Hello True Believers, and welcome back to the Marvel Cinematic Rewatch!
Last week, I talked about how Thor was the first Marvel film I saw in theatres. It stills holds a big place in my heart for that reason.
Captain America: The First Avenger, however, was when I fell in love with the MCU. Watching this film was the first time that I ever really went: “Y’know? I kind of wanna do this for a living.”
I can’t really say what about it made me say that. The film has some pacing issues and overuses the montage a little too much, but I enjoyed it. It was a charming piece that gave me what I wanted: a 40’s era superhero, a bit glam, and Tommy Lee Jones being Tommy Lee Jones.
It was a great movie, a tribute to the films of the era, and was a brilliant reimagining of Captain America’s origin. There are a lot of clever things in this film that make the flaws seem minor in comparison. In the comics, he just got the serum and became a superhero. This film kind of lets who he was before the muscles stew a bit more, gives him a background.
We’ll get into that later.
One of the things I love (and will probably never be able to do) is how they created pre-serum Steve. Chris Evans is a big guy, and technology changes so much. Yet pre-serum Steve Rogers still holds up really, really well. It’s just amazing how, visually, he was created.
This film also gave us the greatest male topless scene known to man. You put a genuinely nice person into Howard Stark’s Hottie Machine and out comes this.
That’s so shallow. Hayley Atwell is a stronger woman than I. If she can’t resist the siren call of Chris Evans’ bare chest, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
Okay. Sorry. I have babbled on long enough. Like Phil Coulson, Captain America is my favorite superhero in the MCU. I’m so excited to be talking about this film.
Time to talk about Captain America: The First Avenger.
The Period Piece
There is a general rule in Hollywood, at least for newbies.
It’s pretty simple.
Don’t even try with your period piece.
Studios are not going to be interested in it unless you got something to back it up with: a star, a director, a clever gimmick, something.
Period pieces, on the whole, cost a metric ton of money. You need to make it look of the era. This means bringing in the correct cars, the correct clothes, the correct everything. It’s costly and time consuming work. So if it isn’t a hit, then studios are going to loose a lot on it.
Now, by this point, Marvel had been feeling their success. Plus, you can’t tell the Captain America story without bringing in the 40’s. You need to see him of his time before he becomes the Man Out of Time.
Still, it was a gamble to do this.
So does Captain America: The First Avenger work as a period piece?
For a superhero movie, it does a really good job at invoking the period. However, I wouldn’t call it a true period piece. While it is set in the era, Captain America: The First Avenger is more like an alternate reality World War II with superheroes running around.
Kind of like how Pride & Prejudice & Zombies will have a Regency era setting, but there will be zombies running around.
You want a real period piece for the World War II time frame? Then go watch Patton, Fury, or Band of Brothers. Those are truer period pieces.
The film does do a really good job at trying to realistically portray the World War II era of the MCU. This is thanks in part to director Joe Johnston, who directed The Rocketeer (another 40’s era superhero film) and had knowledge of how to make this premise work.
My personal favorite is how Captain America was made. Sure, Steve Rogers becomes a super soldier. Captain America, however, was a piece of World War II propaganda that became real when Steve took on the identity as a real soldier in the war.
Cap was used to sell war bonds, made movies, trading cards, comic books within a world based on a comic book. Weird right?
Also because I think this is the coolest thing ever put to film: here’s the “Star Spangled Man” song written by Alan Menken. Like why wasn’t this song nominated for Best Original Song? It’s really good.
It leads to fascinating discussions in fandom about how the Captain America image would change in the MCU, and the difference between Steve Rogers the person and Captain America the symbol. There would be because Steve Rogers was locked in the ice, while Captain America grew and changed with the times.
So having a period superhero film was a necessity. Audiences needed to fall in love with Steve Rogers, the person, and not Captain America, the symbol.
The cleverest way I put it once was: “a man goes to sleep a man and wakes up a myth”.
Agent Peggy Carter
I think it’s no surprise that we here at 4 Your Excitement worship Peggy Carter as a fictional goddess.
Why wouldn’t we? Not only does she smash the patriarchy, she does it without smudging her lipstick. She can be simultaneously badass and feminine. Just because she’s a crack shot and can kill a man with a stapler, doesn’t mean she has to sacrifice her red dress or her victory curls.
Peggy Carter is awesome, and reflects the efforts of the female officers during World War II: the spies, the agents, the code breakers. She is a badass woman inspired by real badass women.
She’s awesome. She’s a warrior. She’s also Steve’s love interest in the film. She and Steve won’t be able to get together at the end of the movie because he’ll be encased in ice.
That posed a problem to the writers because the audience needed to fall in love with Peggy Carter just as Steve did. We needed to be sad that these two were not able to be together at the end of the film.
So the writers did the revolutionary thing of writing Peggy as a person first and the love interest second.
Peggy was tough, kind, and steadfast. She was certain of herself and her ability, and could be vulnerable when it was called for.
She got angry when Steve got all snarky about “fondue-ing” after kissing Private Lorraine (Natalie Dormer).
Peggy is the one with Steve as he goes down. She is the one who encouraged him to stop being a dancing monkey and start being a hero. She got him the chance to do that.
Peggy. Carter. Is. A. Boss.
Peggy is the one who carries on the spirit of Captain America’s legacy.
Peggy Carter is absolutely amazing.
The Good Guy Superhero
Like I said earlier, Captain America is my favorite MCU superhero.
A friend of mine once asked me why I liked him so much because they found him to be boring. That’s fine. That’s their point of view, and I would really find fault with someone for it.
I just don’t find Steve Rogers to be a boring character. At least, I don’t find him boring in the way he’s presented in the MCU.
Steve Rogers represents the ordinary person. He’s not a billionaire playboy philanthropist. He’s not a Norse god. He’s not a scientist with anger management issues or a super spy or a man with particularly good aim.
He was just a poor, sickly young man who grew up in tough circumstances and made good with his life.
Heroes who have that blurred grey morality surround us. The decisions aren’t easy or necessarily right all the time.
I suppose one of the appeals of Captain America is that he’s just a good guy. He knows what it’s like to be weak and have it feel like the world is against you. He doesn’t like bullies. He just wants to help.
Like Coulson said in The Avengers: “Maybe we need a little old fashioned.”
Steve Rogers is the hero that we could be, and I think that’s why I like him so much.
It’s nice to have a hero who is just… good. No strings attached. Sometimes we can be cynical with our heroes because that’s the way the world is. Steve Rogers, as a character, represents what the world could be. And I’m not just including America in there.
Once, in the comics, he said: “I don’t stand for the country. I stand for the dream.” Or something to that effect.
What he meant with that was he stood for those ideals, the hopes and wishes everyone wants in their world. The American Dream is you try to bring good into the world and you are rewarded with good.
Even I can get behind something like that. I guess that’s why I like him as my favorite superhero. One who sees what the world can be, and tries to make it so.
Why I find him appealing as a character? I’ll get into that a bit next week.
Come back next week, True Believers. We’re going to be looking into part one of our two-part look into The Avengers.
We’ll be talking about character appeal and different types of heroism.
See you then!