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Questioning the Cap: “Captain America: The First Avenger”

April 7, 2014

In anticipation for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I am reposting my review of Captain America: The First Avenger published on August 3rd 2011.


Well, Captain America finally opened here in Bangkok last weekend, and, as promised, it’s another fun addition to what has turned out to be a remarkably solid summer movie season. In case you missed the premise, let me recap: Chris Evans plays a creepy, Gollum-like creature named Steve Rogers who keeps getting turned down for service in The Big One (that’s World War Two to you folks born after 1980). After catching the eye of a kindly German scientist (Stanley Tucci), he becomes a lab rat for an experimental serum that makes him a super-soldier. After an impressive light show, he emerges a primo slab of man-meat. Wackiness ensues. And by “wackiness” I mean, “he wins World War Two” (oh, uh, spoiler alert).

Captain America does just about everything right for a summer popcorn movie. It’s cast perfectly—particularly Evans, who gets to show some talent we haven’t seen since Sunshine—and directed with both ease and flair by Joe Johnston, a talented director who never quite caught a break in the past twenty years. Most of all, it’s fun, with none of the leaden, self-indulgent seriousness that has scuttled many a summer movie past. As a matter of fact, the only complaint I have—and I know this is a personal one—is that Hydra, the enemy organization, with its super technology and laser guns, disfigured leader, and faceless minions gave me serious G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra flashbacks. That aside, though, this is a gem.

Still, rather than just continue with the love-fest most fans and critics have slathered on Captain America, I figured I’d go in a different direction. See, as good as ol’ Cap-A is, I have a few niggling questions. Let’s run them, shall we?

Virginity: Scrawny Steve tells English Rose/love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) that he’s barely ever had a conversation with a woman, let alone “danced” with one (Note: I think dance is a euphemism). Afterward, Hunky Steve is so busy crushing Hydra he never gets a chance to dance with Hayley. So, um, does that mean he’s a virgin? He sure seems to be. Which raises the question of how many other superheroes are virgins. I’m pretty sure Spiderman was in the first two movies, before he hooked up with MJ.  I mean, maybe he had a girl here or there that we didn’t see, but the onscreen evidence seems to indicate he was abusing the hell out of his web-shooter. Maybe that’s why Spiderman 3 sucked. That could also explain why Superman Returns (and the other post Lois Lane-hookup Superman films) also sucked. Of course, this virginity key doesn’t explain the good  X-men movies, because you know they were all doing the horizontal mamba. Especially Wolverine, although I hate to think of the honky-tonk skanks he brought home…

Materials: Okay, so Red Skull has the, uh, nuclear Rubik’s cube which powers his ultra-futuristic equipment. Sure, why not? But where’d he get all the raw materials for massive tanks and sprawling manufacturing centers he’s got all over Europe? Is this the real reason Hitler lost the war, and sent his troops into the Soviet Union without winter gear? If so, that’s kind of lame, particularly the cavalier way Red Skull hits the self-destruct button on his compounds. I mean, the Luftwaffe is reduced to building jets out of wood, and this joker is blowing up a manufacturing plant the size of Milwaukee because Captain America is good at fist-fighting.

Cap punches a submarine: Okay, it was a small submarine, but how did he catch up to it by swimming? Did the serum also give him the powers of a porpoise?

The war-bond tour: Really? You have a super-soldier—granted only one, when you wanted an army—but really? This was the best idea anybody had? I mean didn’t anyone in the military or government think to suggest “hey, let’s hand him a Tommy-gun…just for fun…see what he does.” And didn’t anyone in the audience wonder, “hey, the dude can lift a motorcycle with three leggy dames on it…shouldn’t he be fighting someplace?” I mean, especially when you got tons of un-super guys getting their asses shot off all over the world.

The old shield: That thing could deflect bullets? Really? It was a prop for his war-bond shows. His wardrobe guy must have been expecting some seriously hostile audiences.

The new shield:  So, it’s made out of, ah, imaginatium or something like that. Super strong and vibration-deflecting, and, uh-oh, that’s all of it we got. So Stark’s dad makes it into a shield? Um, okay, I understand you gotta do something with it, but how come he then doesn’t even offer it to Cap? Why make it into a shield then?

The big attack: Okay, this genuinely befuddles me. First, the eeevil scientist tells Tommy Lee Jones that Skully’s target is “everywhere.” Ooooo…sinister. But then  we learn, no, he’s just hitting many major cities. Okay, that’s not the same “everywhere,” and yes, the distinction is important. Then, when Skully rallies the troops before the attack, we learn that he’s really just piloting a honking big flying wing (and, yes, it is very cool) filled with little piloted bomb/planes. He goes on to say, “If they shoot down one of our aircraft, hundreds more will take its place!” Wait! Hundreds more? From where? How many can that flying wing hold? Is it made out of TARDIS technology? How many bombers can he have, what with his itchy self-destruct-button-finger?  I know he was just working the drones into a lather, but if his whole threat is simple hyperbole…well, that’s just lame.

We win the war: Well, we do…once we destroyed Hydra. So, I guess all that stuff Steven Spielberg’s been showing us the past decade has just been the mop-up skirmishes.

Okay, I’m nit-picking, but what the hell? It’s just a summer popcorn movie, after all. Real good one, though.

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