20 October 2012

#2LR - Too Late Reviews - Captain America

It may come as no surprise that one of my favorite musicians is "Weird Al" Yankovic.  I started listening to his music at age 11 and still enjoy his music to this day, even if his output comes close to matching my output writing MSTs at the main site.  Yankovic has two main weapons... one that everyone is familiar with, when he takes a complete song and just puts new lyrics to it.  These are the songs that get the occasional airplay on radio and occasionally get on the Billboard lists.  Less famous are what he calls his "style parodies", where he writes a new song but uses all of the tactics used by a famous artist, perhaps exemplified best by a song from one of his previous albums called "Genius in France", which if you close your eyes you can see Frank Zappa easily singing (example track: "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow").

I say this because Captain America: The First Avenger uses this technique very extensively through the movie.  Straightaway, as the movie opens, it has a very distinct Indiana Jones vibe to it, as you have Nazis going after artifacts during World War II.  Unlike X-Men, I have very little knowledge of Captain America from the comics going in, and the opening of the film was really hard to grasp on the first viewing.  When the movie puts you off-balance so early, it's hard to recover.

Anyway, from the snow-covered sections the movie shifts to the United States so that we can see the scrawny kid that the military will eventually turn into Captain America.  He mostly complains that the army will not accept him to go to war as he has myriad disqualifying conditions (there was a list, but I didn't see all of it... the only one I remember was asthma).  He ends up capturing the attention of The Good Mad Scientist (with Action Jewish Accent <tm>!) and through showing his intelligence as well, The Good Mad Scientist decides that he wants to use his Super Soldier process on the scrawny kid.  This is where we find out that not only does The Good Mad Scientist have full authority to pick his victim (without ANY input from the remaining U.S. Army), he also gets the army to foot the bill for setting up an elaborate secret la-BOR-a-tory behind the facade of an antiques shop plus all of the expertise from Tony Stark's father (or grandfather?).

Thankfully, The Good Mad Scientist is a scientist at heart, or I'd also be complaining about the fact that he picked a dude with a massive laundry list of preexisting conditions, had a talk about how the process will magnify everything about a person, yet none of the preexisting conditions were magnified... they ended up gone.  This also relieves me of complaining about how The Good Mad Scientist picks someone with all these preexisting conditions yet expects them to survive the process... he must know about this thing more than I.

While we already met the token eye-candy of the film in the form of what seems to be the British secret-agent oversight of this U.S. project, we get the remainder of the eye-candy in the next scenes.  Instead of sending Captain America off to the front lines, he goes on a song-and-dance routine with the girls to whip up support in purchasing U.S. war bonds.  Here's where the outfit and first shield debut, and the handwave is certainly better than nothing.

He ends up getting to the front line with his backup dancers on the USO tour and the soldiers predictably tell him to stuff his routine and that they'd rather see the girls.  Captain America then meets up with the original British spy and the original colonel (Tommy Lee Jones) that oversaw the beginning of the project.  After questions regarding his manhood, and realizing that his friend didn't come back from a raid, he goes single-handedly with Stark and the British agent inserting him into the warzone.  They end up getting shot at in the plane, and Captain America is inserted via parachute (?!, in a hot war zone where he's a sitting duck to ordinance fire?).

From what I'm remembering of the single time viewing the show, we are told earlier that the remainder of the battalion that Captain America's friend belongs to is held thirty miles from "the front".  They go there.... and find a massive erection of concrete.  This thing was supposed to have been a weapons factory plus prison... and all the "bogus" bells start firing again.  Why in Italy when you have so many Black Forest / Bavarian hills / out of the way Alps that you can build a weapons factory, rather than risk it falling if either the Allies took Italy (the PERIPHERY!) or if Italy told the Axis to bug off?  This thing was also very recent, which speaks to how much money and manpower it took to build it.  I'm misremembering exactly when Elrond/Mr. Smith decided that he wasn't a Nazi anymore and that he'd be his own country (Heil Hydra!), but it's amazing that this soldier has the money and pull to be able to build this massive facility plus dungeon plus manpower plus the other five facilities plus the setting for the last fight.

Shortly afterward we get a chance to check out The Great Escape, as Captain America frees the convicts.  Then we go into a set piece of Saving Private Ryan.  And, if it wasn't completely apparent from the submarine seen in the first act, we find out that this movie is a style parody in a different way.  It's a style parody of reality.  We have the 1940s, New York, old-timey vehicles, facial hair, the whole nine yards, so that we're grounded in real reality.  But then we find out that there are video cameras the size of a pack of cigarettes and monitors that are black-and-white but contain a nine-inch screen without a four-foot by four-foot by two-foot cabinet behind them.  The villain also has modern vehicles dressed up to look like tanks... they're essentially Humvees with turrets.... despite the fact that 1940's suspensions would have made them an expensive unpractical boondoggle.  It's this point where you figure out that this isn't really supposed to be our world circa 1940, but Marvel's slightly askew world circa 1940 where 95% of the things that happened in the real world happened here, but the last 5% (superheroes, selective technology) also happened here.

Warning -- spoilers start here.  So, Captain America frees the convicts, gets Tommy Lee Jones' approval as well as the additional approval of the British superspy, and ends up forming a team of men to combat Elrond's (well, Red Skull's) various additional weapon plants that they foolishly left on a corporate directory (see, the Internet wasn't quite around at this point, amazingly enough).  Captain America ends up losing his friend on a bullet train in the Alps (?! again) and goes to the final facility to beat up Elrond.  While I know that the fight in The Phantom Menace was not only two-on-one but also with lightsabres, I can still squint and see the same fight in Captain America.  At this point, Elrond escapes in Dr. Wily fashion to his B2 Spirit, where we find out that the bombs in the bomb-bay are really superfast small aircraft.  And oh, by the way, the B2 has the same speed as an SR-71, as it's coming into New York in a matter of minutes.  After Captain America traps Red Skull into a HX-368 style cube (talk about movies evoking other movies!), he decides that the only way to save New York City is to crash-land the B2, forgetting that Gander AFB is like three inches to the right.

And at the end of all of this, we find out that there are motherf@#*$in' snakes on this motherf&*$@in' plane.  I know, Hollywood, you got the idea to telegraph sequels when Steven Spielburg told Robert Zemeckis that it was okay, but this habit's really getting annoying now.  

Overall, this movie is enjoyable in two circumstances... if you're a fanboy or fangirl who likes the comics and wants to see Captain America's current origin story and can ignore whatever inconsistencies there are (are there any?).  The other way is to suspend as much disbelief as possible and to remember that this world is 95% similar to the History-Channel world we inhabit, and to allow the other 5% to be just more of the Captain America story.  There is some small amounts of humor in with all the action, but this is purely action through and through... no matter how much they wanted us to take the short detour of angst with Cap's buddy dying.

Review: 1.8 out of 4

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