When any iconic comic book property heads to the big screen, fans typically track its development with equal measures of excitement and skepticism. That has certainly been the case with Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger – a film that has created divisive (and rather passionate) opinions in regards to its casting, costumes, and production design.

Many have decided to reserve judgment until the trailer debuts, but between all of the concept art and interviews with the cast & crew, there’s enough information out there to at least get a general sense of the film’s tone. I personally find the majority of what we’ve seen to be very encouraging, but I know there are some ardent Cap fans out there who are still on the fence about the movie.

It seems like one of the more controversial decisions Marvel made with Captain America was choosing Joe Johnston to direct the film. The bulk of Johnston’s filmography is comprised of films that are widely regarded as good, but not great. Sometimes his vision is bigger than his budget (The Rocketeer), sometimes it seems like there were too many cooks in the kitchen (Jurassic Park III), and sometimes it’s just an unmitigated disaster (The Wolfman).

Johnston recently spoke quite candidly about making The Wolfman and how different the production of Captain America had been. But would a better experience behind the camera translate into a better film? According to Johnston, the answer is a very enthusiastic yes.

Hero Complex caught up with him a few days after he’d watched the first cut of Captain America and it sounds like he couldn’t be happier with the film:

“I watched the movie for the first time a few days ago and I just looked at the first cut and there is so much entertainment value — it’s just flat-out fun to watch … Maybe I’m somewhat biased — I was there [when we made it] — but, seriously, it’s funny, it’s exciting and there’s great visual effects. The movie is going to be something more than people are expecting. This movie is going to surprise some people. It is the origin story of Captain America but it is also something rare — it’s a period superhero film but there’s great action in it. You don’t normally think of guys driving around in 1939 sedans in an action film but there are some great action beats in it. It’s just a helluva lot of fun to watch.”

Johnston also singles out leading man Chris Evans and praises his performance as Steve Rogers/Captain America:

“All actors bring something unexpected to the role because they have to translate what’s on the page and make a real character out of the black-and-white text that’s there in the script. I hadn’t worked with Chris Evans and I wasn’t really that familiar with his work and I didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away by the subtlety that he brought to the role. It was really exciting to watch him. He added layers to the character that were not on the page and layers that were not in the comic books. He made Steve Rogers into a real flesh-and-blood character and it was fantastic to watch.”

Granted, most directors aren’t going to make disparaging comments about their own film before it’s released, but Johnston has established himself as someone capable of giving his work an honest assessment. Of course it doesn’t guarantee that Captain America will be a great film, it simply signifies that he’s satisfied with the job he’s done. Since many artists tend to be harder on themselves than even their harshest critics, perhaps that’s saying something. Only time will tell.

Honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever truly enjoyed any of Johnston’s films – but I’d love for Captain America to be the one responsible for changing that. I’m really interested to see what direction the film goes in and how the character continues to evolve as part of The Avengers ensemble as well.

Captain America: The First Avenger hits theaters July 22nd, 2011. The Avengers is scheduled for May 4th, 2012.

Source: Hero Complex.