The Great Marvel Movie Catchup Part 1
I don’t really get Captain America. I guess partly because I’m not American and don’t understand the particular brand of patriotism that is much of what the Captain is all about. The World War 2 setting is an interesting difference from the more modern or fantastical settings of comic book movies. Having supernatural and fantasy elements blended in with the historical and livens things up a bit and makes it less like just another war movie.
Steve Rogers is a wimpy guy who appears to have no desire other than to join the army. He’s not interested in drinking, dancing, women or having fun, he just wants to be a soldier. Unfortunately for Steve he has none of the characteristics that are desired by the army and is repeatedly rejected on medical grounds. Apparently he doesn’t even have any desirable tactical skills either as the only thing he lies about on his multiple application forms is where he is from (so he can get round the ban on multiple applications) and not the shopping list of ailments and infirmities that would probably make a lot of jobs out of reach for him let alone being a soldier.
We don’t get any information about his desire to join up other than a few mumbled lines about his parents and a bit of boiler plate patriotism spouted up to his friend Bucky (who just happens to have joined the very regiment Steve wants to join). Steve is spotted by a maverick German scientist working for the US army and put forward for selection for a super secret super soldier project. Surprise: Steve is selected and transformed into Captain America.
The only difference between Steve and the Captain is that Cap has the strength, equipment and backup to make good on Steve’s rhetoric. Fortunately the transformation from Weedy Steve to Captain America happens inside a box so we don’t have to put up with the ridiculous body transformation effects that so often tax the viewer’s ability to suspend their disbelief.
Strangely, the US military seem unwilling to use their shiny new weapon despite going on and on in the previous hour about how expensive and difficult it was to develop. Despite the fact that it proves its effectiveness literally out of the box they decide to sideline Rogers and not even test, train or further develop their new super soldier.
The first hour of the film establishes characters and setting but doesn’t really allow them space to develop. Indeed there is little or no development of character or plot through the film. The good guys are relentlessly patriotic and selfless while the bad guys are ruthlessly evil and despotic. There is never any ambiguity to any of the characters and their motivations.
There is a lot of standing around talking throughout the film and especially in the first hour. This is usually what a testosterone fuelled macho film like this needs more of but unfortunately doesn’t add much to the characters or the plot and often drags on a bit. Often the first hour feels like a slightly lacklustre TV drama about home life in WWII rather than a glossy super hero action movie. This should feel rather refreshing but often is just a bit flat and dull.
The historical setting is nicely done and there are some nice twists showing obvious departures from our own history to remind you that you are watching a super hero movie rather than a historical drama. Having Stark Snr as a character and using some of his technology is a nice way to link the film to chronologically later films in the arc. Interestingly the supernatural bits are much more obvious in this historical setting than they are in many of the later movies.
Steve Rogers doesn’t really change in character throughout the movie. This is obviously deliberate as the scientists chose him for his character and didn’t want their experiments to change it. This is supposed to be a story about how the little man can triumph over stronger adversaries. Far from doing that though, what it says to me is that the little man is useless unless he gets buffed up and given millions of dollars of hardware to help him which I guess is one interpretation the American dream.
Cap’s fighting style seems mainly to be to hope that the bad guys stupidly keep firing at the one part of his equipment that is invulnerable to everything they can throw at it. Fortunately the bad guys, being movie bad guys, are stupid and obligingly keep shooting at the famous shield until the plot requires them to do something else. He also show-boats a lot and gives the bad guys loads of opportunities to kill him which of course they do not take him up on. Occasionally the enemy employ sensible tactics like using flame throwers to get around the invulnerable shield but only when the device is needed to move on the plot.
After the first hour of introduction and creation, there follows a series of montages that goes on for quite a long time. There is a montage of Cap not fighting but being used as propaganda. Then there is a montage of Cap fighting after he finally gets to the front. After his successful first mission there is another montage of him and his friends taking out various Hydra forces. It feels a bit like a music video that has been pasted in because they didn’t have the time or the money to make proper scenes. I refer to this part of the movie as the Patriotism Montage.
Chris Evans isn’t really called upon to put much emotional depth into his character, despite suffering several significant losses in the course of the story he just carries on with barely a hitch. Hugo Weaving is just as one dimensional as the antagonist Red Skull. He is the archetype crazy Nazi scientist who wants to take over the world and that is it. You never find out anything about his development or motivations other than a few bits of gossip. Mystery in characters, especially villains, is a good thing but can result in no depth to the character. Red Skull’s accent is based on German director Werner Herzog and is such an uncanny imitation that I found it very distracting.
Agent Carter is a refreshingly different character from the rest and it is refreshing to see a strong female character holding her own amongst the men. Although she is a secondary/support character and love interest to Captain America for much of the film she is also given plenty of opportunities to shine throughout from covert operations to participating in commando raids to back up the Captain. She is never reduced to the damsel in distress role as so often happens to otherwise strong female characters. And of course she has her own series too.
You may know from my earlier post that I am watching these films out of release order. This makes the ending of this film slightly confusing as it incorporates elements of Iron Man and Thor which were released earlier and teases The Avengers. An argument could be made that this film is almost entirely flashback and therefore actually takes place at the beginning of The Avengers but I think that since the majority of the events depicted take place during World War II it makes sense to watch it first. Apart from that slight confusion, watching in rough chronological order of events seems to make sense.