23 August, 2011
I think everything that's been said about Captain America (2011) has already been said and been said by smarter, more distinguished, or more angry people than I. There isn't anything significant for me to add-- and that goes without the understanding that, like, two people read this blog. Instead of an actual review, instead I'm going to give you a list of complaints, grievances, and nitpicks about the film-- A film which I thought was pretty damn good.
But who the hell wants to read a list about me praising a movie this profitable and critically well regarded, especially at this late in the game?
Instead I'm going to go on and on about the little things in the movie I noticed.
Agent Smith Is Not Werner Herzog
His German accent is clearly Jurgen Prochnow of Das Boot and Beerfest fame.
Listen carefully. Use your ears. Use your heart. You'll see that I'm right.
And, bonus, here is Jurgen being the voice of reason, for once. It does him no good.
Oh Jurgen, never change!
Also: I completely forgot that Black Dad, Gay Dad luminary Ian "Ian McClellan" McKellan was in that movie. Good for him.
Who the Fuck Are All These Black People?
While I'll agree that racial integration is one of the better thing to happen within the past fifty years are we really so delusional as to believe that black people were this casually included in the war effort? Or even that they were allowed into the same recruiting office as honest, decent white Americans? Apparently in this 1940's, yup.
I don't mind the scene where Captain is recruiting his seven samurai, because it makes sense that there would be POWs from all sorts of different ethnicities-- it isn't as though slave laborers were all that worried about racial integrity. That I buy-- and I even buy it in the comics, I totally buy into the fact that a maniac like Nick Fury was more concerned with putting Fritz in the ground than with who was going to marry his sister (which was a white guy and they made a horrible person that he hates**).
See? He fucked them anyways. No racial enmity there. No discrimination. He fought a whole army that wanted nothing but blonds in the world and he'll still throw them a bone.
Nick Fury is America's most tolerant murder machine.
Anyways, what was I saying?
Oh, yeah. While we weren't the Nazis or the Italians or the Japanese in terms of racial theories or actions, we did have Jim Crow laws and for the most part African Americans were relegated to the rear and to menial jobs. In only a few cases (ie: The Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen) were black people allowed to actually fight in the war.
The black struggle during WWII is one of the important narratives of that period in history. It's a precursor to the civil rights movement of the 1960's. I expect to be sold a false bill of goods in regards to language or timelines or, you know, the Nazi super-science division, but when it comes to actual people and their actual struggles I can't help but feel that something is being trod upon.
What gets me the most is that the World's Fair was included in a Captain America comic and there was a point made specifically about how the Fair had a "Negro Day" during its run! (Also: Hey, remember this episode of White Guys, Square Glasses?_
This film is art designed to a T. It really is. I was listening to Jordan, Jesse, Go! and they were talking about the Art Deco as Future aesthetic and I don't quite agree with that. While there's an obvious genetic connection to The Rocketeer, this movie does exist on its own as a work of art in terms of its aesthetics. As many references as their might be-- either real or imagines-- it does exist as a well put together and original looking piece of work.
The fact that Johann Schmidtt's super-car (which reminds me of this Porsche designed Mercedes-Benz, which I means it's a Third Reich hat trick) bothers to have air-raid guards on its headlights proves to me that the people who made this knew enough about the war.
Air-Raid Guards-- or whatever the hell the actual name is-- are these pieces of metal or whatever that went over headlights during the war. They were the size of the headlight, but had a horizontal slit in the middle of the cap so as to allow a small plain of light through the headlight without illuminating the whole street. You see this a lot in English cars during the Battle of Britain, the reason for them being that you could drive at night without lighting up the whole neighborhood to German bombers.
If this movie got nothing else right, it's the art design.
Turn Off Your Goddamn Lights!
If you didn't know, I know a thing or two about a thing or two. One of those is proper flying procedures over enemy territory. Keeping your cabin lights on while flying over territory that is looking for something to shoot down is bad form. It tends to get you shot down. Shot down by Nazis. Repeatedly. And then executed because you're a "commando" in plain cloths.
So, even though it'll screw up your film stock, it's a sacrifice we all had to make**.
See? Even Predator got that detail right. What gives, Cap?
And that movie is retarded.
Choose a Goddamn Medium!
When I went and saw Public Enemies in theaters with my friend Joe (yes, that Joe), he came out of the movie complaining about how it kept on switching between film and digital. I thought he was crazy at the time. That was until I saw this film.
I don't know if it was shot entirely on digital or it switched half-way through (in order to get those sweet, sweet 3D moron dollars) or what, but it drove me nuts. One minute it'd be standard, clean film stock and then the next it looked grainy and smooth in the way that only digital film stock can look. It was distracting. It also coincided with the less emotional second half of the movie, which didn't help.
I saw the film in the proper 2D because, as I said above, I'm not a fucking rube.
The Action Figure Ruin Value.
Alright, I think at this point I was going to draw a clever comparison between Albert Speer's "ruin value" and the horrific drive to make every one of these movies into a nightmare of tertiary marketing.
I'm sure it was clever point. Let's imagine I made it.
Where are the Hobos?
I just watched The 49th Parallel, an Academy Award winning WWII propaganda film staring a cluster of British talent and is filmed and directed by the legendary Powell and Pressburger (who also created one of my favorite WWII movies, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp). There's little to no point in comparing that film with Captain America since they're entirely different kinds of films made under entirely different circumstances (also Cap has less dialogue where the Nazis stop and explain why they're better than you and I while at the same time explaining quite matter of factly why they are not).
Though, having just watched the British movie, I could not help but draw a few comparisons. While most of them are just aesthetic and kind of irrelevant to anyone but myself, one thing stood out. It's their climaxes. In Captain America (I don't think I'm spoiling anything, but in case you're a bit soft in the head, look out) they storm the Nazi super-fortress and in The 49th Parallel, a hobo outsmarts a Nazi.
There's just no comparison. In any movie where a hobo saves a country from fascism, it's the better film. That's just simple math. In what other movie does a drifter manage to defeat one of Adolf Hitler's chosen men?
My point is that as good as Cap might be, it would not have suffered from having more hobos. (There's even a train!)
Do we Really Need to Quote Inglorious Misspellings?
There's a line that crusty ol' Tommy Lee (as Colonel Tommy Lee) that reminds me of the line that Brad Pitt says to his would-be recruits. It's something about personally sending Adolf Hitler to hell. Since there's a two year gap between the movies I can't help but think that maybe that line has lost a bit of its original sting.
I'll give Cap the benefit of the doubt that it's quoting some obscure source material, but aren't you guys strong enough to admit that Tarantino beat you to it? I mean, did you do it better? Oh, yeah, probably, but a gentleman knows when he's beat. If didn't invent it, he certainly owned it. There's certainly more clever lines regarding killing Hiler- in fact this movie had a pretty good one about punching the ol' Austrian peasant, so why double dip?
And let's hope that it wasn't an homage. Christ knows we've got enough of those things bouncing around nowadays and we certainly don't need homages of homages.
Was Dum-Dum Dugan Always American?
Upon a cursory search, yes, but still- how jarring is it to listen to an American outside of a comic book convention wear a bowler hat?
Wait, Who are We Fighting?
"How do we know that?"
"I said we were. See? Nazis on the front page."
"But, what. . . what do they do?"
"They attack England mostly off screen in the second-third of the movie. Remember that? Cap was sad about it, pretty much."
"But why are we fighting them?"
"Because they want the Cosmic Cube."
"That isn't a great reason. Is that supposed to be anything?"
"Ugh, God, what are you, thick? We're fighting the Nazis because they have laser guns. And they wear black. Didn't you see them wearing black? That's the bad color."
"I mean, yeah, I guess, but, like, is that the only people we're fighting in the war."
"Oh, yeah, probably."
I'm Not Crying, I Just Love America.
--Because I do, damnit. I really do love the history of this country and I am profoundly interested in World War II. Without getting too weird and patriotic about it, that era strikes a particular chord with me. The fact that there are so many damn WWII movies, I think, goes to show that at least a few other people feel the same way. I know that at least Steven Spielberg agrees with me, for whatever that's worth.
In the case of Captain America, it managed to mix my envy and empathy for the Greatest Generation with my natural American affection for the underdog. . . one that just wants to do good despite being sensitive and severly underweight for his height.
Not that I get it, because that'd be super queer.
Who is This Bucky Fella?
Maybe I built it up too much in my mind, but Bucky's death felt like the mortal equivalent of whiskey dick. There's this whole big build-up, this big tease-- at least to me, because I'm the guy who imagines that everything is a Destroyer reference-- and then. . . nothing. It's the most anticlimactic death I've seen in a long time. It's like is Claudius had a heart attack off screen or if Darth Vader died in a traffic accident. It's so. . . lame. It's nothing.
I mean, he falls? That's it? That's not how Bucky dies. Bucky dies in a fucking drone explosion flying over the North Sea. He blows up.
He fucking explodes.
I'm not the guy to bitch about adaptations especially not when it comes to this property. My experience comes exclusively from Brubaker and Epting's run and that's hardly the definitely impression of Cap n' Bucky's journey through violent Europe. My problem has to do with how it was handled in the film. By comparing it to how it's handled in the comic (well, a dozen comics), we can see how it might have been done to greater effect.
Bucky's death is as iconic as that of Uncle Ben or Batman's parents, so to see it underdone as it was here is a bit disappointing.
Actually, now that I think about it I can't remember how Red Skull ate it at all. He got Raiders of the Lost Arked, right? That is a problem.
I Think It Stinks!
So, is it just me. . .
It is? Okay, never mind.
The Unified Gun-Wielding Secretary Theory.
I know I laughed out loud when I saw the scene where the shopkeeper went for her gun concealed underneath her desk. And like a lot of my reactions at 11 or so at night, I think I was alone. Also, I was drunk.
The main reason for this because not only was it a detail I wrote into a story, but I recognized it from two different movies--
Those two movies being True Lies and Three Days of the Condor (and I imagine that the first was a reference to the second). It's a great little detail and it's one of those thing where I could watch it in ever movie from now until the end of time and I would still think that it's a pretty cool idea.
Because of course the secretary has a fucking gun! They're the first line of defense in any war!
Why is There Only One of These?
I could honestly put up without another two of these films, at least then it'd feel slightly more cohesive and-- at best-- we'd have another two good Captain America movies. Think about it, the first film is about him finding his feet, then the second we'd have him fighting the Japanese or something or, I don't know, evil Russians, and then the third concludes with him killing the Red Skull or his clone. The world is obviously a large one and one of the reasons I love (and I love to write about) WWII is the scope of the war.
I think that this character and his group of commandos deserve the same sort of treatment. Or, at least it did. I'm not complaining, but this movie could have been cut down by 15 minutes, but since this is the only Captain America movie that we're ever going to see (at least in WWII), I figured, why wouldn't you strike while the iron is how?
Oh well. Maybe we can get a Rocketeer 2.
"Good night, sweet prince."
Lastly, the final line of the film shouldn't have been what it was-- which was (SPOILER) "I had a date" (END SPOILER), it should have been, "Did we win?" That would have tied back into the scene in The Ultimates where Captain America attacks (black) Nick Fury because, quote, "Nice try, Fritz, but the United States, never had any negro officers [or something like that]" where Cap is clearly unfamiliar with how the rest of the war went. It would also serve to tie it into the fact that Captain is a man out of time, a man without a country*** and a pretty tragic one at that.
Also, that end line can't help but remind me of the ending of Thor, which is almost the exact same conclusion. In either case they also point to, "See you in 2012, America!" It's a very shitty wink to end two pretty well done movies on.
RACIST SIDE NOTE: I thought that the Japanese-American guy that Cap recruited was the same Japanese guy as in Thor, but apparently they're completely different people. Now, before you start casting aspersions, calling me racist, what's more racist-- casting a Korean or a Chinese guy as a Japanese fellow or me assuming there was a continuity between consecutive Marvel movies? If anything, I am a victim!
SEXIST SIDE NOTE: As much noise as I made about there being completely random black people in the background of various shots, but I have no problem with what's-her-face working for Colonel What's-His-Nose and fighting the Nazis, probably because I've seen it before. It's a trope. . . and occasionally the trope gets a Tommy Gun.
*Jurgen Prochnow is the only thing I've ever typed into IMDB's search function and haven't been referred to a "Did you mean" screen.
**I can't find the documentary, but I watched a film on PBS about these pilots who flew entire fleets of planes over the Atlantic at night-- without escorts, without weapons, without lights-- in order to deliver them to the British, who were in the middle of this Hitler situation. It was an incredibly compelling documentary and I wish I could find a link to it for you. Anyways, the climax to the whole thing is one of these pilots getting yanked out of bed in the middle of the night and driven to an unknown address. When he arrived, he was told he was at ten. He was harried to a room and there he found himself face to face with Winston Churchill who wanted to know who a plane could get from London to Tehran without being detected. The Prime Minister was asking our pilot how he could fly him to the Tehran Conference without being shot down by both Nazi and Soviet air defenses. To make a long story short, he made it and we won the war.
Completely irrelevant factoids.
***Also, a "stranger in a strange land," but let's not push it.