Captain America, Ex-Runt

Superhero Delivers Summer's Most Jaw-Dropping Movie Moment

By , Columnist

Paramount Pictures

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) tries to grok his new dimensions in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Oh. My. God.  

When actor Chris Evans steps out of a super-sizing contraption for the first time, there can be no doubt: Captain America now takes his place alongside Wolf Man, Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk as a movie character blessed with one of the most spectacular transformation scenes in Hollywood history.

Here's the set-up:  It's World War II and every red-blooded guy in the United States has joined the army - except Steve Rogers. The 98-pound Brooklyn runt flunked the enlistment physical over and over but on his fifth try, he's spotted by Jewish scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci).  The scrawny kid will make a perfect guinea pig for Erskine's experiment to develop a non-Aryan super human.   

So Steve Rogers finally gets his dream job: He's in the army now. 

Cut to a secret laboratory. Rogers steps inside a casket-like pod that resembles the Art Moderne love child of a Hoover vacuum cleaner and a Flash Gordon space ship. 

After strapping him in, lab technicians inject the pale, concave-chested Rogers with a secret serum. 

Somebody pulls a switch. Electricity crackles. Onlookers grimace. The power goes out.  Then the portal to the pod swings open and out steps an entirely re-built male specimen.

Eight inches taller, the new Evans/Rogers sports biceps, pecs, and a six-pack abdomen that will likely trigger "Holy crap!" reactions from audience members. 

On screen, the scientists can hardly believe their eyes, and neither can Rogers.

True to its mid-century roots, Captain America's Punk to He Man evolution mirrors the ancient Charles Atlas ads that promised makeover miracles summarized as: "They used to kick sand in my face, and now look at me."

That old-school mythology gets retooled in Captain America with 21st century digital trickery deployed by Lola VFX.  The Los Angeles effects house, which also aged Brad Pitt for Benjamin Button and turned one actor into "twins" for The Social Network, digitally scaled down Evans to appear as a beanpole weakling sized at about 80 percent smaller than everybody else in the first part of the movie. 

Steve Rogers explains his Nazi-fighting fervor early on when he explains, "I don't like bullies."

By the second act, the buffed up superhero could amend his motto with a postscript: he does likes muscles, the bigger the better. 

Captain America: The First Avenger opens July 22.

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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