There were some very impressive effects in the movie, but, in my opinion, the best one was the subtly integrated and flawless CGI that turned strapping Chris Evans into a 90-pound weakling for the first part of the film. It really is amazing when you think about it, but it looks perfectly natural.
Evans gives a very nice and low-key performance as the Brooklyn boy whose bound and determined to get into the war against Hitler despite his feeble physique. He's well supported by Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, the inventor of the super-soldier formula, and Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, the British representative on the Allies Strategic Science Reserve.
The bad guys are lead by Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. "The Red Skull," who, in this version, instead of being an Abwher agent, heads Hydra, a scientific satrapy within the Third Reich which combines aspects of the S.S. and a technically advanced Organization Todt.
"Steve Rogers'" journey from being a 4-F recruit reject to heading a special unit tasked with destroying the Hydra operations, and to direct and deadly conflict with the Red Skull, is the plot of the movie, and works out well in the context. The movie has a high "cool stuff" factor, ranging from tricked-out motorcycles, giant German bombers, and the Skull's supercharged automobile, which looks like an updated and militarized version of the one used in "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
Cool also are the many Marvel references, ranging from the introductory shot of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) to the fact that "Dum-Dum Dugan", "Gabe Jones," and "Percy Pinkerton" of Marvel's "Howling Commandos" are among the prisoners Cap frees from a Hydra compound, although they aren't named as such in the script. (Given that, I was surprised that Tommy Lee Jones' crusty Colonel Phillips wasn't named Sam Sawyer, after the Commandos C.O. in the comics--.)
The movie has a nice balance of action, adventure, and character development, with some genuine suspense and pathos thrown in. One of the best of the Marvel franchise in my opinion.
And I'm still surprised at the number of people who don't stay through the credits--you'd think word would have gotten around. This time, the "Easter Egg" was a teaser trailer for next summer's "The Avengers" movie. Looks good!
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