Thursday, July 9, 2015

Recap: "Captain America: The First Avenger" Part 2: Earning Stripes

When last we left off, Elrond just sent Thorin Oakenshield to kill that smug scientist from The Core.

Seriously, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Hugo Weaving, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to look like a Tolkien reunion.

And I'm okay with that.
A messenger from Adolf Hitler is meeting with HYDRA’s leader, Johann Schmidt, who I’ve been calling the “Head Nazi Bastard” despite the fact that his true allegiances apparently lie elsewhere, as we’ll soon see. Hitler ain’t happy, and not just because he’s an angry person. He doesn’t like the fact that Schmidt keeps taking resources with no progress to show for it.

Officer: “Your HYDRA division has failed to deliver so much as a rifle in over a year.”

He’s like an evil Oskar Schindler.

The messenger concludes by telling Schmidt that Hitler’s afraid that HYDRA is going to rebel against the Nazis themselves. And seeing as how Schmidt led a raid on Norway without consent of the people in charge of actually leading raids, they think it might have already happened.

Officer: “The Fuhrer fears, how did he put it… ‘The ‘Red Skull’ has been indulged long enough.’”

With such strong words being used, Schmidt decides that if they want to see results, then they’ll see results. He takes them to Zola’s lab, where he boasts about his great scientific feats, which the Nazi officers dismiss as made up “magic.”

Peebles, please stop reminding me that I need to Recap "Strange Days" soon.
I'm not looking forward to returning to Ultimate Spider-Man.
Johann Schmidt: “Great power has always baffled primitive men.”

"Arthur C. Clarke. Or maybe Uncle Ben."
The officers aren’t too thrilled with how Schmidt is talking about “his” enemies and “his” weapons. And when somebody takes a closer look at Schmidt’s list of targets, they spot Berlin with a pin in it. But they don’t live to tell the Fuhrer. Getting disintegrated by an experimental laser cannon does that to you. With a few “Hail HYDRA”s, Schmidt’s intention to rebel against Hitler and win the war himself is made more than clear.

Back in the US of A, they’re taking blood samples from Steve in the hopes that someday, years from now, they’ll be able to unlock the formula’s secrets using his genetic code. Meanwhile, Howard Stark is utterly baffled by the mini-sub they recovered. Only one group could be responsible for a piece of technology so advanced that not even Howard Stark can make heads or tails of it. HYDRA.

"Seriously, not a single vacuum tube to be found! Just these weird triode things."
Col. Phillips and Agent Carter give the bigwigs a quick rundown of who HYDRA are and what they want. And with Erskine and his breakthrough gone, the SSR is moving to London to take the fight to HYDRA. Steve wants to join the fight, but Col. Phillips tells him that since there’s only one of him, they’re going to study him until they can make more like him.

Col. Phillips: “I asked for an army and all I got was you. You… are not enough.”

But Senator Brandt has an idea. Steve is capable of great feats. And by chasing down that spy, he made headlines. They’re going to take advantage of that.

Senator Brandt: “Then congratulations. You just got promoted.”

Sometime later, we see exactly what Steve Rogers has become. Captain America: USO performer.

Making Steve Rogers into a USO performer doesn’t just explain away his silly costume. It explains where his new confidence comes from. As we’ll see, Steve is just as good, honest, and earnest as he was before the serum. In fact, he’s a bit of a dork. The strong, confident “Captain America” is an act. By playing the big, strong hero in a stage performance selling war bonds, Steve is learning how to act like a leader. He does stage shows, makes propaganda films, sells some war bonds…

...meets Star-Lord's mom...
…and punches out “Hitler” a few times.

I could watch this all day.
As a bit of trivia, the guy playing “Hitler” there is James Payton, who also played Hitler in The Monuments Men. You know, between this, Thorin, Filch, and Clara Oswald, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody had been fiddling with the Reality Stone.

Looking at you, Doctor.
Everybody at home loves the good captain, selling out shows, selling posters, films, even comic books based on the fictional hero. But “Captain America” is just a fictional character played by an actual super-soldier. And when Cap’s act goes overseas to perform for the troops, they’re less than impressed with the so-called “hero.” Of course, this is probably because it’s November of 1943, and they’re in Italy, only five miles from the front lines of the war.

Soldier: “Bring back the girls!”

And the other troops are less than kind, too.

Soldier 2: “Nice boots, Tinkerbell!”
Captain America: “Come on, guys. We’re all on the same team, here.”

But getting mooned and pelted with tomatoes is the last straw. He exits the stage and brings back the dancing girls. As the rainstorm begins, he makes his feelings known in his notebook.

Hey, I worked at a gas station for a year. I know that feeling, Cap.
Suddenly, Agent Carter greets him. She came all this way from the SSR base to see him and they talk about how his show’s going. In the states, it’s going well. Overseas… that’s a different story. Still, Steve prefers being a dancing monkey to being a lab rat.

Agent Carter: “You were meant for more than this, you know.”

But Steve’s a bit down in the dumps. He finally got to live out his dream of serving his country overseas….

Steve: “And I’m wearin’ tights.”

No, Steve, you're rockin' tights.

Over at the base’s hospital tent, wounded begins to pour in as the medics re-enact the opening of M*A*S*H*. Agent Carter tells Steve that thee poor guys went up against HYDRA. And a lot of them haven’t come back, including a lot of the 107th. Which where Bucky was stationed.

Steve rushes up to Col. Phillips and demands the casualty list for the 107th, but the colonel declines. When Steve presses the matter and asks about Bucky specifically, Phillips acquiesces and reveals that he’s was probably either killed or captured.

Steve: “What about the others? Are you planning a rescue mission?”
Col. Phillips: “Yeah, it’s called ‘winning the war.’”

The POW camp where the 107th boys were taken is thirty miles behind enemy lines, which is an unacceptable risk. Steve rushes off to pack some gear, and Agent Carter rushes off to stop him. After all, Bucky’s probably dead. But Steve won’t be persuaded to stop.

Steve: “You told me I was meant for more than this. Did you mean it?”
Agent Carter: “Every word.”

And so, Steve steals one of the chorus girls’ helmets (probably because it’s small enough to fit his little noggin) and he and Agent Carter go get some assistance from Howard Stark. Namely, a plane. Namely, a Beechcraft Model 18. As Howard pilots the Twin Beech past enemy lines, Steve and Agent Carter go over strategy. Steve’s plan is simple. Shoot the bad guys with his gun and hope his shield can block the returning fire.

Howard Stark, being exactly what you’d expect from Tony Stark’s dad, asks Agent Carter if she wouldn’t mind stopping in Lucerne for a quick fondue. Steve, who doesn’t speak French, can only imagine what this means.

Steve: “So, are you two… do you… fondue?”

She ignores the question and hands him a transmitter to let them know his location if he needs them. And when the HYDRA anti-aircraft guns start shooting at them, he tells them to turn around and he’ll do the rest on foot.

Agent Carter: “You can’t give me orders!”
Steve: “The hell I can’t! I’m a captain!”

He parachutes into enemy territory as Arnim Zola gives Schmidt a tour of the new weapons factory where they’re mass producing their new disintegrator lasers. Schmidt wants them to speed up production, but Zola is worried that the men they captured from the 107th don’t have the strength to do that.

Schmidt: “Then use up whatever strength they have left, doctor. There are always more workers.”

Not if Oskar Schindler takes them all. And I think I need to find more World War 2 references, because I just used Oskar Schindler twice.

Speaking of more workers, HYDRA grunts are busy putting more in stockades, including a man with a distinctive orange mustache and an equally distinctive hat, played by Neal McDonough.

Meanwhile, Cap begins his infiltration of the enemy base by hitching a ride in the back of a truck. The HYDRA goons in there don’t take too kindly to that, so the good captain tosses them out the back. After he exits the truck once in the base, he sneaks around a bit more until he manages to break into the lab area. Sneaking, sneaking, sneaking, and he finds some glowy doodads on a table that he pockets before heading off to find the prisoners.

Insert all the Bioshock jokes here.
And find them he does. After taking care of the HYDRA guards, he gets asked an important question by one of the prisoners.

Prisoner: “Who’re you supposed to be?”
Captain America: “Um… Captain America.”
Prisoner 2: “I… beg your pardon?”

Remember, “Captain America” is, for all intents and purposes, as “real” as Buck Rogers. He might as well have said something like "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you."

The prisoners are soon released, including a little Asian guy that orange-mustache-man finds hard to believe is there.

Mustache Man: “What, are we takin’ everybody?”
Asian Guy: “I’m from Fresno, Ace.”


That’s, uh, that was where we put a Japanese-American internment camp.

Hm. Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t be a jerk to this guy, you Dum-Dum.

Cap asks if any of them know where Sergeant James Barnes is, but all they can do is point them to a mysterious room where no POW has ever returned from. In return, Cap tells them where they should go to escape and get back to the rest of the 107th.

Prisoner: “Wait. You know what you’re doing?”

I would watch every single one of those punches.
The prisoners soon escape and give the HYDRA forces all sorts of hell. And things start looking really good for the good guys when they get ahold of HYDRA’s newfangled laser guns.

Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt takes notice of all the chaos on the security footage that hadn’t been invented yet. Then again, there are the guys who made a one-man sub that baffled Howard Stark. I’m sure that security cameras would be a piece of cake for Zola to whip up.

Things get worse for HYDRA when Dum-Dum commandeers a laser tank with a little help from one of the prisoners who took a little German before switching to French class.

Prisoner: “Girls much cuter.”

It’s not looking too good for HYDRA, so Schmidt decides to blow the place after getting a glimpse of the star-spangled intruder still searching for his bud. Of course, he makes sure to grab the Tesseract, while Arnim Zola grabs some of his designs, including the ones for his robotic body from the comics.

Sneaky, movie.
Steve spots Zola running down a hallway and heads into the room he came out of, finding Bucky. Presumably after some kind of torture/mad science, because Bucky’s deliriously repeating his name, rank, and the other stuff you tell captors. Cap rips off the straps holding Bucky to the table.

Captain America: “I thought you were dead.”
Bucky: “I thought you were smaller.”

Cap gets a quick glance at a map on the wall and starts explaining what happened with the serum while getting Bucky out of there. Then the self-destructs start going off. While they’re still inside. After some typical running on catwalks above immense flames….

Johann Schmidt: “Captain America! How exciting! I’m a great fan of your films!”

Of course he is. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed superman beating up his enemies? Schmidt would be all over that.

While the facility burns, Schmidt starts talking politely to the good Captain, who responds with a punch to the face, knocking said face off his skull a little bit. Schmidt returns the punch with a blow hard enough to dent Cap’s shield, and the fist fight begins! …and then quickly stops when the catwalk retracts.

Well, that was short.
He claims that Cap is just an inferior copy of Dr. Erskine’s greatest success. And to prove it, he rips off the mask of his own face, revealing his true self.

I wonder if this is what V looks like under the Guy Fawkes mask?
The Red Skull makeup is an impressive bit of practical effects work mixed with a hint of CGI to thin out his cheeks and sink his eyes in a bit. Without a doubt, the look easily beats the pants off of all non-human villains to come. Thanos, Malekith, Ronan, and especially Ultron pale in comparison to this bit of effects work. But I'll get to those in due time.

Red Skull knows that, despite his big words of superiority, the battle is lost. So he and Zola retreat to the secret elevator to make their getaway while Cap and Bucky will have to perform a daring leap to safety. Red Skull heads to the secret escape rocket. The one-man rocket. With no other choice, he lets Zola take his awesome car.

Red Skull: “Not a scratch, Doctor. Not a scratch.”

"They haven't invented Turtle Wax yet."
After Cap and Bucky perform their daring leap… well, Bucky walks a ledge. Only Cap leaps. Either way, the next morning, Col. Phillips is busy dictating a letter of condolence regarding the disappearance of Captain Steve Rogers.

Well, that was a short movie.

He declares Steve killed in action, despite proper protocol being to declare him missing in action. But lo and behold, as Col. Phillips starts chewing out Agent Carter about her actions, more than a few good men are coming back to base.

"You know what this makes us, Bucky?"
"Big damn heroes, sir."
"Ain't we just."
Cap surrenders himself for disciplinary action, seeing as how he just disobeyed orders. But Phillips won’t hear of it. And Agent Carter has some words, too.

Agent Carter: “You’re late.”

I bet he'll never be late for anything again....
And when Bucky starts a round of cheers for “Captain America,” that’s when the good captain became real.
In the comics, Captain America had a secret identity. Private Steve Rogers. Captain America wasn’t a propaganda tool, he was a special operative. So now, a USO performer with what is basically a non-existent rank told everybody he was a captain. And when he saved the day, not only did the men truly see him as “Captain America,” but he was bestowed the true rank of Captain. The name “Captain America” was just handed to him, like in the comics, but Steve Rogers ended up earning the title through his own doing.

So, here's the thing.

I noticed something after seeing this part of the movie. Something I thought was blatantly obvious, but I haven't seen anyone else point it out on the entire internet. Though I'm sure somebody must have noticed; I can't be the only one.

This movie has the same plot as the Inspector Gadget movie.

We start off with a nice guy who just wants to fight evildoers....
...who gets used as a test subject in an experiment to make him more than human.
There's only one of him, because the head scientist dies, so he's just used as a publicity stunt.
Meanwhile, a there's a villain out there using a modified version of the procedure that was used on the hero.
But our hero saves the day and gets the position he had always dreamed of.
And as an added bit of trivia, one of the reasons I started this blog was to see if I was the only person who noticed this. So that's one of my NewtCave goals finally completed.

Coming up in Part 3! The star-spangled man with a plan gets his merry men. And everything else also happens.

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