With a slew of comic book movies primed to hit theaters this summer, it’s going to get harder and harder to make one stand out from the rest. With the July 22 release of Captain America: The First Avenger
rapidly approaching, we present five things that the flick needs to get right in order to be a success.
The cover of Captain America Comics
#1, released in 1941, gave the world its first glimpse of Cap as he knocked Hitler out with a cross to his jaw. As a product of WWII propaganda, Captain America’s most important opponent has always been the Nazi regime, and it’s vital to the film’s success that Nazis be his primary foes this summer. While various trailers and interviews have identified the Red Skull and HYDRA (mere Nazi offshoots) as being the main adversaries in the film, it would be extremely unfaithful to the source material if Hitler’s presence were not felt in the story. While we do live in a very P.C. world where Nazi imagery is usually frowned upon (it’s still illegal to show a Swastika in Germany), the filmmakers need to make a stand and not water down the historical facts of WWII. A Captain America movie without Hitler is like a day without sunshine.
2. A Strong Man, Not A Steroidal Man
In the comics, Steve Rogers becomes Captain America after an experimental "super soldier serum" advances his body to super human proportions. Given super strength, speed, and durability, Captain America was always a force to be reckoned with. However, in a post-steroid world it is important to downplay the benefits of the serum and instead focus on the brave and heroic nature of Steve Rogers the man. While he was just a frail artist with a limp, he was also extremely patriotic and dedicated to his country. This helps separate Captain America from other juiced up strongman like Jose Canseco. His mental strength is what made him the perfect candidate for the Captain America experiment and it helps audiences relate to him more once he does wield the shield.
3. The Horrors of War
War is hell, but there’s no need to gloss over the fact that millions of people, both soldiers and civilians, lost their lives during WWII. To truly appreciate just how important Captain America is to the Allied countries, the film will need to explore just how devastating the war was. Movies like The Thin Red Line
and Saving Private Ryan
both effectively show the violence of war without seeming like exploitation. Those movies focused on the larger picture of each battle while still paying attention to the smaller, human struggle of war. One of the most interesting aspects of the comics is watching Captain America come to terms with the horrors he witnessed during the war and how he uses those memories as motivation to keep fighting. There will need to be a real sense of danger to each battle in order for Captain America's existence to be that much more vital.
4. Universal Heroism
While the character was created as propaganda in 1941, the year that the U.S. entered WWII, Cap doesn’t need to spout clichés about freedom or make long, drawn-out speeches like a Red, White, and Blue Braveheart. Some Americans still cling to that kind of jingoism, but many others, who are concerned about world opinion, find it tasteless. Captain America is a national icon, but more than that he an example of the perfect soldier and hero, and he can transcend borders to represent an ideal all people everywhere can strive to achieve. To focus strictly on Captain as a tool of Uncle Sam would be a mistake. If we wanted to watch Captain America ramble on about democracy and free market economy for two hours we'd just throw some blue tights and a jockstrap on Anne Coulter.
5. Red Skull Evil Insanity
One of the reasons that Captain America has always been one of the best comics on shelves is the fact that his greatest foe, the Red Skull, is one of the most sadistic and interesting in comics. The Red Skull is a crazed agent of Hitler who is mentally unstable but hell-bent on world domination. He works his way up through the Nazi ranks from bellboy to right-hand man after Hitler sees the Skull’s potential. Usually when a villain seeks “world domination” it comes across as goofy and cartoony, but with the Skull’s ties to Hitler (which we hope are pronounced), the threat is much more frightening and realistic. The Red Skull should be like a cross between Darth Vader and Ra’s al Ghul when he debuts on screens this summer. And hopefully filmmakers won’t wait until the last act of the film to reveal Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) as full-on Red Skull, using a couple glimpses as a mere teaser for a sequel.