Marvel Studios has pulled it off again with its fifth superhero to muscle his way onto the big screen in "Captain America: The First Avenger." Director Joe Johnston's fast-paced origin story about the World War II-era superhero was a critical and financial success and heightens the anticipation for seeing Cap team up with Iron Man, Hulk and Thor next year in "The Avengers."
Leading man Chris Evans -- who has always had the sick build of a superhero, and has played one before in two "Fantastic Four" movies as Human Torch -- is introduced in "Captain America" as scrawny Steve Rogers thanks to some digital downsizing. The asthmatic little guy desperately wants to enlist in the army to serve during World War II, but keeps getting declined owing to a laundry list of health problems. He is eventually recruited into a secret super-soldier program and, after taking a muscle-building serum, is transformed into a hunk of red-white-and-blue hurt for the Nazis.
Not content to be a lab rat, Steve does the rounds at fundraisers dressed as Captain America to raise money for the war. These cheesy musical numbers might at first seem out of place in a superhero flick, but they're actually fun and help immerse us in '40s America. While trying to rouse the troops overseas, Steve gets behind enemy lines with the assistance of British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and frees many captured American soldiers. It is there that he meets the fearsome Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a Nazi officer named Johann Schmidt who broke away from serving as Hitler's head of advanced weaponry to serve his own needs for world domination as commander of the terrorist organization HYDRA.
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Red Skull has taken the same strength-enhancing serum as Cap, so the two are equally matched as Cap tries to stop the crimson-headed Nazi madman from harnessing the power of a mystical tesseract and destroying key American cities. Steve takes down the Skull's airship over the Arctic and ends up frozen for almost 70 years until he is thawed out in present-day New York City, ready to rumble with his Marvel buddies next year in "The Avengers."
"Captain America" was shown in 3-D in theaters and is also available on Blu-ray 3-D at home for those who want to replicate the experience -- something definitely worth checking out if you have the setup. No matter what dimension you watch it in, "Captain America" is one of the more satisfying superhero movies to soar onto screens lately. Not only is Evans perfectly cast as Cap (he just won "Best Superhero" at the 2011 Scream Awards), but "Matrix" baddie Weaving gets to be deliciously evil again as Red Skull, Atwell is tough but sweet as the other half of the blossoming Cap romance that is literally put on ice for seven decades, and Tommy Lee Jones steals scenes as wisecracking, crusty Col. Chester Phillips.
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There are also the expected ties to the other "Avengers" heroes with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), the father of "Iron Man" Tony Stark, playing a major part in outfitting Cap with his vibranium shield, and Samuel L. Jackson popping up at the end as the Nick Fury, head of the Avengers. Be sure to watch after the credits as Fury proposes a mission to Cap that will -- what else? -- save the world.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a commentary track, "Outfitting a Hero" and "The Assembly Begins." The Blur-ray also adds four more making-of featurettes, "Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" and deleted scenes.