RECALLING the cliffhanger TV series of the 1950s, Captain America: The First Avenger establishes the origins of one of the most popular superheroes from the Marvel Comics stable.
Admittedly, director Joe Johnston has an arsenal of state-of-the-art digital effects at his disposal to spruce up the old-fashioned ideals in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script.
However, there’s something rather charming about the underlying themes of self-sacrifice and valour, and a chaste romantic sub-plot between the strapping hero and his feisty dame that never strays beyond a kiss.
Only the sadistic killing spree of the central villain - a power-hungry Nazi officer with a burned-off face - warrants the 12A certificate that makes Johnston’s film unsuitable for very young audiences.
Captain America opens in the present day with the discovery of the wreckage of a gargantuan craft then flashes back to 1942 Norway.
Diabolical German officer Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) steals a Cosmic Cube belonging to Odin and charges mad scientist Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) with harnessing the Cube’s power as part of his plans for world domination.
Meanwhile in America, German defector Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) is spearheading a secret programme to create the ultimate soldier.
He chooses asthmatic weakling Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as the perfect candidate for the treatment.
“The serum amplifies everything inside: good becomes great, bad becomes worse,” explains Erskine.
As if by magic, Steve is transformed into a muscle-bound hunk and he enthusiastically does his bit for the Allied effort by portraying a fictional character called Captain America at war rallies.
When good friend James Buchanan (Sebastian Stan) is presumed dead behind enemy lines, Steve joins forces with playboy inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to parachute in behind enemy lines as Captain America and single-handedly take on the Germans.
Captain America: The First Avenger is an entertaining introduction to the iconic characters, using digital trickery to impose Evans’s head on a scrawny body before his metamorphosis.
Atwell makes her entrance by punching an insubordinate soldier in the face and she embraces her role as the gutsy love interest with fervour, sparking smouldering screen chemistry with Evans.
Their final scenes together are nicely judged, echoing a tender moment from Michael Bay’s slam-bang Armageddon.
Action sequences are orchestrated with aplomb including a daredevil descent into a moving train.
Captain America Will Return promises a title card at the end of the film in place of the additional scene we have come to expect from comic book adaptations.
Indeed he will, alongside Iron Man, Thor and Hulk in the big-budget film version of The Avengers, which will be smashing and crashing into cinemas in summer 2012.
The countdown to tag-team superheroes begins.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland), (12A, 124 mins)