The Cynical Optimist has a new favourite Marvel movie : Captain America!

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Directed by Joe Johnston (”The Rocketeer”),” Captain America: The First Avenger” focuses on the early days of the Marvel Universe.

As part of Marvel Studios’ effort to assemble ”The Avengers”, Johnston’s ”Captain America: The First Avenger” is directly linked to ”Iron Man”, ”Thor” and ”The Incredible Hulk”.

This of course is all leading up to Joss Whedon’s 2012 film, ”The Avengers”, which will showcase Marvel’s mightiest heroes working together as a team.

March, 1942. In the United States, the Second World War has united an entire nation.

Rosie the Riveter has become an American cultural icon, representing American women working in munitions factories.

Children do their part too, participating in scrap-drives to cover shortages of metal and rubber. Then there’s this 90-pound asthmatic kid from Brooklyn, Steve Rogers, who’s dying to do his part. Rogers has been deemed unfit for military service a half-dozen times, but the kid won’t give up.

After a chance encounter with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), Rogers volunteers for a top secret military project that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America – a heroic icon dedicated to defending America’s ideals.

As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.)

Red Skull has discovered an Asgardian artifact known as the Tesseract, which fans of the comics will know by its more common name, the Cosmic Cube. This of course ties in with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, where the Cosmic Cube makes a cameo appearance. Red Skull has found a way to harness the power of the Tesseract and now seeks to rule the world.

”Captain America: The First Avenger” feels like a perfect marriage of films such as ”Raiders of the Lost Ark”, ”Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and Johnston’s own homage to Saturday matinee serials, ”The Rocketeer”.

That is to say, it’s a damn good film that feels firmly rooted in the ’40s. Chris Evans absolutely embodies Steve Rogers as the everyman who fights for what he believes in.

He isn’t a brooding vigilante, a playboy industrialist or a God from another realm – he’s just a man with a good heart who understands the value of strength, and he’s certainly the most heroic of any on-screen superhero.

”Captain America: The First Avenger” is easily my favorite of Marvel’s slate of ”Avengers” films – it excels at developing the character of Steve Rogers and his relationship with Howard Stark. The cast is brilliant, the action is exciting and the film is overall so damn charming and fun, it’s hard not to smile and cheer when Captain America and Red Skull have their epic final confrontation.

‘I look forward to sitting down and watching these films in chronological order in anticipation of Whedon’s ”Avengers” film. That’s childhood wish fulfillment at its best, seeing all your favorite superheroes share the screen, kicking serious ass all over the place – it just doesn’t get any better than that.