Oh captain, my Captain (America): a movie review

The director of the Rocketeer delivered another fun period piece with Captain America.  The movie had heart and was a good time, another solid hit for Marvel.  The Marvel movies have been really good about distilling comic book characters down to some simple thematic elements, in this case, “I don’t give up and I don’t like bullies,” and highlighting them for an entertaining hour and a half.

I had two problems with the movie:

1) Every once in a while I would get this awful feeling about what this movie was saying about war, something about the comic-book-cleaning-up of WWII and it would bother me.  I can’t tell you when exactly this occurred or what exactly in the movie brought it about but something about 4-colorization of WWII bothered me in film in a way that it never has on paper.

*** The second problem has spoilers so if that is a problem, stop reading. ***

2) The ending was a problem.  Here’s this 4-color character in the middle of modern Manhattan, having just been lied to (for his own good, he is assured) by the very government he gave up his life to protect and we never get to see him overcome his shock long enough to deal with it.

That was just where things got good.  I wanted him to go find out what happened to Agent Carter.  Shit, I wanted him to find an elderly Agent Carter, 90+ years old.  That needed to happen.  I wanted to hear about her hunting Hydra and Nazi agents in South America and I wanted to see that she had moved on but still missed that scrawny private she saw transform into a super-soldier something terrible.

Without that closure, by denying that emotional beat in the story, the whole movie is just a colorful and well wrought trailer for the Avengers movie.

P.S. Yeah, I wanted to see him digest the Vietnam War, Watergate, the JFK assassination, Iron-Contra and 9-11 but I can wait for the sequel, especially if they tie-in the Winter Soldier arc and we get to see Captain America process the modern era.

11 thoughts on “Oh captain, my Captain (America): a movie review

  1. I loved the movie. It was fun, had a heart, and the action was great.

    1) “Hail Hydra” kind of squicked me out, just a teeny bit. That was the 4-color-ification of WWII moment for me. Not a deal-breaker, but enough to make my mind veer over to the *actual* WWII atrocities and have a little trouble taking the movie’s version of “evil” seriously.

    2) YES YES YES. I was *so sure* that we would see Cap and old-woman Carter meeting up at the Stork. The ending felt rushed, and possibly dictated by committee. Maybe we’ll get it on the “DVD” (they still make those, right?).

  2. Regarding #1, part of that feeling for me was that the Hydra energy weapons made the war so clean. There’s very little of the gruesome death we see in, say, Saving Private Ryan. Not that that would have been completely appropriate in a comic movie, but the for a war movie that happens to have a superhero, it showed very little of the horrors of war.

    Regarding #2, my wife said the exact same thing. I didn’t feel it quite as much, but it might have been helpful to at least have Agent Carter, 90+ years old, there to back Fury up when Fury tells him what happened; have Cap doubt Fury’s claim and then have Carter get out of the car and that be the clincher. Or something.

  3. The third act spirals out of control. It’s really felt like recent films lose focus in the last thirty minutes, becoming an extended and unnecessary action sequence rather than playing out beats set up earlier in the film. X-Men: First Class also had this problem.

    I would gladly, gladly sacrifice most of the sequence onboard the bomber for all of the content of the ending you propose. (I also think the second act is running fat with a lot of its unnecessarily long action sequences that don’t strongly further plot or character.)

  4. 1) I’ll be an apologist here. Is there a way to have a comic book movie set during WWII and have it be respectful of the conflict in terms of showing the true cost of war? I feel the movie did a deft sidestep here: Captain America did not fight in WWII. Not truly. He was conducting a shadow war against Hydra while WWII took place in the background. Every single one of his combat missions was against Hydra, not Hitler’s forces.

    2) I agree with you here, though I didn’t want to see 90-something Peggy (too Titanic). I was hoping he’d meet her daughter/son or granddaughter/grandson (I thought the nurse at the end might have been Sharon Carter, in fact, as she looked similar to Peggy). I DID want to see more impact of waking up 70 years later, as that had a lot of narrative heft. The scenes in Times Square were quite effective, but then the movie just… abruptly ended. And it’s too bad, because we’ll see Cap again in The Avengers, not Captain America 2. I wish CA2 would come first to deal with him in the modern era, dealing with the fish-out-of-water-ness… because how much time will there be for that in The Avengers? Not much. Oh, well.

    • 1) I have no idea if its possible but they’re the ones who attempted it and I’m glad they did; I don’t think there is any way to have a Cap movie without rooting him to that WWII origin.

      2) I’m not precisely sure what I wanted but I wanted closure between him and Carter.

      • 1) Agreed. I’m amazed they captured the kind of patriotic optimism of WWII without making it a blatant USAUSAUSA movie. They nailed it.

        2) I don’t mind a poignant ending where there’s a cost to the protagonist. He chose what was right for the country and lost his love. That’s better than a swell of romantic music to me.

        I just read a (n unsubstantiated) report that says that the director had NOTHING to do with the ending. Someone else filmed it and tacked it on. Hmm…

  5. I liked it ok. I didn’t realize that it was the director of The Rocketeer, that’s kinda cool.

    Red Skull was a boring villain, but I really liked how they tied in the Thor mythology!

    You’re right though, the grabby thing about the plot is Cap being a fish out of water in the modern era. I really wish there was something grabby during the WW2 shenanigans… The details were awesome, there was just no arc or conflict that I cared about. Not after basic training anyway.

    The best scene of the film for me was when Steve jumped on the grenade during basic training. It almost brought me to a tear. AND THEN they almost ruin it with Tommy Lee Jone’s joke: “He’s still skinny.” This is one moment I did not need humor to soften the dramatic blow.

  6. I wished for the same final act. She had to have moved on — it would be awful if she’d just pined away for 70 years — but I wanted to see her, too.

    As for the cleaning up of the war, jebus, dude. It’s Captain America. In my version of Captain America, he goes to the Vietnam War, realized that everyone’s being used to support the Military Industrial Complex, and winds up protesting it on the home front in full patriotic splendor. And I still think they got as close to WWII as they should have.

    • They even set up her line, with the two of them always saying, “You’re late,” to one another. I dunno. I wonder if they filmed something and it just didn’t work.

      Yeah, I’m asking for a whole lot but fuck-it, I’m asking for a lot.

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