Superhero movies have come along way since Albert Pyun’s “Captain America” but the movie, considered a cult classic, has it’s merits and is quite a fun curiosity to watch. But is it a purchase or a pass? Read the review after the jump!
Okay, so here’s the thing, back in the day there used to be these things called “Video Stores”, stay with me now, in these “Video Stores” one could rent movies in video cassette form and put them in a “VCR” or video magic movie box as they were sometimes called. Anyway, as a kid, my family would frequent one such “Video Store” located inside of a grocery store. I could spend hours wandering the aisles marveling at movie boxes.
There were several box art covers that drew my attention. I can still remember them: Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Strangelove, Rabbit Test, FreeJack, and Captain America. Every single time we would visit this video store I would visit these movies, curious as hell about them. I only ever mustered the courage to ask my father to rent one of them, that was Captain America, he said no.
Years went by, that store closed, as did many others and of that list to this day I’d only watched Dr. Strangelove, luckily. In 2011 we got the new Captain America movie starring Chris Evans which had a unique structure and was the direct precursor to last year’s megahit The Avengers. The Avengers is probably one of, if not the greatest fan service comic book movies of all time. It embraces some of the silliness and well worn tropes of comic book history and somehow pulls it off, but embracing your roots and silliness can backfire.
For this reason alone I feel 1990’s Captain America fails. It starts off pretty well, transplanting Red Skull’s origins to Italy with a dark and well shot opening sequence which leads directly to Steve Rogers and his triumphant transformation. So far I’m with the movie, the pacing is okay, the acting is not bad, Matt Salinger is a little difficult to look at but you still got me. The characters even make a joke about the costume being a bit garish. So maybe this is a post-modern superhero movie, then Red Skull makes his first appearance as seen above and the movie goes a bit off the rails.
Played by Scott Paulin, Red Skull has a silly accent, borderline pasta sauce commercial territory, and hams it up big time. From this moment on we get into super “B movie” action sequences. Sexy Italian Neo-Nazis, Canadian wilderness, dirt bike chases, and people being shot but inexplicably surviving to give last words. You really have to see the movie to understand the tonal shift it goes through. The second you see Captain America divert a rocket from the White House to Alaska (a rocket that already made a trans-Atlantic trip from Italy by the way) you know the movie embraces it’s comic book silliness but only because it has to.
This hurts the movie the most. Captain America is being chased and tracked down but it all feels forced and what’s worse is that Captain America never questions it. At one point ace reporter Ned Beatty asks Cap who are the people shooting at him, without skipping a beat he knows that the sexy women on dirt bikes are Nazis because who else would they be? And the less said about the President, played by Ronny Cox, and his subplot of having “met” the Captain before the better.
I have no problem with story changes, like Red Skull being Italian or Steve Rogers being from Redondo Beach, California, but with the plodding nature of the movie that started with such promise. It devolves too quickly with dialogue for exposition’s sake and villains without any real motivation other than being evil, the movie’s greatest disservice is taking comic book characters and giving them no character development. Lucky for us it wasn’t the last word in Captain America films.
Was it worth the wait for me? Should I have just taken my father’s advice and avoided the movie? No, I’m a geek that loves super hero movies. I had to watch it and enjoyed watching it. The movie isn’t a painful travesty that’s unwatchable, it’s just sad that it doesn’t live up to it’s potential. Clearly budgetary restraints held it back from a greater scope and the filmmakers complain that for this reason the script wasn’t given it’s due and a lot was not shot. Compared to Superman III and IV, it’s way better and way more fun to watch and comparable to the lesser “Bat-films”. Also, I should mention that I kind of dug Cap’s costume, so that holds up.
The Blu-Ray gives us the best possible presentation and Shout Factory! put out a solid “Collector’s Edition”. It’s light in special features but the insights given by Matt Salinger and Albert Pyun on the “Making Of Retrospective” shed light on why this movie wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. I found this particular tidbit on casting quite interesting:
Overall, knowing most super hero fans as completest freaks, I would recommend this a worthy addition to any Marvel film collection. Available tomorrow on Blu-Ray, it’s worth a watch, and you should probably buy it since you can’t really go to the video store anyway. You could do a lot worse, I’m looking at you Howard the Duck! Thanks to Tom Chen from Shout Factory! and thanks for reading!
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