Sep 05 2014
by Brian Hadsell
It’s easy to forget, with Guardians of the Galaxy currently burning up the box office for going on its fifth week, that the other Marvel success story of the year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is being released on BluRay and DVD on the 9th. A sequel to both the first Captain America film and The Avengers, it boldly struck forth into new, uncharted territory for the MCU with the same devil-may-care attitude that fueled the game-changing reveals in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. Looking back at Phase 1, however, it quickly becomes apparent that Marvel’s biggest pre-Avengers game-changer – bigger than Nick Fury’s recruitment for The Avengers Initiative, bigger than alien gods from other dimensions starting a street brawl in New Mexico and even bigger than the Hulk’s biceps – was Captain America: The First Avenger: a quaint, old-timey war movie with Depression-era spunk and something to prove.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a thin, sickly asthmatic, is continually rejected from enlisting in the army due to his laundry list of physical infirmities. Adamant that “there are men laying down their lives [and he has] no right to do any less than them,” he is eventually selected for Dr. Abraham Erksine’s (Stanley Tucci) super soldier program and transformed into Captain America: a patriotic champion against the Axis Powers. Although initially sidelined as a War Bonds salesman, he proves to be the Allies’ greatest weapon against Hydra – the Nazi deep-science division – and its megalomaniacal leader, The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
The reason why Captain America works so well is because it was written as a period war drama first and a superhero action film as a distant second. Rather than Thor’s mysticism or Iron Man’s next-gen engineering, Captain America is rooted in the historical realism of World War II. Yes, the Tesseract (the magical blue cube from The Avengers) allows The Red Skull (whose superhuman abilities are derived from Erksine’s super soldier serum) to create futuristic death rays in order to overwhelm both the Axis and Allied forces, but that’s just Marvel brand ornamentation. It supplements, rather than defines, a film that more closely resembles Saving Private Ryan than it does Man of Steel. Continue Reading »