More On Cap

One other thing I forgot to mention:

The Captain America film never challenged Cap’s ethics. This was, to me, the stake through the vampire’s heart. America is a tough proposition. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means negotiating a tedious slalom between enumerated powers and enumerated rights. Captain America embodies those American ideals while existing, in practical terms, within the balance of those rights and powers. To spend x-million dollars producing a Captain America film and omit the centrality of the character’s symbolism suggests a bankrupt Pow! Zapp! idiot mentality I’d hoped was banished forever by Batman Begins.

The film should have had meaning. It should have treated the Nazis as more than the Penguin’s henchmen (as both X-Men and X-Men First Class did). Captain America: The First Avenger could have been more than just a fun hour and a half at the movies. It could have meant something, said something about who we are and how hard America truly is. Instead, it chose to be a cartoon. In this cynical, paranoid post-9/11 America, the film could have been the answer to the Bourne movies.

It could have reminded us of who we are, or, at least, Who we say we are. Whoops. Well, maybe next time.


  1. hysan says:

    I think the main reason for this was dollar signs. I completely agree with you, and I really hope the movies with Captain America (except for Avengers, which is really shaping up to be a buddy movie with Cap and Iron Man with explosions – which I’m okay with) in modern times deal with those issues. My favorite Captain America comics from my childhood were the ones by Roger Stern and Gerber and Englehart…where Steve dealt with the American dream and the American reality. I hope the rumors of Sam Wilson/Falcon in the second movie are true.

    The dollar signs would be the foreign markets. It’s why it was called The First Avenger, why they could have swastika-wearing Nazis. I would hope they ignore this the second time around, but what we will probably get is more of a Brubaker/Ultimates take on Cap, which would be a shame. Not that those stories couldn’t have merit, but that there are so many great stories to be tapped into. I think Chris Evans or the writers actually mentioned Cap and Falcon in Harlem, so who knows?

    • priest says:

      Hey Hysan– thanks for stopping by. I suppose you’re right. We, all of us, are at the mercy of the masses. That’s why every wireless phone looks like a Hersey bar with a touch screen (Ummm… Hersey bar….). It amazes me that no one has thought to design a unique or even funky-looking smartphone. Instead, they all look exactly the same. The era of Cap comics you referenced is precisely what I mean. IN my view, the character of Cap A’s biggest enemy is my own cynicism, which was the main dynamic of Captain America and The Falcon: Cap coming off as a little naive and a little slow, but a decent and honorable guy who can say these incredibly corny things without wincing because he actually believes them. Moreover, he makes *us* believe them, too. I’m not entirely sure how that computes in terms of box office receipts, but the film was like a milkshake to me: nice and tasty but, ultimately, all empty calories.

      I haven’t read much of the Brubaker Cap, mainly because I realized I wouldn’t be writing the character anymore and didn’t see the need to keep up with continuity. But, what I *do* remember was in one of his first issues, he had a group of terrorists attacking an NY subway for some reason. What bothered me was they were all wearing matching clothes and hoods and so forth, like the Penguin’s henchmen. Might as well have put BEEBO, HUCK and TUFFY emblazoned on their backs. It was ridiculous–and may or may not have been Brubaker’s doing, so my apologies to him and to Uber editor Brevoort. But I’m pretty sure I put the book down soon as I saw that. No offense intended, but I can’t do the fantastical DC-style suspension of reality thing anymore. The terrorist who blows up a NYC subway will probably work alone, not carry an automatic rifle (?!?) and, if for some odd reason he does invite seven of his buddies to come along, they won’t stop by Banana Republic for matching outfits. I mean, the matching outfits an AK’s are a big tip-off to New York cops.

      For me, what makes super-hero comics and super-hero movies work is how far they push it. Make the reality as real as humanly possible, then drop Batman into it. TDK got about 85% there, but I’ve et to see a super-hero film where eth producers stop insulting my intelligence. The more real the world is, the more fantastic the super-part seems.

      Every time I read a comic where the super-hero refers to himself as a super-hero, I just put it down. Seriously. That’s stupid. Back in the Death of Gwen Stacy era, Spider-Man was all but completely unaware that he was a super-hero. The cops acted like cops, Jameson was a little over the top, but Robbie was firmly grounded (as opposed to the loathsome caricature they turned him into in the films). Comics weren’t stupid–at least Marvels weren’t.

      A gang of hooded men carrying automatic weapons and wearing matching uniforms enter a NYC subway and are not spotted by anybody? And then the climb up on the outside of the train to fight Cap (and, IIRC, catch a helicopter)? Where’s Nelson Riddle when you need him. Again, with all due respect to people I actually admire a great deal…

      If any character should be grounded in reality, it’s Cap. Not saying the film was bad, it really wasn’t, it just wasn’t Cap. It was Captain America if he were done by DC comics circa mid-70’s. This super-hero film fad will die off quick if they don’t stop doing that.

    • Thelmon Baggett says:

      A movie with Steve and Sam would be cool, but I’m afraid of how they would handle the relationship between the two. We might get “Straky and Hutch.”

  2. hysan says:

    Er…why they *couldn’t* have swastika wearing nazis…

  3. Thad says:

    Haven’t seen the movie, so grain of salt for whatever I say.

    But off the top of my head I like the idea of simplistic, over-the-top morality for 1940’s Cap, followed by a more nuanced portrayal when he gets dropped into the twenty-first century in Avengers.

    Ordinarily I’d argue against spreading an arc across multiple movies (I think that’s precisely what Green Lantern did wrong, leaving Sinestro as setup for a sequel), but in Cap’s case I think it works — it’s the distinction between the straight-up rah-rah propaganda he was in the early days and the more complex character he became a couple of decades later.