Was Captain America: The First Avenger really the first Avenger? What about Iron Man? There were 2 Iron Man movies before Captain American. OK, I guess that's in chronological order.
Because Captain America starts in the 1940s, with Chris Evans as 90-lb. weakling Steve Rogers. Now, I know what you're thinking - Chris Evans is the Human Torch, how can he be Captain America? Or were you thinking - gee, he was an ass in Fantastic Four, did they have to put him in Captain America too? But no, he's pretty likable here. He's small but scrappy and all he wants is to serve in the military. A cute agent played by Hayley Atwell and a mad scientist played by Stanley Tucci have a way to make this happen - a mad-science process that will make him into a super soldier.
Hayley Atwell's character, Peggy Carter, is pretty boss. She faces the bad guys, takes a foursquare shooting stance and starts blowing them away. Tucci is great too, doing a German accent but coming across like Umberto Eco or maybe Primo Levi - some wise old bearded European intellectual. I wish he had more screen time.
After they make Rogers super, the Army doesn't let him do anything but USO shows. But he gets to the frontlines where our boys (including Dum-Dum Duggan, Jim Morita, James Falsworth and other obvious members of Nick Fury's outfit) are getting slaughtered by a mysterious Nazi. That Nazi is really the head of Hydra, the Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving. Weaving, I guess, has become the go-to guy for expressing himself behind a full-face mask, as he did so well in V for Vendetta.
Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Tony's dad, gets a lot of time here. He's obviously inspired by Howard Hughes with a touch of Walt Disney. He's not a nice man or good father to Tony, but at least he's better than Bruce Banner's dad, Nick Nolte.
I'm not sure why, but this may be my favorite superhero movie this year. It felt denser, meatier than Thor, and more authentically period than X-Men: First Class. I like the female lead, and Chris Evans does a good job - better than as Torchy.
Bring on Avengers!