Captain America

Certificate: PG
Running Time: 97 mins
Director: Albert Pyun
Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty Darren McGavin
Genre: Superhero, Comic Book, Action
Country: USA

Put on ice for a few decades, Steve Rogers aka Captain America is heated up and sent out to face old foe Red Skull.

In an alternate universe this 1990 adaptation of the much loved super soldier starred Val Kilmer which maybe prevented him from stepping into the Batcave for Batman Forever.  Maybe Michael Keaton stayed on-board and helped use some star-power to get Tim Burton back behind the lens.  In our reality, however, Kilmer passed in favour of making The Doors and Albert Pyun’s ill-fated flick sits unloved on the IMDB star score at 3.2 (out of 10).  That’s a whole 1.0 less than Fifty Shades of Grey… c’mon people!!

Though Pyun might not have got the big name he wanted to stand behind the mighty shield, he certainly populated the supporting cast with incredible actors including Darren McGavin (Kolchak the Nightstalker, Raw Deal), Ned Beatty (Superman, Deliverance) and Ronny Cox (Deliverance, Robocop and Total Recall).  Perhaps it was the lack of star-power at a time when the name above the title was everything explains the very visible budgetary restraints on the film.  Perhaps the fact that the Studio rather than director held final cut[1] explains the script problems or perhaps it’s me.  Perhaps I’m trying to defend in indefensible.

Matt Salinger does a decent job as Steve Rogers, he certainly fills Cappie’s suit well enough to look like an seriously imposing individual, even in a bright blue suit with a white capital ‘A’ on his forehead.  McGavin is excellent as always.  Though I will forever remember him as Carl Kolchak, he has a marvelous ability to play the authoritarian type and as a (assuming four-star) General he’s able to shine brightly enough for you not to notice the holes in his character development.  Scott Paulin (as Red Skull) is terrifying, phenomenally terrifying.  Rather than cast names Pyun has cast talent and it has undone him.

There’s so much good going on in Captain America, so where does this 3.2 rate come from?  Well for one, though Pyun’s director is smooth, well paced and pretty to look at, what the camera (and in turn the audience) is looking at is made on the cheap.  Then there’s the issue of the script.  With the exception of Steve Rogers and Red Skull there’s few other elements from the super soldier’s world to excite readers of the comics.  It’s 1990 by this point.  The short-lived Spider-Man TV series/TV movies ended eleven years earlier and yet Marvel have failed to learn their lesson.  You need more than the protagonist and antagonist to make a superhero movie.  Batman had hit screens the previous year and excited the world to the point were we were all close to being sent to Arkham for observation.  Would it captured the audiences’ imagination if it was Batman vs. Joker in Delaware instead of Gotham?  If it was Police Commissioner Peacock instead of Gordon?  These might be small things but if you’re going to cast a love interest in your movie why not have the love interest from the comic?  Peggy Carter, Vicki Vale, Karen Page, Betty Ross.  These ladies (no matter how well or poorly fleshed out in comic form) are intriguically linked to the title characters.  To strip them from the text is to strip part of Captain America’s patriotism away, part of Batman’s brooding menace, Daredevil’s radar.  Pyun pulled together a talented, if slightly less known, cast.  Went to the effort of creating a visual aestethic that bridges to gaps between comic and film mediums but it is all for nothing if you don’t get the small details right.

At this point DC were streets ahead with two incredibly well received Superman films under their belts, Tim Burton’s Batman wowing audiences and a sequel in the pipeline.  By this point Marvel had one success in The Incredible Hulk TV series but several failed or flopped attempts to broaden their film/TV universe.  Captain America is most certainly a step in the right direction but it’s a stumble step, albeit one I love seeing.

[1] A Director’s Cut is available containing an additional 30 minutes.


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