Joe Johnston's Captain America is full of great performances. The cast (Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonaugh, Derek Luke, Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, and Stanley Tucci) do a great job reading lines that might sound ridiculous outside of the science-fiction/fantasy setting that is the Marvel Universe.
So yes, this film does follow in the footsteps of Iron Man/The Incredible Hulk/Iron Man 2/Thor, but takes place before all of them in the 1940s. Like the comic book character, Steve Rogers (Evans) starts out as a runt of a boy from Brooklyn, but after a lab experiment, he becomes a Super Soldier with enhanced strength, reflexes... you name it. He is sent to Europe to defeat the Red Skull (Weaving) who plans to use an Asgardian energy source for world domination.
The comic book reader in me enjoyed seeing these characters brought to life, but the film buff in me wishes the story had been tweaked. There are two deaths of people close to Steve that motivate him in this movie. This ends up feeling odd as the second death (in the middle of the film) just makes Steve... just about as angry as he already was after the first death (in the beginning of the film). The Red Skull is a very believable villain... but why does he abandon Nazism? Wouldn't it make sense to combine the Nazis and Hydra? Then again, having the villains do fist pumps instead of "heils" does contribute to the less realistic appeal of such a film.
Everything about this World War II story has a wholesome nature that doesn't sit well with me. I'm not even talking about the Star Spangled Man sequence, but perhaps it is the whole message of the film that I just don't relate to. The "what is in your heart and mind is what counts" idea is something I just don't associate with Cap. Then again, I did start reading the comic in 2004 when the character was more tortured.
The film just feels cliche at times. Don't get me wrong, Iron Man and Thor were cliche too, they were just disguised with charm and brashness. The writers of The First Avenger put out a lot of ideas, but very little is ever actually explored.