Yes, box offices across the world are growing fat with Iron Man cash. Ol' Shell Head was the number one movie for two weeks in a row, and I bet the folks over at Marvel are pretty darn proud of themselves. Of course this means that we'll be seeing more super hero movies in the not too distant future, and I say bring it on. One such film currently in the early stages is The First Avenger: Captain America, featuring one of Marvel's oldest creations. I've enjoyed the character in the comics, particularly John Byrne's run on the book, and The Invaders series which told of the wartime adventures of Cap, his sidekick Bucky, The Submariner, The Human Torch and Toro.
For the sake of perspective, though, I'd like to remind everyone that Marvel has been associated with some seriously crappy films in the past, and four of those crappy films have starred Marvel's super soldier Captain America. I'm not saying this new film version is cursed, but it certainly has a lot to live down.
The most recent of these star-spangled atrocities is the steaming dog turd (the mushy kind with the swirly on top like soft-serve ice cream) that is the 1990 film Captain America which starred Matt Salinger. Reb Brown played Cap in two made for TV films in 1979 (Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon) that thankfully never got picked up as a series. Fourthly, the Captain's first big screen appearance happened in 1944 when he was the subject of a 15 chapter serial (again titled Captain America but rereleased as The Return of Captain America), that took far more liberties with the character than should be allowed.
So what can the makers of this new Captain America flick learn from these previous versions?
- Fake rubber ears are a bad idea. Seriously. Look closely. Captain America has traditionally been drawn with his ears poking out the side of his cowl. To replicate this look for the 1990 film, fake ears were applied to the outside of the mask, and they look pretty awful in closeup. Ironically, adding ears to the headpiece probably rendered actor Matt Salinger deaf as a post.
- Try not to be embarrassed that your main character is wearing long johns. Cap disappears in the middle of the movie, and we only see his civilian guise of Steve Rogers for a long stretch. Salinger actually looked fairly convincing in the red, white, and blue tights, but the costume gets relatively little screen time. If you're embarrassed to have your main character running around in a super hero costume, maybe you should be making romantic comedies.
- Just the teensiest bit of logic would be appreciated. As the missile to which Captain America is strapped is about to launch our hero grabs the villainous Red Skull and threatens to take him along for the ride. The Skull will have none of that and produces a large knife which he uses to cut off... HIS OWN HAND????? WTF?
- Cap's shield was made by government scientists, not the R&D division of Wham-O. In short, it ain't a Frisbee, people. The shield Reb Brown carried in the two made-for-TV Captain America movies was made of transparent plastic. Unless he's fighting nazis at a beach party, this just doesn't work for me.
- Shouldn't he at least LOOK like Captain America? No film adaptation is ever going to be 100% faithful to the source material, but the liberties taken with Captain America's costume for the first of the made-for-TV flicks made our hero look more like Eval Kneival than a super hero. For the second film Brown was sporting a more traditional version of the costume, but jeez, that helmet...
- Shouldn't he at least to some degree BE Captain America? For the 1944 serial, the costume was more or less accurate, it's just every single other aspect of the character that was changed. Rather than being a G.I. named Steve Rogers, our hero is a crusading District Attorney named Grant Gardner (played by Dick Purcell, who died of a heart attack the same year this serial was released), he doesn't carry a shield but he does pack a gun. Essentially, this is a generic Saturday afternoon action serial using Captain America's name and likeness, but nothing else. Interestingly, I think the look of the recently rebooted Captain in the comics owes a debt to this take on the character.