Friday, July 10, 2015

Recap: "Captain America: The First Avenger" Part 3: Star-Crossed Lovers

Just for the record, "star-crossed" means doomed. Romeo and Juliet are doomed lovers. They aren't some great tragedy of true love, they are not meant to be together. It was a relationship that lasted three days between a 13-year old and a 17-year-old. Six people died because of it.

Sorry about the tangent; people hyping up Romeo and Juliet as a romantic story is one of my biggest pet peeves, speaking as somebody with degrees in Theatre and English.

Anyway, yeah. Doomed lovers. Spoiler alert.
Soon, Cap is due in Washington to get a medal from Senator Brandt, but he’s busy being a real American hero, so a messenger is sent out to tell the senator that Cap won’t be showing up, much to the confusion of Stan Lee.

Generalissimo Stan Lee: “I thought he’d be taller.”

"It's such a weird feeling to not have created this one. I think I'll kill off his best friend to show I'm still in charge."
"General, this conversation is making me very uncomfortable."
"Excelsior!"
Under the streets of London, Captain America is making a copy of Zola’s map from memory while over in another room, Winston Churchill is probably showing off the new “Ironsides” to the Doctor. The marks on the map apparently represent HYDRA bases, but there seems to be a secret base that isn’t on any map where they’re building some kind of superweapon. Apart from the lasers and tanks, I mean.

Col. Phillips: “Agent Carter, coordinate with MI-6.”

That’ll be a trick, seeing as how MI-6 doesn’t exist yet.

MI-6 will look for the secret base, Cap will be sent in to destroy the ones they already know about. Col. Phillips says they’re putting together a team, but Cap insists that he already knows who he wants. And in a London pub, he recruits them.

"Excuse me, I'm Captain Steve Rogers...."
"Go fuck yourself."
Actually, this is probably where Wolverine was going to cameo. As it is, Cap just recruits the other prisoners.

So, every movie has flaws. This is one of Captain America’s major ones. Simply put, who the heck are these people?

I mean, I know who they are. They’re the Howling Commandos from the comics from World War II (though they’re never given that name in the film), but led by Captain America instead of Nick Fury. But to Joe Moviegoer, they’re just random guys who we haven’t seen long enough to form any sort of real emotional connection with.

To be fair, we got to see them work as a team in a way that Steve’s fellow Camp Lehigh recruits couldn’t, which was best exemplified with the flagpole sequence. But I’ve seen this movie several times since it came out, including no fewer than twice for this Recap alone, and I don’t recall any of their names ever getting mentioned. Which is a bit of a problem when we’re supposed to care about these characters.

Now, I’m willing to entertain the idea that perhaps I simply missed the dialogue where these people were given names. But even if these guys are named in the film itself, it really says something about their characterizations when I can’t notice their formal introductions after having watched the film around ten times in the past four years.

Luckily, I have my handy-dandy Captain America trading cards with me.

I keep them on me at all times just in case.
They are as follows.

Asian-American Jim Morita, played by Kenneth Choi. He was a recurring character in the old Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos book who got upgraded to the main squad in this film.

Token French soldier Jaques Dernier, played by Bruno Ricci. He speaks French. That’s his whole personality.

Jaques: ''Moi, je combattrai jusqu'à ce que le dernier de ces bâtards soient morts, enchaînés ou bien pleurent comme un petit bébé.''

Exactly.

Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, played by the mustachioed Neal McDonough.

Token African-American Gabe Jones, played by Derek Luke.

Token Brit Montgomery Falsworth, played by JJ Feild. This was a bit controversial. In the comics, the corresponding British member is named Percival "Pinky" Pinkerton. The comic version of Montgomery Falsworth is a super hero named Union Jack, an identity he never dons in the film, to the chagrin of the Union Jack fans. It’s like having Peter Parker show up in a movie and not being Spider-Man.

Anyway, they’re all there, and they agree to be a part of Captain America’s unnamed team. After he gets them to join up, Cap heads over to the other part of the pub and officially recruits Bucky. But all talk of fighting ends when Agent Carter comes in wearing a dress that was designed for Mélanie Laurent in Inglorious Basterds, showing off her own superhuman physique.

Yowza.
She tells Cap to show up tomorrow, and leaves, with all of Bucky’s charms proving worthless.

Bucky: “I’m turning into you.”

Just like in the comics.
Over with Howard Stark the next day, he’s taking a look at the glowy whatsits that Cap took from that HYDRA base. It ends up exploding in his face.

Howard Stark: “Write that down!”

Cap comes along looking for him, only to find an impromptu make out session, courtesy of the secretary. Agent Carter walks in at precisely the wrong moment to find them, and she’s as shocked as Steve is. And she’s a little upset as Steve tries to explain what happened.

Steve: “Well, what about you and Stark? How do I know you two haven’t been… fondueing?”

But Steve is quickly rushed over to Howard, who answers the important questions of the day.

Howard Stark: “Fondue’s just cheese and bread, my friend.”

"So, who's the cheese and who's the bread?"
"...You're killing me here, Steve."
Howard’s been working on some gear for Cap, including an armored outfit that should repel blades.

Howard Stark: “HYDRA’s not gonna attack you with a pocket knife.”

Which is why he’s been dabbling in shield technology. There’s some fancy ones with visors and bits and doodads, but Cap takes a liking to a round prototype made out of Vibranium, straight from Wakanda. Stronger than steel, light, and it absorbs all vibrations. Which is why it still generates sound waves and bounces off of things when thrown.

Wait, what?
This is actually very close to the comics. Captain America originally had a triangular shield before switching to a stranger round one. In real life, this is because the owners of a patriotic hero called the Shield not only came first, but used a suspiciously similar shield in his crimefighting. In the film, the shield is pure Vibranium. In the comics, it’s a Vibranium/iron mix. Although a commonplace factual error describes the shield as a Vibranium/Adamantium mix… despite the fact that Adamantium was the result of trying to replicate the alloy in Captain America’s shield.

Agent Carter tests it with her gun, and the bullets drop straight to the floor off the shield. As Howard and Steve stare at her as she leaves, Steve hands over some notes about the uniform. And he soon gears up and raids a buttload of HYDRA bases with his new buddies, montage-style.

"Mustache! French guy! Take point!"
"Cap, we have names."
The Red Skull is not happy with this.

"This whole situation just furrows my brow!"
He yells at Zola for not being able to stop the good captain as a HYDRA spy claims they fought to the last man.

Red Skull: “Evidently not.”

And then he shoots the guy. Because evil.

Sometime later, Cap’s team is preparing to zipline onto a moving train holding Dr. Zola. Bucky, Cap, and the others make it alright and start beating up the HYDRA goons onboard after finding a way in. But it’s a trap. Automatic doors split the team up and they’re each forced to fight separately against goons with super-mega-laser cannons. One of them rips a hole in the side of the train.

Despite Cap and Bucky being reunited in the same compartment, Bucky ends up clinging to the outside of the train. Unfortunately, the metal gives way and the soldier falls down to the wintry depths below.

I’m sure glad Cap won’t end up with a similarly icy fate….

Chris Evans usually fares well with ice and snow.
But the mission succeeds and Zola is taken into custody and prepared for his interrogation by Col. Phillips. He brought food.

Dr. Zola: “What is this?”
Col. Phillips: “Steak.”
Dr. Zola: “…what is in it?”
Col. Phillips: “Cow.”

Zola claims that he doesn’t eat meat. Either he’s following in Hitler’s footsteps, or he thinks it’s poisoned. But the Col. Isn’t going to let a cut of meat that good go to waste and starts chowing down. Phillips notes that unlike all the other HYDRA goons they captured, Zola isn’t using the cyanide.

Col Phillips: “So here’s my brilliant theory. You wanna live.”
Dr. Zola: “You are trying to intimidate me, colonel.”
Col. Phillips: “I bought you dinner.”

"Well, I say 'bought.' I always expect my date to pay, Zola."
They sent an encrypted message to Washington claiming that Zola’s willing to betray HYDRA, knowing full well that HYDRA has probably already intercepted and decoded it.

Dr. Zola: “Schmidt will know this is a lie.”
Col. Phillips: “He’s gonna kill you anyway, Doc.”

You know, America did something similar in real life. Operation: Paperclip, where we basically took all the German scientists and put them to work at NASA.

Well, xkcd, that's one moral to the story.
After some more prodding, Phillips finally gets some usable information out of the doctor.

Dr. Zola: “Schmidt believes he walks in the footsteps of the Gods.”
Col. Phillips: “Hm.”
Dr. Zola: “Only the world itself will satisfy him.”
Col. Phillips: “You do realize that’s nuts, don’tcha?”
Dr. Zola: “The sanity of the plan is of no consequence.”
Col. Phillips: “And why is that?”
Dr. Zola: “Because he can do it!”
Col. Phillips: “What’s his target?”
Dr. Zola: “His target… is everywhere.”

He’s going to need a lot of bombs.

We then cut to a big ol’ plane, no doubt loaded with a lot of bombs. Schidt gives an evil speech to his men and leads them in a chorus of crazy.

Red Skull: “Cut off one head, two more shall take its place! Hail HYDRA!”

The goons all do their double-Nazi salute and repeat the hails.

"Young man! There's no need to feel down. I said, young man...."
Agent Carter finds Captain America, despondent, but not drunk, in the pub from earlier. It’s been bombed. And he’s discovered a very unfortunate side effect of the serum. It speeds up his metabolism and removes toxins from his body ridiculously fast.

Steve: “I can’t get drunk.”

That’s rough, man.

She tries to tell Cap that he did everything he could and he should stop blaiming himself. Steve resolves to put this pain to good use.

Steve: “I’m going after Schmidt.”

…wasn’t that already your mission?

Col. Phillips gives the final report on Schmidt. He’s crazy and he has weapons and ambition. Stark says that if his weapon manages to make it to America, then it’s game over for the Eastern seaboard. And they have under 24 hours. But thanks to Zola, they know where Red Skull’s evil mountain lair is. Cap makes his way there, pausing only for a quick motorbike chase a la Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After some spills, thrills, and a Wilhelm scream, Cap busts into the base and is ready for action.

He makes quick work of most of the goons, but the flamethrower guys surround and capture him.

"Man, of all the times to not be the Human Torch...."
In classic villain fashion, they take him to the big boss in his main room. They exchange words.

Red Skull: “So. What made you so special?”

An important question. Schmidt thinks he’s a god on Earth. And yet, he keeps losing. Why?

Captain America: “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”

"Also, I'm not a goddamn Nazi. That probably counts for something."
And Red Skull simply can’t handle that he’s being beaten by a nobody. Being the pragmatist he is, Red Skull allows himself a moment to beat Cap up before pulling out his gun. After all, he’s on a schedule. And so is Caps’ team. And this is the moment of their big entrance. Like proper intruders, they come intruder window. Col. Phillips’ men lead the charge at the main gate as Cap’s team takes out the guys inside, soon joined by Phillips’ men when they enter.

HYDRA Goon: “Cut off one head, two more shall…”
BANG
Col. Phillips: “Let’s go find two more.”

Cap chases Red Skull all the way to the hangar, pausing only to finally let Agent Carter give that flamethrower jerk what-for. Red Skull starts activating the superbomber without Cap, beginning the takeoff. Not even Cap can run fast enough, but Col. Phillips shows up in Red Skull’s car with Agent Carter. Tommy Lee Jones disregards his own advice from Men in Black and pushes the little red button, activating the rocket boost to catch up with the Red Skull. Before Cap jumps onto the HYDRA plan, Agent Carter gives him a kiss for luck.

The tongue is for extra luck.
Right before the runway ends in a cliff, Cap grabs on and infiltrates the plane through the wheels. Inside, he finds individual aircraft, each one labeled with a different American city on it.

A lot of people have criticized the fact that all the cities are in English... despite the fact that "Chicago" and "New York City" are still called by those names in Germany. There's no German word for "Chicago."

HYDRA goons come along to man their aircrafts, so Cap beats them up in his usual way. In the kerfuffle, one of the pilots gets in his ship and takes off, so Cap jumps on the mini-plane from the outside, tossing a guy in the propeller for good measure. After he kicks out the pilot, he pilots it back to the superbomber to meet with Red Skull once and for all. A fight scene ensues.

Red Skull: “You don’t give up, do you?”
Captain America: “Nope.”

In the scuffle, the superbomber’s controls get hit, causing a slow dive towards the ocean.  After more scuffling, Red Skull manages to level the plane out and grab his gun. He rants about the power of the gods and such things, but Cap responds by knocking him into the thingamajig holding the Tesseract, unleashing its power. Foolishly, Red Skull grabs it with his hand to try and put it back, but it starts opening up a portal to space inside the cockpit as Red Skull zaps away into space, reminiscent of how the Bifrost works.

"Mein Gott! Es ist voll von Sternen!"
The Tesseract, however, is left behind. It burns through the floor and sinks into the ocean below. With the villain defeated, Cap needs to figure out what to do with the superbomber. Currently, he’s heading over the Arctic to reach New York. He doesn’t know how to operate the thing too well, but he manages to radio Agent Carter at the HYDRA base.

The thing’s filled with bombs.

He doesn’t know how to work it properly.

It might be booby-trapped.

And he’s running out of time.

Steve: “I got put ‘er in the water.”

But Peggy begs him not to.

Steve: “Peggy… this is my choice.”

"I want to be in The Avengers really bad. I mean, Joss Whedon's directing!"
"What about me? By the time the sequel comes around, I'll be an old lady!"
"Yeah, well, what do you want, your own TV show?"
"Hmmmm...."
He aims the craft down and stays on the line with Miss Carter.

Steve: “I’m gonna need a raincheck on that dance.”

She agrees, and, tearfully refusing to believe that this is the end, sets a new date for them to meet up.

Agent Carter: “Don’t you dare be late.”

She promises to show him how to dance as long as he promises to be there.

Steve: “I’d hate to step on your….”

Static.

The superbomber has hit the ice, but is mostly intact. And so, as it fills up with freezing water and sinks into the ocean, Cap begins his long slumber. Elsewhere, the war is won by the good guys. Cap’s old team drinks to his memory.

"By the way, did I ever introduce myself? Timothy Dugan."
"Your name's Timothy? I always thought it was Dum Dum."
 Meanwhile, Howard Stark’s boat recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor.

"Ah, good. That'll help progress on the reactor Anton and I have been working on."
But Howard keeps searching. Because he’s not looking for just some cosmic cube. He’s looking for a friend.
Agent Carter looks over Steve’s file, finding a picture of the skinny kid from Brooklyn. The man she fell in love with.

In New York, kids with trash can lids pretend to be Captain America, a tradition that will continue for years and years.

But then…. Cap wakes up. He’s in America. New York.

"Did I miss a scene?"
There’s a baseball game on the radio. And a nurse comes in. Everything is as he remembers. A little too much as he remembers. And yet, not enough.

First of all, the nurse is dressed absolutely wrong. And because Peggy Carter’s costuming is flawless for the period, this must have been intentional on the part of the filmmakers.

Thank you for the info, tumblr.
First of all, she’s a 1940-something nurse with her hair down? I don’t think so.

Second, what we can see of her bra is 100% period inaccurate. Loose-fitting foam cups? Not a chance.

Finally, she’s wearing a man’s tie.

And then, there’s the baseball game that sounds too familiar.

Steve: “The game. It’s from May, 1941. I know ‘cause I was there.”

Not only that, the game in question was the only time in history when a Brooklyn Dodger hit an inside-the-park grand slam. A kid from Brooklyn like Steve would remember that.

This whole sequence was inspired by a 2008 miniseries called The Twelve, where twelve lost WW2 heroes were found in cryosleep and woken up. The "hospital" was one of my favorite parts, and it was really nice to see it in film.

The nurse hits a button on a device hidden in her hand, and two armed men enter. Cap easily takes them out and bursts out of his own personal Truman Show.

Well, good-bye washed-out colors.
He runs outside and ends up in the real New York. But something’s different.

Can't put my finger on it, though....
Nick Fury: “At ease, soldier!”

Fury apologizes for the show, but explains that they weren’t sure how he’d react to becoming Buck Rogers.

Nick Fury: “You’ve been asleep, Cap. For almost seventy years.”

He takes it well, considering.

Steve: “I just... I had a date.”

Roll credits.

After the credits, in the traditional scene, we find Captain America training in his old gym. He’s a bit aggravated. So much so that he punches the punching bag into the wall. So Nick Fury comes in with a mission and we cut to what is essentially a trailer for The Avengers.

But The Avengers will have to wait for another day. For now, it's time to review this film and pinpoint not only its greatest flaw, but the greatest problem with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

3 comments:

  1. Sadly, I will never really like Peggy, because I know some of her actions would be viewed differently if genders were reversed.

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    Replies
    1. Fair point. I imagine it would put the scene where she tries to feel Cap's awe-inspiring chest in a bit of a new light, at the very least.

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    2. I might add that double standards are rather unfortunate from character who spends most of her series dealing with sexism herself.

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