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Critical Mass: Chris Evans saves 'Captain America'

July 22, 2011 |  5:03 pm

Chris Evans in "Captain America"
In "Captain America: The First Avenger," Chris Evans is looking pretty darn studly.

That's only partly due to his shirtlessness in director Joe Johnston's film. What's more, the critics are generally enjoying his performance as a 98-pound weakling who wants to fight the Nazis and ends up in a super-secret program that pumps him up to Ahnold-like proportions -- even if they're slightly more mixed about the film.

This year, after all, has been filled with superhero films, including "Thor," "X-Men: First Class" and "Green Lantern." For some, the expectations surrounding "Captain America" were low or filled with ennui.

But, as The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, this film "does have something the others do not: Chris Evans in the title role.... As Steve Rogers, a weak young man who gets turned into the husky Captain America by a dose of Super-Soldier Serum, this part brings out an appealing earnestness and humility in the actor that is certainly not business as usual in the comic book superhero genre."

Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter invokes "Inglourious Basterds" in describing "Captain America's" reenvisioning of World War II, just as many other critics do. The film "should satisfy Captain America's fans, old and new, while Chris Evans’ no-nonsense yet engaging portrayal of a man who doesn’t know how to back away from a fight may cause young women to swoon and young men to join a gym. Yet the film will leave others wondering -- especially following the film’s long gestation and marketing buildup -- 'Is this all there is?' "

In the Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern says Evans is "quietly engaging" as Rogers. But he feels the film loses its way: "In its early stretches, this revenant from the early days of Marvel Comics brings a spectacular sense of design to the World War II era, and sparkles with ambition; there's even a production number reminiscent of old Warner Brothers musicals.... Once Captain America goes off to war in his endearingly silly suit, however, the movie, which was directed by Joe Johnston from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, starts to lose its vibe."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times enjoys the film's "wildly absurd" CGI-driven adventures and explains a bit about Evans' physique: "CGI makes another invaluable contribution to the movie, by shrinking the 6-foot Chris Evans into a vertically challenged 90-pound weakling, and then expanding him dramatically into the muscular Captain America. This is done seamlessly; I doubted there was a single shot in the movie showing Evans as he really is, but no: I learn the full-size Captain is the real Evans, bulked up."

A.O. Scott of the New York Times calls the film "enjoyably preposterous, occasionally touching and generally likable," while praising Evans for his portrayal of the various emotions a guy's gotta work through after being transformed into a superhero. Ultimately, though, "Mr. Evans is genial and easy on the eyes, but a superhero with a mask, whether bland or brooding, is rarely as interesting as the sidekicks and baddies who surround him."


'Captain America' trailer

'Captain America' premiere: Chris Evans [Video]

Director Joe Johnston on 'Captain America'

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger." Credit: Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios