*** WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Walking back from the Cinema it occurred to me that the four most recent films I've seen have all been superhero adaptations - X-Men: First Class, Thor, Green Lantern and now Captain America. All those other films were to some degree or other flawed. X-Men had some serious plot holes and some unnecessary historical exposition, Thor was spectacular in the true sense of the word and very enjoyable but suffered from sequences that were clearly there solely to set up the connection to the forthcoming Avengers movie and Green Lantern was an object lesson in how to make a very bad superhero film.
So what about Captain America?
Well it isn't the first attempt to bring it to the screen, not even the first live action attempt. None of the previous versions were successful so why should this one be different? The problem lies in the very nature of Captain America's story- not the one in the comic books but the one in the real world. It isn't really one character but two. The character was originally conceived as a super-patriotic strip in 1940 to rally the folks back home during the war. He fought alongside such characters as the Submariner, the Human Torch and Sergeant Fury's Howling Commandos, and together they took on the evil might of the Third Reich. That incarnation was cancelled in 1954.
The character was revived in 1964 — having been frozen in the ice since defeating the Red Skull — and started his more modern lease of life, The problem the movie makers have always had is that they try to tell both stories in a single movie. And it doesn't work. One version I saw on TV collapsed the entire WWII story into a single mission where he was created, fought the Red Skull and got frozen, begging question of how he is such a well-known and recognisable icon when he eventually gets thawed out if no one had ever heard of him in the 1940s.
The new version boldly sets everything — apart from two very short framing sequences — during the war, allowing time for the character to be drawn in rather bolder strokes than any previous version, and it's all the better for it. In fact it's extremely faithful not just to the original concept of the character but to the style, look and atmosphere of the original comic books. The plot is straight-forward, action-filled and even the inevitable (given the character and setting) triumphalism is tongue-in-cheek and self mocking. It may not be thought-provoking or intellectual fare but it's a jolly good romp. If you're a comics fan then you may enjoy it just a shade more, but most people should enjoy it anyway.
So of the four recent superhero movies, I'd say it's the clear winner.
And now can we please have some movies that aren't based on comics?