Chris Evans can’t stop wondering – what it would be like if you were a man lost in time? It’s a mental exercise that began on the London set of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the film that reaches theaters on July 22 with a World War II setting and the tricky challenge of winning over young Internet-era audiences with a story of the radio-days past.
“A great story is a great story no matter when it’s set,” said Evans, the 29-year-old actor who will wear the red, white and blue costume of a comic-book character that dates to 1941 and was shown punching Adolf Hitler on the cover of his first newsstand issue.
For the screen, the core mythology of the hero’s origin remains in place: Steve Rogers (Evans), a sickly young man deemed unfit for combat duty, volunteers for a secret experiment that transforms him into the first of a “super solider” army — but a Nazi spy kills the scientist (Stanley Tucci) before the process can be duplicated. With his compatriot James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the hero fights the good fight against Axis foes such as the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).
Director Joe Johnston has some specialized experience in retro adventure as the director of the underrated, serial-spirited “The Rocketeer” in 1991 and as the visual effects art director on Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
“When you sit down to watch it, it’s certainly not ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ which is a very different kind of film in the final analysis,” Johnston said. “But sometimes when we had questions and we were stuck we would say, ‘What would Indiana Jones do? What would be the answer to this in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?’ I’ve always loved ‘Raiders’ and the great achievement of it was the tone and the fresh feeling of the movie. It was period but didn’t feel like it was made in the period. It felt like a contemporary film about this period in the past, and that is the goal we have with ‘Captain America.’ And I can say this — it definitely has an Indiana Jones pace.”
The film will have some darker nuances to it – the character of Bucky is far more haunted than the vintage version from comic books, for instance, and Captain America chafes at the way his government handlers spin his public persona. Asked about his greatest concern, Evans conceded that he fretted a great deal about the CG-effects needed for the scenes showing Steve Rogers before his transformation. “If something like that isn’t done right, it takes you right out of the movie. You’re suddenly thinking, ‘Wow that doesn’t look real, look at that actor’ and it can really ruin it. And if it’s early in the movie it can undermine the whole way the audience connects with the story.”
Evans knows that fans and bloggers zeroed in on the frail Rogers sequence in their criticism of the first trailer, but he said the ongoing visual-effects work is like a sculpting process and those scenes will deliver in the finished film. “They nailed it, it works, they really put a lot of time into it. It was a big relief for me.”
The entire movie is like a puzzle piece in a larger picture. Evans is now on the set of “The Avengers,” the 2012 release that pulls his character into the modern day and teams him up with Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk. That has Evans pondering some Rip Van Winkle questions.
“Just think about text messaging,” Evans said. “That’s the way I communicate with my friends now. If one them calls me I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you just text me?’ And that’s pretty new. Cellphones haven’t been around that long – I remember when people didn’t have them, really – and the Internet has totally changed the world in a relatively short period of time. Think of how strange all of it would be to someone from the 1940s who looks around and wonders what happened to all the things that were important to them.”
— Geoff Boucher
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