There’s always a bias that comes with being familiar to the source material of a movie - not just in that you’ll consciously pick out parts which do a disservice to the book and nerdgasm at the adapted moments which you recognise, but also the fact that you bring with you a background knowledge that fills in the gaps in plot and character development. This is a bias that I had to try really hard not to do while watching this, because I love Captain America. On face-value it’s a clunky idea with a very limited audience that can only satisfy American patriots and children. But the way Ed Brubaker’s run on the series (I think he still writes for the comic now - I haven’t been reading for a little while) took a character with epic origins and brought him down into the gritty earth is just fantastic. He did the same for Daredevil - another character that done wrong can be terrible. Fortunately for Daredevil he’s had a great team behind him for the last 40 years, unfortunately this translated very badly to film.
Anyway, this is what I always found interesting about superheroes - taking an extraordinary concept and applying it to the real world, which is something Marvel comics has been fairly good at in the last decade. So a good superhero movie requires a careful balance between embracing the peculiar nature of its story and giving it a down-to-earth approach. The realistic approach is important because it both allows the audience to relate to the characters more and it emboldens the contrast between the depicted real world we know and the intrusions of fantasy that superheroes bring. Without this contrast it becomes kind of a mess, and ultimately dull. It’s for this same reason that the final battles in both the Iron Man movies were boring - if we’re focusing entirely on two (or more) super-powered individuals, then the protagonist’s struggle is less interesting. I’m going off topic here - but the best bit of Iron Man was when he fought lesser-powered terrorists, and in Thor when he fought several Frost Giants, and X-Men 2 when Wolverine fought Stryker’s invading forces.
Back to Captain America - what made me want to revisit this movie (other than the obligatory re-watch before I see the Avengers tomorrow) was a few iconic moments, that taken by their own merit are very good. My opinion of the film was distorted by recalling these moments with my previous knowledge of the character filling in the cracks of a proverbial not exactly expertly-done road that is the movie (or a better metaphor). On my second watch I became more and more convinced that this was a three-hour film which has been cut down to two hours by sacrificing lengthy war-time scenes and by hastily moving on before the emotion of a scene has a chance to settle. It kind of felt like a video-game adaptation of a movie at times, the distinctive moments of the story were rushed over in order to keep it focused on the lighter side of things. This is purely a financial decision, as I’m sure the studio were afraid that the outlandishness of the character’s design and story would ward off those seeking something grittier and that following that route would lose viewers who want to see it for dumb fun. The unfortunate thing is that I as a viewer have been left behind as I didn’t want to board the train for not taking such a great character seriously. I blame this mostly on the editing, as the scenes were well-shot and acted throughout - the supporting cast were all great, and Chris Evans was on the edge of brilliant throughout, he was just never given the opportunity to show what he could do. The script is pretty poor too, which I guess is why many important scenes were quite short, but it did its job.
It’s really hard to objective about a character I enjoyed reading so much. I compare him to Super-Man, but Cap’s themes are more interesting and of course he’s less iconic. What you should do is not apply superficially complicated ideas to characters as is often the case with Batman (though I’ll admit it works most of the time) but to take simple ideas and give them depth. Spoilers Follow. A great example of this is the final line - ‘I had a date’. It’s so well cut and acted it made my heart beat to the point that my friend felt the vibration across the sofa. The great thing about it is that it encapsulates that simple, but incredibly emotional idea of making promises that you both knew couldn’t be kept; of a guy who is just ‘a kid from Brooklyn’ even when he’s fighting a guy called the Red Skull with the fate of mankind in the balance; of someone who doesn’t fight Nazis because he wants to kill or because he loves his country, but because he doesn’t like bullies; of a man who is presented with a world over 60 years older, but his first thought is of something so intimate and human as a date for someone he loved. There’s no need to dress these things up, they sell themselves. I think I really need to let off steam by writing something entirely about him as a character. The movie isn’t great, it just about ranks average, but I can’t help but fill in the gaps