If I needed a reason for Captain America to be my least favorite comic book character the goofball dressed in a makeshift Captain America costume at the screening I went to provided it. He addressed the audience and apropos of nothing asked if anyone in the crowd served in the armed forces. A couple people stood up to loud cheers. The knucklehead Captain America then brought the attention back to himself by telling everyone, “Enjoy watching me in my movie.”
This imposter in two sentences managed to embody the two traits that make me hate the character Captain America, blind patriotism and a sense of entitlement.
Fortunately the new movie Captain America: First Avenger doesn’t rely on the inane jingoism of supporting our troops no matter what they do, nor do they expect us to like our protagonist just because he wears the stars and stripes on his uniform. The filmmakers behind his movie and the actor who actually played Captain America, Chris Evans, put a lot of time and care into exploring what makes a hero. He needs selflessness, courage, and a large dose of steroids.
As a comic aficionado I was familiar with Captain America’s origin. He was a 98 pound weakling who couldn’t pass the military physical until he was injected with the super-soldier serum, but I’d never read a comic that spent this much time with Captain America before he became buff. Underdogs are always more likable and seeing Steve Rogers struggle to do a push-up make his superhuman feats when he becomes Captain America of leaping from cartop to cartop that much more amazing.
Setting the movie in the 1940s (just like X-Men: First Class being in the 1960s) makes the flick stand out from the glut of superhero movies. The fantastic and outlandish seems more believable when seen through the prism of historical production design. And the special effect that puts Evan’s face on a malnourished body is so seamless I thought another actor played Steve Rogers before he became a super-hero.
But in spite of all my enthusiasm for the movie I am not sure I should recommend it to non-comic book fans. It drags on at times and suffers slightly from the epidemic found in many comic book movies of trying to cram too many characters into one movie, but most of all it is very comic booky. For me that is a huge positive. The hero moves in dynamic poses, the villainous Red Skull cackles maniacal one-liners, and the vehicles driven and flown are stylish enough to give you a car fetish.
But maybe the layperson who wouldn’t appreciate the little things the movie got right (like the handlebar mustache on minor character Dum Dum Dugan) will still enjoy Captain America. After the screening I heard the guy in the dime store costume rave about the movie and I’m pretty sure he can’t read.