Captain America: The First Avenger

In theaters.

Countless action movies feature villains more interesting and compelling than their heroes, and frankly, that’s what I expected from Captain America: The First Avenger. I assumed Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, would be a humorless, goody-goody straight-arrow fighting a nefarious but amusingly snarky bad guy of some sort. I was wrong. Yes, Steve is an upstanding square, but he’s got more charm than I expected, and even if he’s not the jokey type, he seems to appreciate jokes, which keeps him from becoming annoyingly starchy and prim. In this movie, the annoying starchiness is left to the villain: Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. Red Skull, who is almost completely lacking in character motivation besides the basic fact that he is Evil with a capital E.

The truly vibrant color, though, belongs not to Steve or Red Skull but to the supporting players: the affable, insightful mad-scientist-to-the-good-guys Dr. Erskine; the gruff, blunt military man Col. Phillips; and the brilliant, smooth-talking industrialist Howard Stark. Those are the fun characters and—together with the not-as-dull-as-he-could-have-been Steve and Joe Johnston’s surprisingly brisk, forward-pushing direction—they make Captain America a passably entertaining summer blockbuster.