Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Captain America

Oh...  I don't want to be writing a review in this tone.  I want to be glowing, full of love, like my "Winnie the Pooh" post.  What I want is to happily tell you that this is a magnificent find, Marvel's finest movie of the year.  "Captain America" had everything a great movie needed:  the right leading man, a WWII storyline, and a Superhero that's iconic enough that everybody knows him.  Well, I know of him, I have no idea what Captain America's powers are, but you know, he's an icon, I guess.

I know gloated at some point in my contempt for comic book movies that I would happily miss most of them this year.  Well, right now I'm four for four, as a matter of embarrassing fact, I've seen every superhero movie since "Iron Man", even "Green Lantern" when I knew that movie would suck!  This blog seems to force me to watch bad movies - not that I'm complaining.  "Green Lantern" was without a doubt the best comedy of the year - but "Captain America", I think, is a close second.  Because this movie is a joke.  If you want to know why in general I hate comic book movies, here you go, the gold standard example.  You know why these movies suck?  Because they're stupid!

"Captain America" isn't a WWII movie, its a movie that takes place during WWII.  Captain America doesn't fight Nazis, that's too real for the comic book fans, instead he fights COBRA from "G.I. Joe".  What, are the Nazis going to get offended?  Is Marvel afraid of a lawsuit from the estate of Hermann Goering?  Yeah, there's the most important war in all of history taking place, a battle against the worst supervillains that the human race has actually created... but let's instead have Captain America fight something from a Saturday morning cartoon.  This movie has a good cast, good characterization, the right period feeling, but the completely ridiculous, downright hilarious villains sink this movie right down to the dark depths of nothingness.  Definitely not worth seeing.

Here's what I wanted from "Captain America":  "Band of Brothers" with a shield.  A gritty tough war movie that just happened to star a superhero.  Captain Crunch* and his squad fight through the German lines, take casualties, and keep on fighting day by day.  I wanted D-Day, I wanted Bastogne - heck, I wanted the Battle of Berlin.  Why not fudge history a little to get Captain America to punch Hitler?  Its what we all want to see in the end, right?  "Saving Private Ryan" showed exactly how grim and difficult this war was, it wasn't a grand old time.  Captain Planet in this movie has the easy job, its the 101st Airborne that fought the hard battle.  What, he lost one friend?  Well how about losing all your friends because that actually happened to people.  This movie isn't "To Hell and Back", its jolly children theatre, the exact opposite of what I wanted.  Its fine that they made a happily moronic superhero movie for kids... but they already got that with "Thor"!  "X-Men First Class" wasn't really dark, but it was a good character study and built up the villain threat seriously.  Do I have to wait for Master Christopher Nolan to bring "Batman 3" before I see a Superhero movie with sharp teeth?

Alright, alright, I'll talk about some positives.  There are a lot of them, showing that this movie could have been great.  Chris Evans brings his all to the role of Captain Kangaroo, creating a character that is both a good man but also holds a kind of naive innocence.  He doesn't seem to do well around girls, he gets talked into becoming a silly kid's serial character, and he seems to avoid killing (except when he totally blows tanks up).  The rest of the cast, aside from the main villain, is excellent.  Cap's love interest is a British hottie that knows how to shoot and has great 1940s movie star hair.  What is about 1940s hair that is so incredible?  Did they have better brushes back then or what?  Stanley Tucci has a nice run as the scientist that makes Captain Morgan, he has a fatherly warmth and a good sense of humor - which is why its sad that he gets killed really early on.  Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones as Tommy Lee Jones.  And finally Tony Stark's dad appears as a Howard Hughes-esque womanizer.  He's a fun character, but Marvel transparently stuffs him into the plot too often.  Its a shame they didn't have him played by Robert Downy Jr. in a mustache, by the way.

I'll give "Captain America" one thing:  unlike "Thor", I wasn't bored halfway through.  And I wasn't begging for Robert Downy Jr. to appear and save the movie like in that other one...  uch.  Anyway, more characters:

And Captain America is even joined by a great group of supporting soldiers who sadly don't get nearly enough screentime.  There's Bucky his best friend from Brooklyn.  Captain Obvious starts the movie off as a tiny piece of straw, then gets some √úbermensch injected into him and grows into a perfect specimen of male maleness.  Bucky at first is the tall confident one that gets all the girls, then he ends up as basically the sidekick.  Among the other soldiers are Token Japanese Guy, Buck Compton from "Band of Brothers" wearing an awesome mustache and bowler hat, and Token Black Guy.  It would have been cool to see Captain Ginyu fighting alongside these characters in a serious WWII battle, but ultimately they're all underused and forgotten.

Then... we come to the villains.  Oh. My. God.  The villains in this movie are so bad, so wretched, that nobody ever would be afraid of any of these clowns.  Seriously, Jim Carrey as the Riddler in "Batman Forever" was scarier than this crowd.  I spent the movie laughing at them, the entire time, laughing.  Instead of Nazis Captain Kirk fights HYDRA, an army of fools in silly cartoon uniforms led by Hugo Weaving.  Hugo Weaving tries to pull a Kevin Bacon in "X-Men First Class" by being a stylish, yet totally evil character.  Instead he comes off as just a one-dimensional piece of cardboard that wants to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.  Why?  Um... because!  HYDRA even declares war on the Nazis for no particular reason, which causes the Nazis to disappear from the movie altogether somehow.  His face also comes off revealing the worst make-up effects I have ever seen.  We'll go into that in a bit.  COBRA Commander's sidekick is Toby Jones, who dresses like the bad Nazi guy from "Indiana Jones 1" and basically just builds silly laser weapons.  Yeah, "Captain America" is such an immature movie that half the time they don't use bullets, they use lasers.  There are no authentic WWII pieces of military hardware, its all SciFi junk that looks like it wandered off the set of Buck Rogers.

Somewhere in this movie's universe, Dr. Mangele is torturing prisoners in insane experiments, tens of thousands of Jews are being shot at Babi Yar, and the largest tank battle in human history is being fought at Kursk, but instead of movies about that, they made a movie about these losers and their funny-shaped planes.  Would it hurt for a WWII movie to at least acknowledge that the Holocaust is happening?  The real problem is that HYDRA, though supposedly such a huge threat, aren't nearly as evil as the actual Nazis.  Captain America should be busting down the "Arbeit macht frei" sign at Auschwitz, not punching in the faces of Imperial Stormtroopers.  As a matter of fact, Captain America never once comes into conflict with a single soldier fighting for Hitler.  Hitler's armies are just not in this movie, I don't know where they went, but they left Europe to Hugo Weaving.

And let me talk about Hugo Weaving's make-up now, because this deserves an entire paragraph to itself.  His character's face apparently melted off when he tried an early version of Captain America's supersoldier juice.  So when he takes off his rubber mask, you'd think you'd see something horrifying, like muscles and tendons and stuff, right?  WRONG.  Its a solid red, with lips, eyelids, and altogether the same general shape of a normal head.  It looks nothing like an actual head missing skin.  There are attempts to make it look like bone, like the eyes are surrounded by bone - but it just looks like a regular head with boney goggles.  I cannot believe how fake this thing looks, how did they let this effect pass?  One look at this face and your movie fails.  This is coming some three years after Aaron Eckhart's frighteningly realistic Two-Face.

Really, the first sign of trouble I had with this movie was the opening, which starts in the Arctic with explorers finding a spaceship.  Wait, I thought, am I watching "X-Files 3"?  What movie is this?  Then we cut to the proper 1940s Captain America landscape.  However, when Chris Evans goes from an eight-year-old's body (which was actually a good effect) to Captain Jack Sparrow, he doesn't first fight evil.  No no no, first he has a huge musical number about selling war bonds.  What the Hell is this?  You even see kids reading Captain America comic books, the same Captain America comic books we have in the real world.  Its this weird campy totally random sequence that seems to come out of a totally different origin story for Captain Zaraki**.  I like 1940s camp as much as the next guy.  However, "Captain America", after pointing out how silly the original Captain America stories were, then goes ahead and makes the rest of the movie an unironic example of a story exactly that silly and stupid.  This movie becomes the very thing it lampoons only ten minutes earlier!  My head is spinning.

You remember how my highest compliments to this movie were its excellent cast and fun supporting characters?  Well funny thing that, because Marvel found a way to destroy the best parts of this movie.  In the ending, Hugo Weaving is flying a plane that will blow up New York.  Hugo Weaving gets killed in a very strange manner - he gets sucked into space by a magic cube - I don't think you can understand what happened unless you've read the comics.  So Captain Zapp Brannigan has to crash the plane into the Arctic to save the day.  He conveniently forgets that the plane has escape pods - one of which he flew only moments earlier, so he goes down with the ship.  It lands in the ice, and thanks a million-to-one chance, he somehow goes into suspended animation and hibernates for decades.  When he wakes up, its suddenly 2011, every single one of the characters this movie established are all dead now.  Captain Harlock's girlfriend is either buried or so old that it will just be weird***, or worse, she's Tony Stark's mom.  So all the things I liked about this movie are gone forever, all sacrificed to make room for "The Avengers" next year, which will SUCK.  This whole movie's potential was wasted to be a two hour advertisement to a movie I already decided wasn't worth seeing.

I mean really, if Marvel couldn't make this movie work, what hope do they have with "The Avengers"?  The only good superhero movie they made this year was "X-Men First Class", and that's in a completely different canon (I think).  Seriously, Robert Downy Jr. better be in every single goddamn scene, or else there is no way I'm seeing that.  NO!  NO!!!  I am done!  I refuse!  Comic book movies suck!  Why do they keep making such awful movies?  They're remaking Spiderman now!  THEY'RE MAKING A "GREEN LANTERN 2"!!!


* I think I'll spend the rest of the review finding silly things to call Captain America.

** I have a suspicion that Captain America's first script draft went a little bit like this:  Steve Rogers is a Hollywood actor who plays Captain America for kids to sell war bonds.  He's famous, he's traveled the country, he loves his beautiful back-up dancers.  Then he's brought to Italy to play for the USO, and gets booed by the troops for being a huge joke.  Rogers eventually falls behind enemy lines, and has to be Captain America for real, become the character that he's played on film serials, heroism ensues.  But then that movie got mixed with another script, which was a straight retelling of Captain America's comic book origin story.  So now Captain America is both a science experiment in supersoldiers and an actor playing Captain America that embodies his character in real life...  He's the real thing playing a character that becomes the real thing, when he always was the real thing...  Ahh, this makes my brain hurt.

*** I'd give next years "Avengers" movie a mountain of respect if Captain America actually gets romantically linked with a ninety-year-old woman.


  1. i wonder why rodger ebert likes this.
    Green lantern 2 wtf?!!!!
    warner campy super hero films dont work look at batman and robin but since your not listning you guy will blow 900million on green lantern 7 the revenge of the [insert family friendly monster here] part 9.
    make a super hero film thats dark but not some emo garbage about spider man and i like spider man the comics were way better.
    off topic that is that quote from team fortress?

  2. Have you done a review for Lord of the Rings? If you haven't you should. Also make one of your prequels/sequels to it. It might be fun.

  3. you know what after see this im going back and watching the dark knight and under the red hood
    just to blot the memories of green lanter and the anouncement of a fucking crap movie. its like complition if final fantasy x2 and viii COMBINED UGHHH
    although a nick fury film cauld be awesome if it is dark and action packed and what captain america cauld have been
    asskicking violence character devolopment and swearing lots of swearing.

  4. any opinions on dance with dragons?

  5. The Dance has begun. I'm 250 pages in after buying the book yesterday. I'll be finished soon enough. Still no conclusive opinion, nothing big has happened yet.

  6. It took me a good week to plough through, it's better than Feast for Crows thankfully. Enjoy.

  7. I'm calling it right now: Coldhands is Benjen Stark. Anyone else want to cast their bets?

  8. Wow, really, no fighting Nazis, what the hell,no, what the fucking hell, really, movies are really going down hill, they have seriously run out ideas of how to avoid offending anyone while making a good movie, its just not going to happen.
    If your too big of a pussie to make a movie without of offending someone, you need to get fired from your job and need to be found drunk in a stolen car. Just stop with the dumb movies, whats next, a sequel to the Super Mario Brother's movie, where Mario, and just Mario, fights..... ALIENS, that would fit into your stupid ass concepts.