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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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