July 23, 2011

"Captain America" review

I don't usually go to premiere-day showings, but I've been a Cap fan since my early days. I had heard some bad things, and some good, but ultimately one has to make their own call.


The background story is fairly true to the original comicbook tale (unlike the dreadful 1990 straight-to-video version that almost saw the theatre). Chris Evans does a good job in the title role of Steve Rogers, and the CGI effects used to portray him as a 98 lb. weakling pre-super soldier formula are amazing. The film is also supposed to portray, apparently, the "Ultimate" version of the hero -- the alternate reality "updated" Capt. America.

The film does what it's supposed to -- make the necessary connections to the various other Marvel movies of recent years ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "The Incredible Hulk") to lead us to next year's "The Avengers." Tony Stark's father, Howard, plays a big part in the film in the role of civilian technical adviser. He's also responsible for designing Cap's iconic shield. Hugo Weaving is superb as the Red Skull, oozing evil deviousness as well he should. His principal weapon, the Cosmic Cube, is mentioned to be one of Odin's artifacts from Asgard, a neat and obvious connection to "Thor."

Be sure, if you're a fanboy, to make careful note of the "World of Tomorrow" fair (or whatever the actual name was) that Steve and pal Bucky Barnes go to before Steve becomes Cap. You'll notice several homages to classic Marvel lore, notably Professor Phineas Horton's "synthezoid" -- who just happens to be the Original Human Torch standing in a large glass tube.

Bucky dies, true to the comic. It's falling from a train this time, though, not from a plane as in the comic.

There was no shortage of American flags and other red, white and blue!

Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. YOWSAH!!

The ending: This is taken directly from the pages of The Ultimates, where SHIELD attempts to "ease" Cap back into the modern world by pretending he's still in the 1940s. When Steve realizes it's a ruse, he busts out of the building, tearing up SHIELD personnel along the way.

Frankly, the NY Post has a point in its criticism of the film. Where the hell are the Nazis?? The Red Skull is a Nazi, and while there are several references to Hitler and his fellow goose-steppers, the Skull is actually part of HYDRA, somehow made into an SS-like rogue subdivision of the Nazi Party. I can't even remember seeing a swastika in the film, for heaven's sake. And the sad thing is, there is absolutely no reason to make this change for the film. It just adds an unnecessary layer to the plot. Debbie Schlussel, who I usually cannot take, is spot-on in her criticism of this.

Then there was the lack of action. Or, I should clarify, the lack of hand-to-hand action that makes Cap what he is. There was too much "big" action -- Cap and the Howling Commandos tearing up that advanced HYDRA base, for example -- and a disappointing lack of Cap doing what he does best. The few scenes of such that there were were done very well.

The Red Skull is light-years smarter than Howard Stark? Since when?? The scene where Stark takes a gander at the submarine captured by Cap shortly after Professor Erskine's murder is befuddling. He says, "I don't recognize ANY of this stuff" (or something similar) which means the stuff is so advanced, the greatest scientific mind in the US is totally clueless! At first I was thinking that, since this is supposed to be the "Ultimate" version of Cap, the alien Chitauri/Skrulls were responsible for the advanced technology as they were in the first series of The Ultimates. But this was not the case! The Red Skull (and righthand man Arnim Zola) were genius enough to create weapons technology so far advanced that not even America's greatest mind could comprehend it. Right. Uh huh. How would that happen, precisely?

Historical accuracy. African-American troops didn't exactly serve alongside white troops during WW2. In fact, aside from only a few instances, they served exclusively in segregated units. But if we believe what we see in "Cap," it seems President Truman's order desegregating the military occurred five years earlier. If you think about it, this is really a silly nod to political correctness. There have been ample stories about Cap's unhappiness with the racism towards, and segregation of, blacks in the WW2 military (including an emotional one in an Ultimates annual). The film could have made a [powerful] statement about prejudice and bigotry (via Cap), especially since an African-American did indeed serve in the Howling Commandos: Gabe Jones.

While the background of Rogers was done pretty well, they leave out an important aspect: How he became the incredible fighter that he is. The film concentrates on him becoming a USO performer (which, admittedly, was done well and was a cool comic touch), but it just assumes that because he received the super soldier serum, he automatically becomes the best fighter the world has ever seen. Wrong! The transformation made Rogers a lot stronger and durable than the average guy. It didn't imbue him with fighting prowess. For a good example of how this story should be told, check out John Byrne's superb 40th anniversary issue of Cap, #255 from 1981.

Why did Cap have to crash the giant B-2-like aircraft at film's end? Peggy Carter -- rightly -- tells Steve that there are several sites where he can land the craft. For some inexplicable reason he says he can't do that, and he'll have to ditch it into the water. I assumed it was because of the plane's autopilot; however, Steve quickly pushes down on the jet's stick, causing it to descend rapidly. If he can control the jet, why can't he do what Carter said?

WTF? Dept.: Why in the hell were the [atomic?] bombs destined for various American cities painted with their city names on them in affectionate "Enola Gay"-like style? This made absolutely no sense considering the design of the lettering, not to mention it was all in English!

Too long. The flick could have trimmed at least 15 minutes and you wouldn't have missed anything of value.

HUBE'S RATING: 2.5 shields out of 5.

Posted by Hube at July 23, 2011 08:59 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Dude, the African American soldier on the train *was* Gabe Jones.
Were there other black soldiers in the background? I might have missed that.

Posted by: Ryan at July 23, 2011 06:44 PM

Ryan: I know that was Jones. Perhaps my wording is a bit confusing; I meant that a statement could have been made re: racism partly because Gabe was a member of the H.C.

How'd you miss the other black soldiers? There were plenty of them!

Posted by: Hube at July 23, 2011 07:10 PM

One good thing about it, its going to be kinda difficult to revive Bucky as Winter Soldier if he died falling off a train. I'd list as bad the whole idea of bringing the Cosmic Cube into the film. Why couldn't they just have a film where Cap fought the typical Nazi menace headed by the Skull? Why throw in there that Zola was such a genius he's leagues above any American scientist? Its like they don't have faith in the original story to move the modern audience, so they ramp it up beyond reason just to make it more interesting.

The whole Avengers tie-in thing is irritating too. I can accept Gabe Jones as a member of an elite force like the Commandos, but to portray black soldiers as members of an integrated American military is stupid. Do they think people are not going to notice things like this, or that they won't care?

Stuff like this is why I don't mind waiting until the movies come to cable.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at July 24, 2011 05:12 PM

Actually, Bucky fell into a ravine with an icy river at bottom, so don't rule Winter Soldier out!

As for the Cube, as I said it was a tie-in to "Thor" and was used as a power source for all of the Skull's/Zola's weapons.

Posted by: Hube at July 24, 2011 05:53 PM

I didn't notice the African-American soldiers in the background. I'll have to pay more attention next time.

Posted by: Ryan at July 24, 2011 08:41 PM

Is it possible the African American soldiers were an all African American platoon? They did have them they just weren't integrated with white soldiers.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at July 25, 2011 01:11 PM

PT: They were all mixed in.

Posted by: Hube at July 25, 2011 01:24 PM