I've done some science on this, and it turns out Captain America is the greatest name in the history of names.
Variations on this just don't really work. Commander Canada sounds like a joke. Sorry, northern neighbors, I like you and appreciate your contributions to the field of comedian export, but it's true. General Ancient Greece -- I don't think I even want to know what that guy stands for. Pretty statues, hopefully. Leftenant England could be a fun side character as a guy who punches his foes very politely, allowing them to remove their spectacles and stow their cufflinks before the pugilism begins, but again, not really the same height of iconography as "Captain America."
The first issue of Captain America, appropriately enough, showed the Captain socking Adolf Hitler right in the face. The movie version doesn't have much in the way of Hitlers, but Captain America: The First Avenger does have plenty of laser-toting occult-powered Nazi stormtroopers.
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All Chris Evans wants is to join the army and do his part to help end World War II. But he's small. Scrawny. Sickly. On his fifth attempt to enlist, he catches the eye of doctor Stanley Tucci, inventor of a serum that enhances every aspect of a person's being.
But moments after Evans is turned into a superman, a Nazi agent assassinates Tucci. In Germany, occultist commander Hugo Weaving has tapped a massive power source and is eliminating all threats to his new war machine. If Captain America and his team can't take Weaving down, the very world may be lost.
This summary, while accurate (or is it?), skips over the part in the middle where Evans puts on knee-high boots and a lot of velvet and parades around the country with a troupe of dancing girls. No, seriously. Think about that next time you waste the three hours you should have spent doing your taxes fantasizing about being a superhero (who, among other things, are tax-exempt).
It's a nice zag in the midst of yet another superhero origin story. Frankly, these things are starting to become old hat. And not old hat like a vintage derby. Old hat like two leaves glued together by the secretions of sugar-fed ants discovered under a wall painting of a wooly mammoth. So it's a nice, subversive little changeup when the first job Evans is put to work his post-Hulk muscles on is...selling war bonds.
The stage show semi-montage is also a fine example of how much ground Captain America covers. Director Joe Johnston's previous work mostly consists of a) kid's movies like Jumanji and b) stuff people rightly care nothing about like Jurassic Park 3, making him a strange choice to direct a big comic book tentpole (where "strange" is understood to mean "crappy"). But he defies expectations here by covering a broad plot while hitting all the origin story beats, answering such burning questions as "Why does Captain America like shields so much, anyway?"
Amid the relentless entertainment, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely bring a welcome sense of humor to the laser fights and whirling rocket-copters. In fairness, though, a lot of the comedy comes from colonel Tommy Lee Jones, who has secretly become the funniest man on Earth. Up there in a space station, some Russian cosmonaut might be making Yakov Smirnoff look like Yakov Boring, but down here on the dirt, Jones is king.
This is, if nothing else, a nice distraction from lingering questions about what exactly Weaving's supernaturally fueled plan is, or why his fellow Nazis seem perfectly content to let him run around being an increasingly crazy loose cannon. It's also not totally hokey-free, and there's not a ton of emotionality to it besides a really, really good ending. Its last few minutes are so strong it almost feels like it was stolen from a parallel universe where Captain America is every bit as good as The Dark Knight rather than the one in which it's merely rather good.