This is not a good place to start exploring the MCU. No matter how intensely I’m looking through my fanboy glasses, I can’t find much good in this film.
Captain America, the character concept, is Marvel universe’s Superman – the clean shaven, all American boy scout, who has no faults. The Cap even wears the stars and stripes. The concept is horrid.
As a part of the MCU, the intention of the film is to show the origin story of Captain America. The thing is, the origin story happens at a time that is far removed from everything else that will happen in the MCU. As such, I assume that Captain America is pretty much the only thing that will be reused later. All the other characters are regular mortals, who will be dead or very old during the events of the rest of the MCU. Well, there’s of course Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man, so that’s one connection. Other than that, it looks to be very thin.
As part of Captain America’s character arc in the MCU, I think this is intended as a film that takes a completely ridiculous character concept and attempts to build some rough edges to it. The problem is, the rough edges are built through footage that looks like it has been cleaned up from everything that might make the home front lose heart and not buy war bonds. That is, they take a ridiculous concept and try to add some edges to it by taking an edgy situation, but sanding it down to the shape of the original ridiculous concept.
I’m trying to find words to describe, how I would improve the film, but it’s difficult, since there’s so many conflicting dichotomies at play. There’s Captain America, who’ll look ridiculous in pretty much any setting, and you are supposed to put him into WWII and try to make it fit. There’s MCU Nazi occult scientist super villain with an army of augmented soldiers equipped with pseudo-scientific super weapons, and you are supposed to put that into WWII and try to make it fit. There’s WWII that is pretty much humanity at its worst, and you are supposed to make it fit with the MCU that is brightly colored, clean, and lighthearted even, when the planet is being destroyed.
The one idea that I get, is that it probably could’ve functioned as proper pulp. As it stands, it borrows a lot of imagery from it, but doesn’t want to go all in.
The story itself tells of Steve Rogers, a man bullied all his life for his small stature, but possessing of impeccable character. He wants to enlist to serve his country in WWII, but is refused, again, due to his stature. Dr. Erskine sees beyond the stature into the character and hand picks Steve into a secret army program intent on building super soldiers. Obviously the Nazis sabotage the program and kill Dr. Erskine. Only Steve gets the treatment becoming Captain America. With the program gone, Captain America is assigned to entertainment duty in the war bonds effort at home and in front of troops in the front lines. On a trip to the front lines, he encounters the remains of a company that had some of his friends in it, and goes on a rogue mission to rescue them. The captors were Nazi super soldiers, so now the Cap has a mission to eradicate the super soldier unit, which puts him on a collision course with their leader, Red Skull, the super villain of this film. The confrontation ends up badly for Red Skull, but not before he has launched super weapons towards the US eastern seaboard. The Cap sacrifices himself to save millions of Americans. There’s side plot into a slowly developing love between Steve and Peggy Carter, who is first a part of the super soldier program and later helps the Cap on his rogue mission. Some tears obviously flow, when the Cap finally dies.
There’s nothing inherently bad in the storyline, but nothing too good either. As a whole, the good things in the film form a very short list. It has Marvel vibes, which is obviously nice, if the film is going to sit in with the rest of the MCU works. There’s even some chemistry between Steve and Peggy. For a short while, before everything is exposed, the Nazi super soldiers seem intriguing. But that’s it.
All in all, this seems like fan service for people, who see no problems with Captain America’s character in the first place. If I was building the MCU, I would’ve made this into a 30-45min pulp film. In reality, that couldn’t have been done, since it would’ve been leaving money on the table, and it would not be proper to tell the origin story of a major MCU character in a format that is going to be missed by most of the fans.
Trying my hardest to squint through the fanboy glasses, I’m going to give this the lowest grade that in my grading semantics indicates that the film was not a waste of time.
- Director: Joe Johnston
- Watched on: 29th Apr 2017
- Watched at: Home (Nelonen)
- Fanboy grade: 2.5/5