Captain America could have been bad. In fact, it probably should have been bad based on many of the director’s comments leading up to its release. Marvel’s decision to weirdly title the film “The First Avenger” in South Korea and Russia was also a PR blunder. But, in spite of the studio’s liberal tendencies, it’s been a financial success.
As it turns out, the grenade scene first witnessed in the full trailer was indeed a harbinger of good things to come! Want some honor, integrity, personal courage, and selfless service on a Saturday night? This is your movie. Captain America is by no means a perfect film, but it is good, solid family entertainment—the hero is wholesome, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and it’s not necessary to shield (no pun intended) the kiddie’s eyes.
The biggest complaint conservatives should have about Captain America is that director Joe Johnson put together a good movie when he could have made a great one—if he had a better understanding of what makes America great:
“But I think that as far as good vs. evil, it’s something that is such a universal theme and there are translations of that good vs. evil theme in all times, and in all cultures, and all situations…but I think that it’s really more about the spirit of this guy, of our main character more than anything. And that spirit of determination and wanting to do the right thing is translatable into any nationality and any period really – it’s just sort of a universal theme.”
Joe is right, in that good and evil exist. There are universal truths. But this movie wasn’t about “this guy”—it was about Captain freakin’ America. And what makes America exceptional is that it’s one of the few nations throughout the history of the world with a respectable run on recognizing universal truths. It’s one of the few nations with an honorable human rights record. How disappointing is it that X-Men: First Class did a better job juxtaposing human beings’ dual nature than a superhero movie that takes place during World War II? (i.e., a young—innocent—Magneto must bring his nascent powers to the surface or watch his mother die if he fails, courtesy of the Nazi regime).
The Red Skull could have been Darth Vader evil. He should have been Darth Vader evil. Instead, he was this kind of cool, underdeveloped red and black guy with a lot of potential who got killed at the end of the movie—like Darth Maul. Joe Johnson went for a muted color palette when it came to Captain America’s final costume, but he also muted the good vs. evil dichotomy he wanted to highlight! It’s great that Steve Rogers was allowed to kill Nazis on screen, but even their nature was downplayed; Hydra is a splinter group of the Nazis shrouded in mystery. The Red Skull may have sought to take over the world, but at least he really did have superior genes, even if it was accomplished through the world’s first forays into gene therapy. Doesn’t his somewhat legitimate claim make him less evil than Hitler? If the guy in front of you has the strength and speed of a dozen soldiers it’s hard to argue with him when he says he’s a superior human specimen. But Joe Johnson doesn’t want you to think about it because you’re supposed to just think about “evil.”
Fair enough, but if Joe Johnson wanted a movie completely devoid of politics, perhaps Captain America’s World War II origin story wasn’t for him. Regardless, Kudos to the man for making a fun summer movie despite his best efforts at self-sabotage.