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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Captain America: The First Avenger

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

Out of the summer glut of superhero movies, "Captain America: The First Avenger" (Paramount) distinguishes itself by a complete absence of cynicism, a crackling undercurrent of dry wit, and the classical purity of its golden-age Hollywood references. In keeping with its nostalgic tone, moreover, this comic book adaptation's mostly unobjectionable content also harkens back to more innocent times.

It helps, of course, that in relating their origins story of the titular character—set during World War II —director Joe Johnston and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely display a warm affinity for America in the 1940s. Thus, along with the usual nods to other figures in the Marvel Comics stable, this epic features allusions to Betty Grable musicals and the Danny Kaye wartime film "Up in Arms."

The old saying, "They don't make 'em like that anymore," notwithstanding, in this case they really have —and most intelligently. As a result, despite some scenes of destruction, "Captain America" registers, for the most part, as full-on family entertainment of the old school.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a 90-pound wannabe soldier from Brooklyn transformed into a muscular super-warrior in the Dr. Frankenstein-like lab of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), whose ultimate goal is the creation of battalions of such fearless, gene-altered fighters.

A Nazi agent, however, destroys Erskine's technology, thus breaking the mold in which Steve's new persona was formed, and leaving him an inimitable prototype.

Now what to do? First, send Steve, in his Captain America costume, and accompanied by a bevy of chorines, on a war bonds tour. But this fails to satisfy Steve, who, it seems, is no mere song-and-dance man. He wants to fight the Germans, and gets his chance when he's sent overseas to entertain the boys in the field.

Gruff Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) gives Steve his own platoon, and off he goes, armed with a bulletproof red, white, and blue shield, and motivated by a suitably broadminded motto: "I don't like bullies. I don't care where they're from."

Steve and his cohorts—including his newfound love interest, fetching scientist Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)—end up fighting not the German military, but rogue Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). Schmidt, it develops, is actually a satanic character called Red Skull. Acting in cahoots with evil scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), Schmidt is out to destroy the world—or at least the eastern third of the United States.

Schmidt's source of power: a magic crystal that used to belong to the Norse gods. His preferred music: Wagner's operas. The filmmakers, as you can tell from such details, have brushed up not just on their old movies, but on their cultural cliches as well.

The film contains much action violence, including gunplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****

Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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