Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in 1941, Captain America was among the first American comic books intended as an explicit work of patriotic, political propaganda: The cover of the first edition, available months before Pearl Harbor, famously featured the titular costume hero punching out Adolf Hitler. Directed by George Lucas protégé Joe Johnston, Captain America concerns the transformation of one Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), "a 90-pound asthmatic" repeatedly declared unfit to fight in World War II, whose persistence impresses Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German scientist working for the U.S. military alongside billionaire inventor/future Iron Man progenitor Howard Stark (Dominick Cooper). Steve is soon chosen for a top-secret military experiment in which he'll be injected with a serum that, as Colonel Tommy Lee Jones intones, will turn him from a weakling into "a new breed of super-soldier" assigned to "personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of hell." Not that Hitler—or anything else ripped from real history or recognizable life—is really on the radar of this hokey, hacky, two-hour-plus exercise in franchise transition/price gouging. Captain America assembles a ragtag multi-ethnic band of soldiers to help carry out his elite missions, but there's not so much as a single mention of the ideological divides that plagued the times—and, subsequently, spawned the original anti-Fascist Captain America comics. So what is Captain America fighting for? Nothing more or less than screen time in next spring's The Avengers.
Evans is pumped up for the inevitable sequels.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 22. Rated PG-13. 125 minutes.