SITE NEWS: Hey, gang, Vince here, live from Comic-Con. I hope you’ve been enjoying Burnsy and Robopanda today. I won’t be able to post a picture diary just yet, but to tide you ever until then, I wrote a Captain America review. I won’t lie to you, I’d been drinking. BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT WHAT ‘FILMDRUNK’ MEANS! Aw, crap, now I’m never going to be respectable.
When writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely brought in their first script pages to Marvel, and the head honcho over there saw them, I imagine he lit up a fat cigar, leaned back in his chair and said, “Fellas! Why, when I hired a couple a knockaround slapdicks like yous, I never realized I was dealing with artistes! This is real grade-A stuff here!”
“Well… thank you, sir. We were… sure hoping you’d like it.”
“You’re damn right I do! In fact, boys, I’m giving you a raise! I know, I know, I’ll nevah hear the end of it from the board. But to hell wit ‘em! Don’t none of give a damn about talent like I do! I take care of talent! Ain’t that right, boys?”
“Sure! And… thanks for the raise, boss. You… really didn’t have to.”
“Like hell I didn’t! Boys, boys like you turn in tip-top woik like this and I don’t reward it, it’s a damned slap in the face to every working Dick out there! It’s unfair! And I’m a fair guy! Ain’t a I faiyuh guy, Sammy?
“You’re a fair guy, boss. Da fairest.”
“Can it, Sammy. Boys, consider it an investment. And I hope yous fellas got more top-notch writin’ where that came from, because we start shootin a week from Tuesdy.
“A week?!? But, sir! We’ve only got the first act! It took us eight weeks!”
“And a damn fine first act it was. Damn fine! Wasn’t it fine, Sammy?”
“Fine, Boss. Da finest.”
“Put a sock in it, Sammy. Now, relax, boys. Todays’ Sundy, so you’s got 10 days. You yids. Always worryin. Just take ya foist act, Raiders of the Lost Ark the rest, and we’re all on easy street. Trust me, these small-time schlubs’ll nevah know da difference! The heavy liftin’s all done!”
“–And if ya can’t get it done, I got me a couple dagos out in Long Beach’ll finish it for half price.
“Hey! What am I, just talkin for my healt ova heah? I ain’t payin’ you fruitcakes to play grabass. Now chop chop, time is money.”
And with that, they took their amazing first act and origin story and just sort of scribbled in the rest with scenes lifted from other movies. It’s too bad, because the first 30 – 40 minutes were promising. Chris Evans nails the lead, and it’s a hard role to pull off, playing a virtuous, plucky underdog without him coming off like a boring boy scout you’d never want to hang with (COME ON, STEVE, DO SOME DRUGS, PUSSY). Evans begins the movie with his head digitally wallpapered onto the torso of a scrawny 12-year-old, refusing to back down from a figh,t even if it means taking a beating. (Though I might not back down from fights either if it meant no-consequence movie beatings like these ones, that never knock you out, break bones, or leave cuts or bruises of any kind). Steve Rogers (Evans) dreams of someday serving his country (AMURKA!), but he quickly learns that the army in ’42 isn’t college quidditch, it’s no place for pale, scrawny, asthmatic hemophiliacs. So super Steve keeps going to different cities, trying and failing to pass his medical exams, until one day he crosses paths with Stanley Tucci, the famous science doctor from Germany. Herr Doctor appreciates a young boy with spunk (as do many Catholic priests). “Do you want to kill Nazis?” the Doc asks. “No,” Rogers says. “I just hate bullies. Wherever they’re from.”
“Trust me, kid, it gets better,” says Dr. Tucci, humming the chorus of “Born This Way.” “In fact, I’m gonna fill you so full of decca and dianabol you’ll be tearing the arms off bullies like crickets, and moistening every pair of slut panties from here to Poughkeepsie. Would you like that, Rogers? Pulling arms off bullies, moistening panties off sluts?”
“I’d… I’d like that, sir.” says Steve. “It would… be an honor.”
So Doc Tooch handpicks Rogers for his special project, where he’ll go through basic training under Colonel Tommy Lee Jones, a gruff, pockmarked hardass with a heart of gold. Are Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones ever not great? (If you say yes, you hate America).
During a heart to heart the day before the big procedure, Rogers asks Dr. Tucci the obvious question: why give the Super Soldier Serum to a scrawny pussy like me, and not to a big burly hardass? Putting on his expository dialog hat, Dr. Tucci explains that he already tried the experiment on someone else, when he was still working for the Germans, and he found out it doesn’t just make you stronger. It also magnifies your personality. Good becomes great. Bad becomes terrible. Farts become poops. “Ahh, so I have a nemesis?” Steve Rogers asks. “Yes,” says Dr. Tucci sagely. “It’s just like every superhero movie ever, and also The Mask, starring Jim Carrey. Remember when they gave the dog Super Soldier Serum in that, and he turned into a big ferocious dog monster? It’s like that.”
All the taste and patience the movie had up until that point pretty much goes out the window, and it becomes a mash-up of other action movies on fast foward. “Luke! Come to the dark side! We could rule the world together!” Red Skull shouts at Captain America. “Never! I love horses and America! I keep my girlfriend’s picture inside a locket and we’ve never even had sex!”
They shoehorn in Cap’s lovable rogue’s gallery of sidekicks, without him ever bonding with them in any meaningful way, who include a brawny American with handlebar ‘stache and a bowler cap, an Asian guy (from Fresno! Yay!), a black dude who speaks three languages even though he has a speech impediment, a French guy, and a Brit in an ascot. That covers pretty much everyone but the Latinos. Sorry, you guys always get screwed in these. Together, they come up with awesome plans to take out Hydra, an organization led by Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a man so evil the Nazis wouldn’t even have him.
“How we gonna get into their hideout, boss? We can’t just knock on the front door,” Asian guy says glibly.
“Why not? I say that’s exactly what we do.”
Well said, Cap. I guess that’s why you’re the leader. From there, there’s a climactic battle, and blah blah blah. The Avengers tie-in at the end is actually pretty good, but not so amazing that you forget that the previous 25 minutes involved an ill-explained macguffin that was basically a cross between the AllSpark from Transformers and the Ark of the Covenant with as little innovation as that might imply. If director Joe Johnston wanted to make an homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’d hate to see what a straight rip off looks like. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say that it was unpredictable only in the sense that it was surprising how predictable it was.
All in all, not a terrible movie. The set up was great, and there aren’t any egregious plot holes, just a lot of cheese. It’s not really about anything in the way that, say, X-Men is, and it has all the emotional complexity of a vintage recruiting poster. At one point, the inexplicably British love interest, Hayley Atwell, says to Cap, “Go get ‘em!” and gives him a kiss before he goes off to fight the Nazis and maybe die for his country. Pretty terrible, but then, she has nice boobs, and it’s fun to root for explosions and America sometimes. And that’s sort of the movie in a nutshell.