Things I Learned from Movie X
By Edwin Davies
August 8, 2011
With the dying light of summer comes the final gasp of the blockbuster season, and this year went out with a bang, rather than a whimper, as Joe Johnston's enjoyable take on one of the great icons of the Marvel canon provided a more than fitting capper to a somewhat subdued and moribund period. Starring Chris Evans (as Lucas Lee) as Steve Rogers, a man willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving up his life of being scrawny and weak to become super-buff and fight Nazis, Johnston's film fizzes with a thoroughly modern energy and a decidedly old-fashioned goshdarnit hokeyness that combined to produce an honest-to-goodness superhero film full of earnestness and fun. But beneath the red, white and blue surface and Thomas Kindade soft-focus, there are lessons to take away, lessons like...
We should really pity the poor Nazis. They've been through an awful lot.
In most action films in which there is a character who is definitely and undeniably insane, there is usually a secondary character who follows them but is reluctant about it. These characters usually have a "I didn't sign up for this" moment in which the error of their ways becomes apparent, the most egregious of which in recent memory being Michelle Rodriquez Avatar suddenly realizing that signing up for the army means that she might have some involvement in the killing of people. Captain America doesn't quite approach those levels, but it does come close when the character of Dr. Armin Zola (the great Toby Jones) discovers that maybe hitching his wagon to that of a man with a massive red skull for a face (Hugo Weaving) was probably not the smartest choice. Yet in his moment of revelation, he doesn't reject Nazism, because the Red Skull's mania goes far beyond Hitler and his cohorts' plans; he's too evil even for them. So what Zola essentially does is realize that he didn't sign up to help a lunatic take over the world, he only signed up to create a master race and slaughter Jews. Thank goodness he came to his senses.
Disguises are for wusses.
After being turned into a super soldier, Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, is pushed into service as a propaganda tool to help raise money for war bonds. When he gets sent to entertain troops at the front (to gouge money from the soldiers, I guess) he learns of a failed attack on the forces of the Red Skull which resulted in hundreds of American soldiers, including his best friend, being taken prisoner. Imbued with purpose, Cap heads out on a rescue mission, deciding to keep his decorative shield to help his cause. Bear in mind, this is his huge shield which is emblazoned with the stars and stripes, which won't stand out at all, because all Nazis carry similar shields around with them as a matter of course. Even though he knocks out plenty of enemy troops whose clothes he could steal, thereby making infiltration of their base just that little bit easier, he opts to stick with his massive, please-shoot-me-I'm-an-American-breaking-into-your-base shield. This proves one of two things. Either all that deception and subterfuge you see in spy movies is completely useless because you can just walk in with what amounts to a giant billboard saying "KILL ME!" on your back and no one will notice, or you could do that because the aim of your average Nazi was so bad that an Imperial Stormtrooper would have suggested that they spend a bit more time down at the target range.
No one liked Bern anyway.
As a non-American, I was gratified to see that Captain America: The First Avenger managed to avoid all the pitfalls of possible jingoism that could have made it a little difficult to take seriously. It emphasized Rogers' sense of duty and belief in what was right, rather than saying that what was right was American. However, there was a moment towards the end of the film which kind of hinted at where Rogers' real concerns might lay.
Having destroyed all of The Red Skull's weapons factories, Rogers and his team launch a final assault on his headquarters, only for Rogers to wind up taking a ride on the Valkyrie, The Red Skull's proto-stealth bomber, on which are contained a selection of bombs that are destined to destroy major American cities. During a fight with some of The Red Skull's men, Rogers opens the bomb bay doors and jettisons one of the bombs, using the opening as an easy means by which he can throw faceless henchmen to their un-mourned deaths. This would be fine, except that, based on the amount of time that has passed from the time the plane took off from somewhere in central Europe to the time that that first bomb dropped, there is no way that the plane could have cleared mainland Europe. Considering how concerned he is about steering the plane away from New York later on in the film, the ease with which he makes this decision suggests that it's okay to let bombs fly, so long as they land on Europe. USA! USA!