Captain America - * * 1/2 (Theater)
I liked Captain America. It looks great, has a compelling actor (Chris Evans) in the lead role, another great actor in a supporting role (Tommy Lee Jones), and takes place during World War II. Unfortunately, it suffers from a lackluster second half.
After a present day prologue, we go back to the 1940s and meet Steve Rogers, short, skinny, and unable to join the army due to medical problems. But he has guts and tenacity, and that gets him noticed for a special project being led by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to choose a new super soldier.
Before Steve knows it, he's in the army, getting yelled at by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). When Steve gets picked for his human qualities and bravery, he gets to become Captain America -- through a painful procedure where many important people are invited to watch.
He's barely out of the procedure when he has to chase down a Nazi in Brooklyn -- a great scene that shows Steve's new superhuman abilities. Unfortunately, the Colonel doesn't want Steve in his army -- even with these new abilities, and Steve becomes Captain America to sell war bonds.
This half of the movie was surprisingly fresh, compared to most movies derived from comic books. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers with pathos and gusto. Even when he's Captain America, he still reminds us of that shorty skinny guy who got beat up in alleys all over Brooklyn.
But when Rogers gets to Italy to entertain the troops and, ultimately, to become the kick-ass version of Captain America, the movie becomes less interesting. One of the problems is that Captain America seems invincible (even though he's not). He goes in and single-handedly takes out what looks like hundreds of men. And even though Captain America will eventually dual with the equally strong Red Skull, you're never really worried. The filmmakers try to make up for this problem by showing people around Captain America in peril.
After Captain America's first successful mission, we see a montage of his ass-kicking across Europe on his way to the big mission. This was the point where the film lost most of the momentum it had built up. Everything became predictable. The filmmakers could have made this more dramatic by dropping the montage and taking more time with the final showdown.
I almost got the feeling that the filmmakers did have more in the second half, but something happened during editing that caused them to cut. Given that the film runs two hours and five minutes, I'm guessing that they were running long and got nervous. And what better way to cut than to create a montage made up of other scenes?
On the whole, Captain America's an entertaining film. Unfortunately, like so many good films, it could have been great.