MCU Rewatch Issue #5: Captain America

The MCU Rewatch soldiers on with the First Avenger prior to assembling the Avengers.

tomk: Captain America: The First Avenger.

watson: I just watched it a couple of weeks ago, so I am ready to go!

tomk: I’m watching it right now. The Red Skull just killed Walder Frey!

Yeah, now if we make a GoT reference, Jimmy will understand it.

You know, as much as we debate how good or bad a massive Hulk might be, scrawny Chris Evans is also pretty impressive.

Man, I remember my wife insisting when commercials for this movie were airing that it was impossible to put a man in a tube and make him bigger…

The shot of Steve watching Zola escape down a darkened hallway reminds me of The Third Man.

OK, finished up. And part of me thinks that last scene of Cap waking up in modern New York would have been a little bit better if that female SHIELD agent who comes to see him had been Black Widow.

That said, true confession: this is the only MCU movie I didn’t see in theaters. I don’t know why exactly. I wasn’t going to the movies as often then as I do now, and my wife had zero interest in these things. And while the sequels were a bit better, this one has a nice charm going for it. Director Joe Johnston had some experience with the vintage look of the 40s superhero when he made The Rocketeer for Disney, and there’s a distinct sepia tone to the stateside scenes, with color only seeming to pop out when Steve puts on the suit for the USO. It’s kind of the reverse of Wonder Woman in that way, where her home was brighter than the war.

But you have Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving basically playing the sorts of characters they get typecast as, which is fine. Neal McDonough is a character actor whose work I generally like, and he’s a good Dum Dum Dugan for what little he gets to do. The two stand-outs, aside from Evans whose work as the Human Torch is probably another reason why I initially skipped this one, are Stanley Tucci, who creates a warm and softspoken Dr. Erskine, and Haley Atwell, who for my money is the best-looking of the various Marvel love interests.

jimmy: Hard to argue with that.

I know for certain I didn’t see Guardians in theatre. And I might have missed Iron Man 2. Can’t remember.

I’ve always liked this film. More than Watson I’m sure as he seems to hate origin stories.

I thought Weaving was a good villain, though the whole Red Skull thing came off as looking a bit silly. And the fact that Cap didn’t actually defeat him is kind of a let down.

And the post credits scene is literally a commercial for The Avengers? I’m sure at the time it was very exciting, but came off as disappointing now.

tomk: The bit before being an actual scene from the movie…yes, I’d say so.

watson: I actually really like this one Jimmy. Like the original Iron Man, some of the best scenes of the film are from when the hero isn’t in costume. The scenes where skinny Rogers is going through the training program and uses his wit and courage to keep up shows something new about Captain America we had never really seen in the comics. It was always taken for granted that Cap was noble and wise, but this shows us WHY he’s the leader. Not just some serum.

The scene where he jumps on the grenade to protect others was his valedictory. That WAS Captain America.

Even the scenes where he becomes Cap but is more a fundraiser than a super soldier popped for me. It helps build his frustrations from earlier in the film when he is too frail to join the effort. Now, he’s nearly a god and he’s dancing with pinup models. When he finally breaks and goes after Bucky, his actions make sense.

tomk: And through it all, he stays humble.

watson: Chris Evans really did make Cap a three dimensional character. In the comics, I like Cap (because of the shield) but he often comes across as a wooden goodie good…like Adam West’s Batman. Here, he has the impressive spirit, but he is a man with normal feelings and emotions. We get to see under the hood a bit.

jimmy: Yeah, Evans was excellent. The “skinny” Rogers is still an incredible looking effects job.

tomk: But some of the Cap leaping effects didn’t work so well.

jimmy: True

tomk: I think Cap’s goodie goodie attitude is what worried me the most. Marvel prides itself on making their heroes as human as possible but Cap often doesn’t go that route. Evans really makes Steve Rogers seem like a real man and not just a paragon of virtue, like Superman is often portrayed as.

jimmy: I think this being an origin story helps there too. We see Rogers being weak but determined. He stands up to bullies and gets his ass kicked routinely. The aforementioned grenade sequence. His struggles in basic training. He is very relate-able and sympathetic. The flagpole sequence works great to show him as having the ability to think outside the box that the other soldiers lack. This is all before the serum enhanced his abilities.

tomk: And I really like his scenes with Erskine. Erskine isn’t just some scientist who happened to be there. He was already Rogers’ friend.

jimmy: Yes. Well done.

“I don’t have a procedure in the morning.”

tomk: Somehow, I suspect the original Joe Simon and Jack Kirby origin story gave that character much personality. In fact, I’m not sure Marvel has ever given the character that much personality.

jimmy: I’m not sure if I’ve actually read it, but if it was anything like Spider-Man’s origin, Erskine showed up for two panels. And was killed in the second one.

tomk: He probably got that, some speech about how he developed this formula but hadn’t written it down yet so it was all in his head, and then put down a down payment on a boat called the “Live 4Ever” he was going to use to sail around the world with his wife since he was only two days until retirement.

jimmy: He was getting too old for this shit.

tomk: I like to think Danny Glover said that every day on the set for Proud Mary, but I digress.

jimmy: And once Cap gets the serum and is immediately thrust into action, we see him just trying to adjust to this new God-like body he has. Including losing control running and smashing through the shop window. Could have came off as very hokey, but it works. And it’s so Cap and speaks to him still being the same guy on the inside when he stops to make sure the kid that was thrown in the water was ok, even at the risk of Erskine’s killer getting away.

watson: What do you guys think of the Red Skull as a villain? Because Hugo Weaving doesn’t like playing him, there seems to be resistance to bringing him back. If Winter Soldier was a comic book and not an awesome movie, Robert Redford’s character would have been revealed to be the Red Skull.

jimmy: I liked the Skull as a villain, but I felt like the look of the Red Skull was just one of those things that works better in the comics. Especially the tear his face off reveal.

tomk: I think if it weren’t the awesome Hugo Weaving playing the guy, he’d be a very typical forgettable Marvel villain. Then again, I think the same thing about Hela. Something about Peter Jackson’s elves playing villains works if you ignore Ronan the Acuser.

watson: We can conclude from this that Liv Tyler was secretly plotting against Banner in the Hulk.

tomk: That would explain why he went for Black Widow later.

jimmy: I do wonder why in 70 years they could never replicate the Super Soldier serum. Here or in the comics really. I know part of it is simply that no one else is Steve Rogers. But how much did Erskine have in his head that wasn’t written down, or that scientists could eventually figure out? Especially with access to Rogers blood…which was a scene in the movie.

tomk: Well, the movies show there were other elements involved, and that attempts to recreate it just made a Hulk and an Abomination. Something vital was missing.

Heck, the Ultimate Universe shows that both the Hulk and Hank Pym’s Ant-Man/Giant-Man work came from trying to recreate that serum.

There must be some obscure ingredient only Erskine knew about, like a dodo’s pituitary gland.

jimmy: Haha, but why would he not make extensive notes? Or why wouldn’t the Army force him to “just in case”, but also simply to share with others and it just makes sense. I suppose if he is using it as leverage to not get deported or something. But anyway…

tomk: It’s comic book logic, Jimmy. Best not to think too hard about it.

jimmy: Yes. Yes. I know.

tomk: We could ask the same thing about Bruce Banner. Why track him down and kidnap him if someone else can recreate the Hulk?

watson: My own fan theory was always that he did something different with the radiation dosage during the procedure.

jimmy: It seems like something Howard Stark could have figured out.

And speaking of Howard Stark…we’ve got a new one here.

tomk: I think Dominic Cooper is better as the young Howard than John Slatery is as the older Howard.

watson: Definitely. But there’s more to work with here than the Slatery roles. Cooper was an actual character here. In the later films, he was a plot device.

jimmy: Though you could argue that Cooper was just doing his best RDJ impression.

tomk: Maybe. He can pull it off pretty well if so.

Then again, Howard is probably supposed to be a little bit Howard Hughes, who appeared in Johnston’s The Rocketeer as played by Lost actor Terry O’Quinn.

And I didn’t see all of the Agent Carter show, but Cooper brought a lot of energy and charisma to the handful of episodes his Howard Stark appeared in.

jimmy: I only saw a few episodes of Agent Carter as well, but agreed. Like Watson said, he simply had more to do. And that was even greater in the TV show.

tomk: Slaterly’s best work in the role probably came from Civil War, the only time Howard had any sort of scene with Tony.

jimmy: And what casting pisses Ryan off? That they went back to Slaterly instead of aging Cooper?

tomk: If I remember the podcast episode correctly, Ryan thought Marvel pulled a completely new actor in for Howard in Ant-Man.

Like he forgot Slatery played the character in Iron Man 2.

jimmy: He was probably high on thoughts of Krull and anticipation of Iron Fist.

tomk: That explains everything.

Ever.

watson: In Iron Man 2, Howard was supposed to be Walt Disney. Stark Expo and the video that solved Tony’s problems was based on Walt Disney’s vision that was adapted into Epcot.

And Slatery REALLY looks like Walt Disney.

tomk: True, but this is Cooper’s only cinematic appearance.

jimmy: And Howard is played more like Tony and less like Disney here. See his first scene with the flying car.

tomk: And how quickly Steve assumes the worst (or sexiest) about what fondue means.

watson: I actually didn’t think it was all that effective to make him Tony-lite. I always thought Howard disapproved of Tony’s cavalier behavior. The “you remind me too much of myself” angle doesn’t jive with other appearances.

tomk: Unless time with Steve (and later his wife) made Howard a better person.

Tony does comment in Avengers how much Howard never shut up about Steve.

watson: That scene came to mind for me as well. It’s hilarious in Civil War when Cap asks if he knew they were friends and Tony replied “My dad hung out with CAPTAIN AMERICA™️? No…that NEVER came up…”

tomk: Though a lot of parents probably want their kids to behave better than they do, even if a lot of kids behave like their parents. Is it hypocritical or just a parent wanting their kid to be better than they were?

watson: Tony graduated from MIT at 14. Could Howard’s standards been a little high there?

tomk: Maybe Howard cared about Tony as a person more than Tony as a genius.

watson: His personal life seemed fairly rich as well…GIGGITY…

tomk: It’s quality over quantity to Howard Stark.

He’s Cleveland to Tony’s Quagmire.

Now there’s a comparison I never thought I’d make…

watson: One thing has always bothered me about Cap. He’s the ultimate fighter, amazing acrobat, and can do crazy things with his shield. When did he learn all that? He wasn’t Cap that long. I assume the serum makes him a fast learner but he didn’t have time to train. How did he learn to bounce a shield like it was a super power?

tomk: Practice during that awesome montage?

watson:

I forgot about the power of the montage.

tomk: The movie had two of them!

watson: One was all about his theatrical Hitler punching.

Those skills would be important later in the war.

tomk: You asked about the acrobatics.

watson: The acrobatics could be more from the serum. His body has perfect muscle memory and the athleticism does the rest.

jimmy: He was likely training between panels.

tomk: The power of montage.

watson: One thing that jumped out at me was how different of a character Sebastian Stan’s Bucky was compared with his later take as Winter Soldier. Stan creates two very different characters. I’m impressed with Sebastian Stan. He has range. He kind of did the same evolution in I, Tonya where he plays a low class wife beater early in the film, and something of a repentant middle age man later. Again, same person but altered by life experiences.

jimmy: He is almost unrecognizable here compared to Winter Soldier.

tomk: His face looks…thicker starting with Winter Soldier.

jimmy: Being on the Brubaker Diet for 70+ years will do that to you.

tomk: I’m just glad Bucky wasn’t a kid sidekick in a war zone.

jimmy: Good point.

watson: That was a nice touch. Instead of being Robin, he was actually the big brother type who used to protect Steve.

I wonder if the fanboys were outraged at that change?

I like the organic web shooter changes made to improve movies!

tomk: It beats outraging the parents groups with a child soldier.

But the Ultimate universe had already trotted out an older Bucky. Maybe not a big brother, but at least not a kid sidekick and Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch we’re both listed in the credits under “ special thanks”.

jimmy: Most of the MCU is based on the Ultimate Universe.

tomk: True. Or at least heavily influenced.

watson: See: Fury, Nick

tomk: He was behind a haystack during several key scenes.

watson: Ok. Rubber meets the road! What is your score for Captain America: The First Avenger?

I give Captain America: The First Avenger 9 “Cool Villain Escape Pods” our of 10!

tomk: I’ll go with 9 loose uniform standard for Howling Commandos out of 10.

jimmy: You know, I really liked Cap and it still holds up. I might be a little low on my score, but I’ll give it 8 “Hey I recognize those Game of Thrones actors now” out of 10. Maybe that should be 8.5, but I’ll stick with that.

That gives us the following up to date rankings…

Iron Man 9.7
Captain America: The First Avenger 8.7
Thor 8.2
The Incredible Hulk 7.2
Iron Man 2 6.2

And the MCU now overall at a solid 8.0.

tomk: Well, I guess it’s time to assemble the Avengers.

jimmy: That’ll never work.

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