Thursday, November 03, 2011


RED SKULL: What makes you so special?
CAP: Me? Nothing. I'm just a kid from Brooklyn.

Cap and USO
The Captain America movie showed up in the mail from Netflix last week so my brother and I watched it. I enjoyed the film and wouldn't mind owning it, but when it was over I felt like something had been missing. It didn't move me or hit me like, say Iron Man or Batman had.

I have a hard time putting a finger on what exactly it was that was missing. The movie was well made and fairly well written, although it has no real memorable lines. I liked how Captain America was portrayed and how they handled his origin. The Characters were likeable and interesting enough and it looked plausible and believable despite the fantastic themes.

One thing that was missing was patriotism. Despite being set primarily in the World War 2 era and being about Captain America, the only elements which might be considered patriotic were cheesy and somewhat crass - a sequence of war bonds promotions. There wasn't any flag waving or love of America in the movie whatsoever, this could have been set in any country, the nation was irrelevant.

Captain America himself wasn't especially impressive either. I mean, physically he was incredibly dynamic and capable, he had nearly superhuman abilities (Cap's power is to be the peak possible human condition, as good as a human can possibly be in every physical category). He just didn't really feel like a leader, or really even a hero.

And I think that's what was missing. He was a guy who did good, he was a man who wanted to help, but he never really came across as heroic beyond the typical movie guy who does something impressive. There were little bits in the Iron Man and Batman movies where each character does something specifically heroic, something particularly self-sacrificing and special. This was particularly well done with children, so a kid sees what's going on and goes "yay!" When the litttle boy says "I knew he'd come" about Batman, that's exactly what a hero is about, particularly a superhero.

And something else that was missing is a real feel for Cap being in the slightest danger. I never got the slightest sense that Captain America was at any point remotely in any particular trouble. He never really even got hurt much, despite his antics.

So in the end, we got a watered down sort of hero, defined by an opposition to bullying rather than promotion of heroic ideals. He was reactive through the whole movie, doing things as a result of others. You got the impression he'd be fine just doing War Bonds promotions until he finds out his friend might be a prisoner. And that's a pretty sad missed opportunity, to make Captain America really stand out.

But... maybe that's all America has been reduced to. Having fun, making money, and responding when personally offended, but only against "bullies." I'm sure that's what the writer and director think about America. But Captain America has always stood for what America should be, and was. And I think that's what was missing from the movie. Because showing America as the light on the hill and the beacon of liberty, as a truly exceptional place is offensive to the guys who made the movie.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I watched this last week, too. I largely agree with your review. One thing that struck me is that Cap was more of a hero BEFORE he was injected with the serum. As a 98 pound weakling, he made a patriotic stand in a movie theater that required him to take a brutal beating. We don't really see behavior like that again until the very end of the movie, when he crashes the plane rather than let it hit New York.

Perhaps they were trying to make a statement about how his augmented self inflated his ego and caused him to leave behind his heroic self, only to have him return to it in the end... but if that was the intent, they didn't do a very good job telling the story.

I also think this ties in well with your Bad Bad Villian thread... while the Red Skull is certainly a traditional Captain America villian, I think the movie would have been better if they'd had Cap square off against Hitler himself. I mean, you can't really invent a more evil bad guy than Adolf Hitler.