On last week’s episode of Louie, during one of the comedy club stand-up routine segments, Louis talks about how it is weird/hard to live in a country with such a horrible history of racism and slavery. “How can you feel good about yourself as a country,” he said, basically, I’m paraphrasing, “when you know that you did a bunch of horrible shit in the past?” I bring this up only because it sort of reflects the inherent problem with Captain America as a character. Not only is he the superhero epitome of American military strength, but he proudly presents an almost painfully propagandistic image of that military strength, stripped entirely of any shadow of the suggestion that there are times in which we as a country and as an army have acted in less than noble fashion. (To all the comic book nerds out there, I’m sure there’s some 10-book arc in which Cap’ has a tearful realization about the atrocities committed in Vietnam, or whatever, but for the most part you know what I mean.) Obviously, this is all a bit much to expect a summer blockbuster–and a summer blockbuster striving to launch a new franchise no less–to deal with, and I’m not suggesting that there is any kind of moral failure in having Captain America boldly and unapologetically punch Hitler Red Skull on the kisser, but there is something boring about it, and ultimately I think that most of the problems with this movie came from the inherent problems with the titular character: in the world of Iron Men, Spider-Boys, and them mighty Thors, Captain America is kind of a clunker.

For one thing, there is an earnestness to Steve Rogers from the very beginning that borders on the annoying. I’m not saying he needs more 2002 “I live in Williamsburg and hang out at Galopogos” style ironic-detachment, but he could pull the stick out of his butt and try to have some fun every once in awhile. When your best friend invites you to a double-date at the World’s Fair, get a Choco Taco and ride the Ferris Wheel. You can try joining the army again tomorrow. It’s nine o’clock at night, is the recruiting station even open?! Come on, Steve. You’re being a real pill! And while I’m sure it is this same earnestness that is what makes him so “good,” I came to this movie to have FUN. As talented and compelling as Stanely Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones are in general, it is crazy how much they POP on screen when placed next to Chris Evans and his Captain American toast slice. This movie must have saved a lot of money on bounce screens since they could just kick-fill everyone else’s faces by shining the light against Chris Evans’s blank white face.

Not that his t-shirts weren’t tight! Don’t get me wrong, his t-shirts were very very tight.

And while the jingoism and IMAX Patriotism are to be expected, there was something almost insulting about the way in which the 1940s were portrayed as a United Colors of Benetton commercial about tolerance. When Captain America puts together his cracker jack team of war aces, there is an asian dude and a black dude and all of them talk like they’re hanging out at Paddy’s Pub on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Please. (And I know the guy with the walrus moustache was a nod to the comics, but who is HE supposed to be? He looks like an Irishman from the 1840s come to Deadwood to stake his claim.) I know this is a comic book movie and so reality is flexible and realism is not the point, but there are limits. I find it more believable that Odin’s energy-cube transported Red Skull out of his futuristic space-craft into the far reaches of the Middle World than I do that a woman would be placed second-in-command of the Army’s most selective elite force in 1943.

My biggest problem with the movie, however, was much more mundane and had less to do with single credit college survey courses about racial politics and much more to do with WHERE WAS THE ACTION?! After the scene in the factory, when Captain America meets the Red Skull for the first time, there is a quick debriefing back at base and what follows is a great two-minute montage of exciting Captain America action sequences. Wait, that’s it? It is almost as if the movie’s sludge of dialogue and plodding romantic intrigue is momentarily interrupted by a trailer for another Captain America movie that you’d much rather see. Hey, that movie looks neat, let’s go see that movie! As quick as it begins, it is over, and we are back to standing around arguing over who-kissed-who and whether or not Germans stink. (SPOILER ALERT: they do.)

Also: Steve Rogers’s tiny CGI body at the beginning of the movie fueled as much comic relief as Odin’s energy cube fueled skyships.

Captain America: The First Avenger did have some good parts! As I mentioned, Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci were really good in it. They are good actors! I hope someone finally recognizes that and puts them in some movies. I liked how Captain America started out as a corny patriotic propaganda machine doing burlesque shows to sell war bonds. The silliness of his name and costume were put front and center rather than being added to the Willful Suspension of Disbelief Pile. If anything, they could have done way more with that because it was probably the most “interesting” part of the movie in terms of the mythology and also dealing with the whole military poster child thing. Also, despite what I just said about the lack of decent action in the movie, the final action sequence was fun and exciting and well done. Oh, and the ending was great with the minor exception of the last line of the movie, which was stupid and cheesy and kind of ruined how good the ending was being, but in general, him waking up in an old timey hospital room but then it being a sound stage and running out into Times Square 2011 (because what better place to build an old timey hospital room sound stage for the recuperation of a super soldier than Times Square) was neat. “I had a date.” Oh shut UP, Captain America! You are single-handedly ruining this mediocre but mostly decent movie!

Actually, the very best part of the whole movie was how all of Red Skull’s mega-bombs were labeled with the names of the cities they were going to be dropped on (LOL) probably after the credits when they showed a trailer for The Avengers. Holy moly! Now THAT looks like a good superhero movie. Should we get in line now? Do we need to get in line right now? I want good seats, so maybe let’s just meet at the theater now. No matter what, Captain America: The First Avenger made a whole bunch of money at the box office this weekend so they are definitely going to make more of them. So there’s that.

Alright, enough chin music. Take it away, boys.

Comments (65)
  1. I cannot wait for The Avengers movie. The Avengers written and directed by Joss Whedon, starring RDJ, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner? Yes. Yes, please, and I will have some more.

  2. From everything I’ve heard, for all of its problems, this movie is much better than any movie based on a “superhero” whose primary power is hiding behind a shield should be.

  3. i thought it was a lot of fun and about as good as it could have been, considering the character.

    but i mean, i realize enjoying movies isn’t really part of the videogum movie club series.

    • I agree, I left thinking that it was food as I could have hoped for. Overall, I think the newer crop of Marvel movies (Cap, Thor, uhhh… others?) kind of feel like they are introductions to the characters. Like “We need to introduce these characters because we have to so we can have this huge blowout crazy awesome Avengers movie.”

      I’m placing a lot of due pressure on the Avengers movie.

  4. “I hate America.” – Comrade Gabe Videogumsky

  5. All I could think during the modern-day epilogue was how they should have just named the film “The 90 Year Old Virgin.”

  6. What an awful year for movies this is turning out to be.

  7. “Mind the gap!” – British guy
    Best line of the film.

  8. I know that I am supposed to love Chris Evans hot body and I do…but seriously…can someone wrangle me some Sebastian Stan? He is gorgeous. I was so bummed when he kicked the can.

  9. Well if this movie was full of patriotic jingoism, then I can’t wait till the complex nature of British imperialism is brought out when they make the movie “Captain Britain”!

  10. Instead of seeing this “pro america propaganda movie that fails to rebuke america for its many sins” (paraphrasing Comrade Gabesky there), I went and saw the Woody Allen movie Midnight in the Paris. It was quite hella rad to the hella. The Hemingway impression alone was worth the price of admission. Lots of LOLs and good times. Highly recommended for those of you who are not consumed with liberal guilt and the hypocritical notion that you will somehow satisfy your liberal guilt by going to see the Captain America movie (????) which is a thing that apparently some of you (Gabe) do. Anyhoo, go see Midnight in the Paris. Two thumbs up. Four point five stars out of five stars.

  11. Well, I though it was really good, and the ending really really sad. Also, AVENGERS OH BOY.

    • I liked the ending too! It reminded me of the first ten minutes of Star Trek and any reference to the beginning of that movie, even a possibly unintentional, not as good as the source material reference will merit some sort of emotional response from this guy *points thumbs to self*.

  12. I want to see the movie about the Gattling Gun Granny guarding the antique store/underground lab. Is she one of the avengers?

  13. To appeal to today’s nerds, Captain America should have Steve Rogers transforming to superhero from a 350-lb geek rather than a 90-lb weakling.

  14. so let me get this straight, he goes into a nazi camp with a shield and frees 400 people and they all almost immediately have guns? wait…it took one short fight scene for the dooms day ship to fly across the atlantic ocean? wait….there’s a woman as a supervising officer in 1940? wait….they only made one batch of serum and it got stolen? wait…chris evans is a terrible actor? wait….his best friend died and i am supposed to care? wait…that girl fell in love with him and she loves him for what is on the inside even though he becomes a huge beefy war machine? I HATED THIS MOVIE SO MUCH IT MAKES ME WANT TO PULL MY HAIR OUT!!!

  15. Captain America is the worst Avenger.

    • Actually, I am told by a comic book nerd (my husband) that he really is the Avenger the others make fun of for having a stick up his butt. Also, to Gabe’s concern that the Captain is too unquestioningly patriotic, after Watergate he gave up the red/white&blue costume and became an expat in Europe.

  16. Was anyone else SERIOUSLY disturbed by the poor quality of German accents in this movie?They should have put Stanley Tucci in lederhosen and made Hugo Weaving wear a monocle and pickelhaube, for Christ’s sake! Who was their dialect coach? Sgt. Schultz?!

    P.S. Needed more Hugo Weaving!

  17. I just thought of something. What’s will all those pouches on his costume? Did Rob Liefeld design that thing?

  18. i actually enjoyed it. it was kitschy and fun and basically paid homage to Indiana Jones most of the time. It just felt like they were trying to make a war movie from the 50s, in other words completely unrealistic. Compared with the other superhero crap that has come out this year (I’m looking at you, Thor), it was pretty decent. I think the biggest problem at this point is that everyone is sick of superhero movies, so even a sort of decent movie seems like crap.

    Not as good as Adam West’s Batman, but still more fun than Thor and X-men: First Class.

  19. I guarantee some of that annoying golly-gee attitude is going to be dealt with in the Avengers, Gabe. That’ll make for some interesting depth to the character that is, otherwise, just a walking/punching propaganda piece. *Pushes up glasses* In the comics, specifically the Ultimates, he is thawed out and they deal with his Boy Scout outlook very well, he also visits his old sweetheart and it is very touching. I wasn’t bothered by the last line of the film, in fact I thought it carried a lot of weight and said a lot about his whole “man out of his time” arc. What I thought was awful was going from that line directly into the bombast of the end credit animated sequence. Total tonal shift in a split second.

  20. I watched the 1990 version on SyFy instead. Or at least as much as I could handle. I quit soon after they unveiled the costume (it had a lot of wings on its head!) and Captain A managed to trick Redskull into cutting off his own hand (oh and he did this while strapped to an ICBM the Nazis magically built in 1945).

    (I feel it is worth mentioning that the ICBM was headed toward the White House and when they cut to the White House, there it was, the White House, and Movie felt it necessary to add a caption: “Washington, DC.”)

    (And a boy visiting DC with his mom said, “When I grow up, I’ll be president,” and then there’s a bunch of spinning newspapers to indicate passage of time while Capt A is frozen where he crashed in Alaska, and then suddenly we’re in the present (?) and what do you know, that little boy IS president.)

    (He is a man now.)

  21. Little known fact: the “A” on Captain America’s forehead actually stands for “Adultery.”

  22. FUCK THE haters. MOVE OF the GODDAMN summer! LOVED IT!

  23. I loved it. I didn’t really know a lot about this character before the movie, so I was kind of excited to be introduced to him. I really like Cap’s uncomplicated patriotism especially because he was originally this cheesy propaganda figure. I guess that makes me a bad leftist communist weirdo (oh I am) but sometimes I do love my country, so just once, uncomplicated patriotism in the form of a comic book fantasy is fun.

    I also like his bland, glass of milk every day personality. He’s got the Superman personality, except Superman bores me and this guy I love. I get kind of tired of the obsession with Frank Miller Batman world of trying to make every superhero involved on some level in a sort of gritty, black leather clad realism, so I’m perfectly fine with his two dimensional heroic selflessness for this film. I like certain superheroes because they’re cheesy, with their technicolour fantasy worlds of simple good and evil. I love a dark and complex world too, don’t get me wrong, but there’s room enough for both types in my heart.

    • I totally agree with the Frank Millering of all comic book Superheroes. My friend’s main complaint about the movie was that it was permeated with silliness (this friend is a total wet sandwich, btw). IT IS A SUPER HERO MOVIE! ABOUT A 90 POUND TWINK WHO GET’S INJECTED WITH A SUPER SERUM! I would have been upset/disturbed if they had tried to make it dark and edgy.

    • i liked his personality as well. I felt like he was still playing the small guy throughout the movie, even after the big muscles. To me, it fit with the time period, or our perceptions of the time period.

    • being silly and campy is fine, but all i ask is for a plot that makes sense and has decent action. I wasn’t looking for the dark knight but i also didn’t want my intelligence to be insulted either…

  24. The jingoism really turns me off of Captain America. Because, I don’t know, America is great, OK? I’m down with that. But Captain America is just such a boring dick. The whole idea of him is like attending a lecture on baseball and apple pie and why America is great. This Canadian would rather just enjoy those things without the lecture, thanks.

  25. I was just waiting for the scene when Captain America decapitates Kim Jong-Il with his shield then slams a red bull. How disappointing…

  26. NERD ALERT: Captain America is actually a huge liberal in the modern comics, which is cool as hell. He is constantly butting heads with the government, and the infamous Marvel “Civil War” was something of a superhero patriot act, which Cap rebelled lead the opposition. Marvel even got into a lot of trouble for mocking Tea Partiers and insinuating that they are racist in an issue where Cap investigates them.

    • Point of clarification— when the Tea Party controversy happened Steve Rogers was dead and it was Bucky who had taken over the Captain America mantle. No big deal, just making sure those upvotes go to the right fictional man behind the mask.

  27. TL;DR

    1. I’m a huge Jack Kirby fan.

    2. Captain America’s costume is great. It doesn’t even have to be red, white and blue for anyone sensitive to the jingoistic nature of the character, the design is solid, and all superhero costumes that came afterwards owe their designs to Captain America. The design is great. When he was in the USO show, I knew he was going to get newer gear (as seen in the trailers), but I totally thought to myself, “I know his ‘movie’ costume is coming soon, but I’d be fine watching him run around that for the rest of the film.”

    3. Gabe, that “United Colors of Benetton… …cracker jack team of war aces” was the Howling Commandos (once again co-created by Jack Kirby). In the comics they are a team led by Nick Fury (in regular Marvel continuity Fury is a white guy and not Sam Jackson). ‘Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos” was not published during WWII like Captain America. it came out in the 1960′s, and the team’s roster— while not historically accurate— was intentionally diverse.

    Jack Kirby was very civil rights minded, and was the first comic artist to start heavily incorporating non-stereotypical ethnic minorities as supporting cast members in comics, and is credited with co-creating the first black superhero— Black Panther. So while The Howling Commandos may have been ridiculous in their factual inaccuracies, they are beloved characters that were worthy of inclusion, and Captain America was a nice surrogate leader in lieu of Nick Fury, who for the purposes of film continuity could not be a WWII sergeant or a white dude.

    4. During WWII, Captain America was absolutely a pro-American propaganda character and it was absolutely fitting. America hadn’t even entered the war yet when Simon and Kirby sent the first issue to print, and the depiction of Cap cold-clocking Hitler in his stupid face freaked a lot of people out. I thought the film dealt with this stuff beautifully. But beyond WWII, which is stuff we didn’t get to see in this film, is where Cap became a “1960′s superhero with regular people problems,” in the Marvel tradition. He is a man from another time, and he’s usually grumpy about it. He has trouble relating and has feelings of isolation. Heroes with issues is what set Marvel apart from DC. You read DC comics to see what the Greek Gods were up to (BORING). You read Marvel comics to see who Cyclops was guilt-fucking (to crib Grant Morrison) and cheating on Jean Grey with.

    I’m not saying your opinion of Cap’s personality is wrong. On the contrary, Ca was very un-complicated and straight-forward; all-ages friendly and very much a Superman-esque boy scout. All superheroes from the 1940′s were. Seeing Cap struggle in “present day 1960′s” was when his character became more nuanced, and hopefully that will be something evident in The Avengers. I’m not saying his lack of depth in this film is excusable or fine (a film must stand on its own). Ideally a character should be nuanced right from the goddamn start. I would have appreciated a bit more depth to Steve Rogers than what we got, but it wasn’t an unforgivable offense.

    5. I thought the storming weapons facilities montage was a misstep. The film was 2 hours long, and I personally felt the time fly by. I would have liked something else there. Take Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where everything leads to something else— it’s a race to get to the finish line before the bad guy does, because something terrible will happen if he does. A train flashback chase to Venice catacombs & boats to a Nazi-occupied castle to a bike chase with sidecar complete with jousting to a zeppelin to a dogfight to a horse/tank race to the ancient temple finale. That shit was crazy, and it’s not even the best Indiana Jones film (Raiders)!

    Concerning the montage— if the choice was between a montage sequence of facility-storming OR four sequences of mindless action, I’d take the montage. But if they had Indiana Jones-esque character interactions investing we the viewers in Captain America, Bucky and the Howling Commandos while they went about their business in four different facilities? I would’ve preferred that. Personally, I don’t think the screenwriters had those kinds of writing chops, so I’m grateful they just made the montage.

    6. I really liked the last line of the film. I thought it was perfect.

    • OH! I also really loved it when Peggy had his file at the end and the obscured photograph is taken out to reveal a pre-serum skinny Steve Rogers. That was sweet and slightly melancholy, especially because to Peggy, Steve was freshly dead and it was a touching moment through her eyes.

    • this is a very awesome, well written comment. I commend you and am jealous of your comic book knowledge. I didn’t get into comics until 4 years ago and I have a lot of catching up to do.

      • Well, I had a head start due to my dad receiving 3,000+ of his old comics from the 60′s and 70′s when I was 9 years old, due to my grandfather cleaning out the family attic.

        But most of the knowledge I just threw out comes from the book Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution by Ronin Ro, which chronicles Jack Kirby and his contemporaries’ humble beginnings and ground-breaking innovations in the medium of comic books. There’s some crazy stuff in there.

        Example— Marvel’s historic 1960′s titles (FF, Amazing Fantasy, Hulk, etc), were actually published by DC when they first came out. Marvel had gotten into such bad financial straits due to Marvel Publisher Martin Goodman’s poor business sense, that they had to reach out to DC to continue making comics. DC stipulated that Marvel was only allowed to print eight titles per month, and they couldn’t be superhero books, because around 1956 DC started making money again with their own superhero books (the Silver Age of comics started with the Flash’s first appearance in DC’s Showcase #4).

        So Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started all the Marvel titles out with a much more horror comic vibe, with no tights or obvious heroes (the cover of FF #1 has the team in street clothes battling a huge monster; the Hulk looked like a monster, etc). The books sold so well so fast that by the time DC noticed what was going on the Fantastic Four had costumes, Spider-Man was swinging around, and Marvel had pulled themselves out of their financial hole and dominated the sales charts with their conflicted, bickering heroes.

  28. I was annoyed about never being actually informed about what powers Captain America had and didn’t have. All they really said was that he couldn’t get drunk because he had a fast metabolism. But when you’re watching a final battle between the Hero and the Villain, without having a basic understanding of what would hurt or kill one of them, it’s pretty pointless.

    • I thought it was made clear he was super-fast and super-jumpy (evidenced during the Hydra agent chase sequence), durable but NOT bulletproof (Hydra agent’s bullet nicked him on his side), super-strong (punching through submarine glass, lifting a motorcycle with three chorus girls on it), NOT fireproof (trapped by flamethrowing Hydra agents), increased stamina (the running), increased metabolism (can’t get drunk) and increased agility (the running again).

      Those are Cap’s powers.

      Oh, and his shield always comes back to him because physics.

  29. Sorry. I’m rambling. I meant to finish by saying it’s a good book if you want to read about the behind-the-scenes of some of the more prolific comic creators from back in the day (focusing mostly on Jack Kirby).

  30. “This movie must have saved a lot of money on bounce screens since they could just kick-fill everyone else’s faces by shining the light against Chris Evans’s blank white face.”

    what does this mean?

    • Bounce screens and kick/fills are lighting terminology, I believe. Bounce screens are those big screens lights are pointed at, which then gets bounced back at the subject with a much softer, non-direct-light effect, which I believe is what is called the ‘kick/fill.’

      So what Gabe is saying is he feels Chris Evan’s had such a blank white face that it could do the job of a bounce screen, kick/filling direct light from his face onto everyone else’s faces.

  31. Captain America needed more Jack McBrayer as Skinny Captain America.

  32. “The best part of the movie was how all of Red Skull’s mega-bombs were labeled with the names of the cities they were going to be dropped on (LOL)”
    I loved that part. I also loved that bombs were *also* planes. It’s great that it never took itself too seriously.
    One thing to note, the film’s villains are *extremist* Nazis with laser guns. That merits a watch, yes?

  33. i left before #TheAvengers SNEAK PEEK because i had to pee :(

  34. Worst aspects of the movie: bumbling faceless henchmen (really? you want to model your villains off those in the campy Flash Gordon movie?) and no sense of urgency. This was a good superhero movie in terms of characterizations and origin story, but a very bad one in terms of conflict. Apart from the final action sequence, the action scenes were probably the dullest parts of the movie. Captain America finally discovers his real heroic use and…we get an immediate montage of action? Way to take us out of the movie, movie! Montage implies that these things have already happened, which is the most boring implication in an action film.

  35. so a shield that is only three times stronger than steal can block lasers that seemingly obliterate matter and can destroy buildings? Movie physics!

  36. I’m from Fresno, Ace!

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