There has been much press of late about British stars being cast as American superheroes — Henry Cavill as Superman and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man — but it appears the real story is that it takes an English village to raise these comic book good guys to their full potential.
Take Captain America: The First Avenger, which opens today. That nobody stops for a cuppa in the middle of all the action during the new movie comes almost as a surprise considering all the Brits in the cast. American actor Chris Evans may play the patently patriotic title character, but those aiding or clashing with his superhero include Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones and Richard Armitage.
Based on the vintage Marvel Comics character, the movie is set during World War II. It’s an origin story, showing how plain old Steve Rogers, a 98-pound weakling from Brooklyn who desperately wants to join the Army, becomes brawny Captain America after he’s injected with an experimental formula that turns him into a perfect physical specimen.
The film is more enjoyable than those other recent ho-hum superhero efforts, Thor and Green Lantern, though it’s not quite as zippy as X-Men: First Class. Captain America’s appeal lies in its straightforwardness and emphasis on character. The movie makes sure that viewers fully get to know Steve Rogers before he becomes the Cap, as he’s affectionately known.
There’s earnestness to the movie that’s refreshing, as is the deft recreation of the ‘40s era. It’s only in the final third, when director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman) cranks up the familiar super-hero action, that Captain America becomes same old, same old, as our hero takes on the movie’s villain (Hugo Weaving), a rogue Nazi officer who heads up his own military.
Half the fun of Captain America, at least for Anglophenia readers, will be noting how crammed full of English talent the movie is.
Fighting alongside Captain America is Atwell, best known for her roles on British TV in the recent remake of The Prisoner, Any Human Heart and Pillars of the Earth. She plays Peggy Carter, a beautiful but crisply competent English military officer who recognizes something heroic in Steve even before his body matches his character.
The fast-rising Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) offers a dapper turn as inventor and future industrialist Howard Stark (the father of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man), who is part of the elite team working on developing the super serum.
On the foe side, Captain America faces off briefly against handsome Richard Armitage (MI-5 and Strike Back), whose undercover Nazi character attempts to steal the secret serum. This bad guy leads the newly buff Chris Evans in an extended chase scene.
And Toby Jones (who played Truman Capote in Infamous and voiced Dobby the House Elf in the Harry Potter movies) offers an appealing comic performance as an unctuous scientist-inventor who’s assisting the movie’s main bad guy.
It seems that Captain America, like WWII, can only be won through an allied effort.
Will you be seeing Captain America for one of these British stars?