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Captain America: The First Avenger” blew past Harry Potter in its opening weekend, as comic book junkies came out in force to support their American hero. “Captain America” drew $65.8 million in its opening weekend and bumped the wizarding world down to second. 

Set at the height of World War II in 1942, “Captain America” begins with Steve Rogers, a civilian struggling to enlist in the war effort. Undersized and with a long list of ailments that make him unfit to fight, he refuses to stop trying. It is not until Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees something more in the scrawny would-be soldier at the New York Worlds Fair that Steve Rogers gets his chance.

Dr. Erskine chooses Rogers as a Captain America candidate because of his courage and determination that Dr. Erskine feels go beyond the physical. At training camp he is the weakest, slowest and smallest, but his courage becomes apparent when he dives on a grenade. Nonetheless his selection stuns Col. Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones).

After his transformation Rogers, now taller, stronger (still played by Chris Evans), becomes the next “Uncle Sam” and
is used by the Colonel as a propaganda tool for the U.S. Army after he captures a murderous German spy. “Captain America” comics even pop up in one scene as Steve Rogers in the iconic outfit tours the United States encouraging the people to buy war bonds.

It is not until the Captain makes his first trip to Europe that he realizes he should and could be doing more to help his fellow soldiers. So with the support of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and Officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSA), Captain America goes in alone to rescue 400 U.S. soldiers from an enemy base.

Hugo Weaving (“Matrix,” 1999; “Transformers,” 2007) again takes on the role of super-villain as Johann Strauss (Red Skull, to those in the know), Captain Americas’ arch-nemesis. He leads a faction called HYDRA that breaks off from the Nazis. Red Skull, believing he is superior to all others, sets out to prove it.

Much of the last half of the film is a montage of fight scenes as Captain America, now in a more functional uniform instead of tights, leads a hand-picked team that includes his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) into battle against HYDRA forces ac-ross Europe and keeps Red Skull on the run.

The film makes solid use of 3D effects during the fight sequences, and when Captain America’s iconic shield becomes the weapon of choice it seems to fly off the screen. Unlike in “Transformers,” however, where the 3D is well-utilized throughout “Captain America” did not need the added dimension.

Mr. Weaving proves that he is the ulti- mate super-villain: His intellectual and calm, yet cruel, demeanor is as chilling as ever.

The cast helps put “Captain America” above and beyond other superhero movies such as “Green Lantern.” Mr. Jones as the Colonel provides some comic relief and is hard not to like in his military role, while Mr. Evans, who was at first reluctant to play the first Avenger, returns to the superhero role after a stretch as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four series.

The appearance of Howard Stark, Tony (“Iron Man”) Stark’s father, ties Captain America, Iron Man and Thor into an “über-series,” and with the three superheroes now established, it is only a matter of time before Marvel movie magic brings the Avengers together on the big screen.

The essential American superhero, played by Chris Evans, has come to the big screen as the latest in a series of movies leading to a future Avengers film set to come out in 2012. That film will feature Iron Man, Thor and the captain. Even viewers unfamiliar to comics should quickly fall in line with “Captain America.”