Review: Captain America (2011)

Just saw it last night, as everyone knows, I refuse to ever go to a theater, I wait for the DVD release and after getting one bad disc and having to exchange it, I finally sat down to watch.

Just so you know, I wasn’t expecting much.  I’ve never been a fan of the character, nor have I ever followed the comic book.  The character always comes off as being either too rah-rah pro-American or exactly the opposite, America sucks in every way.  I really don’t think we need a specific character which represents the nation, it’s just not something that appeals to me.  Therefore, as I said, I wasn’t expecting much.

It was, therefore, a surprise when it was actually a pretty good movie.  I think Chris Evans does a pretty good job as Steve Rogers, the scrawny kid who really wants to serve his country.  He’s genuinely uncomfortable when, after being given the super soldier treatment, he’s only allowed to be a cheerleader in a stage show because they don’t know what to do with him.  I also appreciate that the stage version of Captain America gives us the classic costume, which is totally unworkable in any kind of real world application and they immediately change it to something a bit more realistic.

I also really liked the appearance of the Howling Commandos, even though they were never identified by name, having them in the movie, as opposed to a group of random grunts following Cap into danger, made me smile.  I guess the only thing that could have made it better was having Nick Fury running it, but I suppose, now that Nick Fury is black instead of white, that wouldn’t have worked in the largely unintegrated white military that we had during WWII.  Still, it would have been nice to see.

To be honest though, the whole “The First Avenger” tagline really made very little sense except as a set-up for next year’s Avengers film.  It made no more sense than if they had tagged Iron Man with “The Second Avenger” or Thor as “The Third Avenger”.  It wasn’t about him being an Avenger, acting like an Avenger, coming up with the idea for the Avengers or anything having anything to do with the Avengers.  It was just the origin story of Captain America.

One thing that these movies really don’t do that they ought to is push the comics.  Yeah, I know, the comics are more a vehicle for the movies than the other way around these days, but since making comics is supposedly Marvel’s main business, wouldn’t you think that they’d try to encourage movie-goers to find a local comic shop and keep reading Captain America?

Of course, that’s hard to do since the Cap on screen has little to do with the Cap in print and that’s entirely understandable.  The Cap in comics changes over time, he goes through different adventures every month.  Even if the comics and movie were completely in sync at the time the movie script was written, in the years that follow for movie production, the comics Cap would have changed dramatically in that time.

I used to advocate that Marvel put out a special just to bring people up to speed on the comics character, but I now think, especially for characters that have such a long history as Captain America, that they need to do a 12-issue maxi-series.  Use it as a vehicle to introduce fans of the movie to the differences between the movie and the comic version, show important events in the history of the character (along with specific references where to go read those events in collected editions).  Answer some of those questions that are raised during the movie.  What did happen to Bucky Barnes?  What did happen to Red Skull?  What did happen to the Howling Commandos?  Then advertise the series in the movie itself, not at the end of the credits where nobody is going to see it, but either before the movie or immediately before the credits start.

The point of the maxi-series is two-fold.  First, you’ll get the new fans, the people who want to read more about the movie character and his comic counterpart, in a format they’ll understand without throwing them into the middle of a huge storyline that doesn’t resemble the movie a bit and second, you’ll have long-time fans of the series buying it for nostalgia purposes.  I doubt there are many people out there who started reading Captain America back in the 40s when it started.  Also, by making it a maxi-series instead of a single volume, you’re bringing people back into the comic shop month after month and that makes it a habit.  By the end of the year, it’s likely that some of the people will have adopted reading comics, thus increasing readership.

But neither Marvel nor DC thinks of it that way, unfortunately.

Overall, I recommend this movie to anyone, whether they’re a comics fan or not.  Some movies really require one to be a fan of the comics, this movie stands largely on it’s own and doesn’t need much, if any background information on the character to enjoy.  Two thumbs up.

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