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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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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome: There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the “Apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in 57-58 A.D.. 
<p>There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city “caused by the certain Chrestus” [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius’s death in 54 A.D. Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. </p><p>In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their “hatred of the human race.” Peter and Paul were probably among the victims. </p><p>Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.</p> American Catholic Blog People are not perfect. But God does not only call upon great saints to reveal his love for the world. He also calls the broken and desperate. We are all called to act as God’s light in this darkening world.

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