Captain America ignores its roots for easy money

Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in 1941, Captain America was among the first American comic books intended as an explicit work of patriotic, political propaganda: The cover of the first edition, available months before Pearl Harbor, famously featured the titular costumed hero punching out Adolf Hitler.

A nod to that classic beatdown has been worked into a retro-styled poster for Captain America: The First Avenger, but the film, directed by George Lucas protégé Joe Johnston (whose credits span Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and The Wolfman), seems concerned with a more timely fight: It's the latest, and last, Marvel Universe prequel to superhero supergroup flick The Avengers, finally due out next spring after half a decade of build-up encompassing two Iron Man films, two actors cast as Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk, and the establishment of the de rigueur postcredit teaser scene. (Spoiler alert: Captain America doesn't have one.)

The film concerns the transformation of one Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), "a 90-pound asthmatic" repeatedly declared unfit to fight in World War II, whose persistence impresses Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci, heavily vamping), a German scientist working for the U.S. military alongside billionaire inventor/future Iron Man progenitor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). Steve is soon chosen for a top-secret military experiment, for which he'll be injected with a serum that, as Colonel Tommy Lee Jones intones, will turn him from a weakling into "a new breed of supersoldier" assigned to "personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell." Not that Hitler — or anything else ripped from real history or recognizable life — is really on the radar of this hokey, hacky, two-hour-plus exercise in franchise transition/price-gouging, complete with utterly unnecessary postconverted 3-D.

Chris Evans as Captain America
Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios
Chris Evans as Captain America

Details

Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, and Dominic Cooper. Directed by Joe Johnston. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Based on the comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. 125 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Shortly after Steve (who is played in both supersize and diminutive form by Evans via still-creepily uncanny head-replacement effects) emerges from the experiment as an enlarged, greased-up Ken doll, a spy kills Erskine. Without his champion, this human-engineered living weapon is relegated to what an opportunist politician claims is "the most important battlefield of the war" — the media offensive. Touring the country fronting a live propaganda show designed to sell war bonds, star of his own comics and short subjects, Captain America becomes a folk hero for the folks left at home. But on the frontlines, he's a joke. Then, with no apparent combat training but a road-show-bred sense of showmanship, he mobilizes a rescue mission to liberate his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and incidentally frees 400 Allied soldiers for good measure. Steve gets some vague support (and the film gets a spark of much-needed swagger) from his ostensible love interest, Peggy (Hayley Atwell), a tough-broad British soldier who has some kind of role in the operation that's neither specified nor apparently anything that would muss her lipstick.

The lead villain here is Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), AKA the Red Skull, a Nazi whose obsession with the occult is a bit much even for Hitler to take. Having almost cheerfully "left humanity behind," Schmidt has assembled a splinter cult called HYDRA, through which he operates labor camps focused on harvesting energy from the Tesseract — a glowing cube thingy that Schmidt pillaged from Norway — and funneling that energy into weapons. It's never clear what this power force actually is, but somehow it's transferred to laser guns, which shoot streams of something to vaporize their victims on contact.

That putting such a corpse-obliterating weapon in the hands of everyday Nazi soldiers would have been something of a Holocaust game changer is one of a number of potentially rich parallel historical details that the film doesn't care to grapple with. Captain America assembles a ragtag multiethnic band of soldiers to help carry out his elite missions, but there's not so much as a single mention of the ideological divides that plagued the times — and, subsequently, spawned the original anti-Fascist Captain America comics. So what is Captain America fighting for? Apparently nothing more or less than screen time in The Avengers.

 
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9 comments
notwerk
notwerk

Awful review. Your comprehension skills are terrible. The source of power was clearly explained as having been derived from Yggdrasil, the tree of life in Norse mythology -- the character of Red Skull clearly being based on Rudolf Hess (and his obsession with the occult).

And if you had any grip on history, you'd realize that Peggy's designation as a British Special Agent is a clear reference to the OSS (MI6 is also referenced).

As for a "rag-tag, multi-ethnic band of soldiers," you might easily be talking about the Foreign Legion...which exists. (Any movie buff might even see this as a nod to the rag-tag band of soldiers in the classic Great Escape)

Further, Captain America does, in fact, have a post-credit teaser (really, did you even see the movie?) It's one thing to have every historical reference sail over your head, but you're even factually wrong. Time for a correction...

The problem isn't even a matter of your ignorance of the comic book universe; You barely have any concept of historical context. Must you have everything spelled out for you?

420band
420band

Dont tread on Cap Mutha F#cka!

Tracey
Tracey

I've always said that people who have never read comic books shouldn't make movies based on them. Guess they shouldn't be allowed to write reviews on them either.

Kenbailey
Kenbailey

Awful review, awful reviewer. This movie's going to be great. Haters are going to hate. Doubt Karina even saw it.

dm
dm

Wow what a crap review. But then again this is from someone who lives in the same state that let's child killers walk free.

Leadercobra
Leadercobra

what a stupid review. So basically you didn't like the movie because it didn't fill out a political agenda and it was relatively true to the comic books? Clearly you're unfamiliar with the source material and you're looking for boring documentaries where there's summer action movies.

Commonsense
Commonsense

To Ms. Karina,

So... just because this movie actually delved into the "comic" aspect as opposed to solely focusing on the real world stuff, you're condemning it?

Hello, this is a "comic book" movie, and not Bridge on the River Kwai.

What a bad reviewer.

AJ
AJ

Is this a review? Or just a plot synopsis? And you're upset that some fictional mystical weapon wasn't introduced (tastefully, I'm sure) into scenes involving the Holocaust?

Okay.

Commonsense
Commonsense

To Ms. Karina,

So... just because this movie actually delved into the "comic" aspect as opposed to solely focusing on the real world stuff, you're condemning it?

Hello, this is a "comic book" movie, and not Bridge on the River Kwai.

What a bad reviewer.

 

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