no real rolling stock was harmed in the making of this movie.

But for all that, watching Rogers/Captain America go to war isn't nearly as much cornball fun as watching him prepare for it.

Once Wimp-Rogers turns into Invulnerable-Rogers and gets the hang of his bulletproof boomerang of a shield, the movie loses some of its early spirit as it becomes an all-action workout designed to get him to his next franchise appointment in the 21st Century. Mission accomplished, fairly enjoyably yes, but that's about it.


Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci
Director: Joe Johnston Rating: M (violence) Running time: 125 mins Verdict: As a superhero, he's no majorCaptain America's beefcake is the least impressive part of the film.

- TimeOut