One of the most anticipated films of 2012,The Avengers brings together a gaggle of super-heroes introduced (or re-introduced) to audiences over the last three years in their own movies. There is a lot to keep track of, so we are continuing our “boot camp” with the first Avenger, Captain America.
The Comics (Sources: Marvel Wiki, Marvel.com and Featurette Captain America’s Origin on Blu-ray)
Captain America, often called Cap, is technically the “oldest” of the Avengers, created in March 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and first published by Timely Comics, which would later go on to become Marvel.
While the title’s popularity dropped off in the post-war world, leading to its cancellation in the 1950s, Captain America was brought back to join the Avengers team in the Silver Age of comics. Rather than a reboot with a new origin, the original Steve Rogers is brought into the group out of suspended animation in Avengers #4 (1964).
While creator Joe Simon admits to having created Captain America by first coming up with a good villain (Hitler was his starting point for creating the monstrous Nazi, Johann Shmidt, AKA Red Skull) then thinking of a foil, Captain America has become one of the longest running and best selling superhero titles.
Having lost both his mother and father before the end of his teens, Steve Rogers gave up on the idea of being a comic book writer in favor of enlisting in the US Army in the middle of WWII. While first rejected due to frailty, Rogers is noticed by an army official for his spirit and perseverance and recruited to be part of “Operation: Rebirth.” He is given a super-soldier serum that changes the course of his life for good, making him both stronger and faster. After the death of Abraham Erskine, the serum’s creator, at the hand of the Nazis, no further batches of the serum can be made. Unable to continue the program without Erskine, the US government makes the most of the one soldier they’ve got by packaging him up as a patriotic super hero and sending him off to lead the charge against Red Skull.
While changes are made to his uniform and his side-kick, Bucky – who goes from a teen-age, Robinesque figure to more of a peer – Cap’s personality, drive and appeal remain largely the same throughout the years After being brought out of suspended animation in 1964, Steve often serves as both the moral and tactical leader of the Avengers, remaining for the most part the earnest, patriotic symbol he was meant to be.
Powers/Abilities – Cap is not technically “super powered,” but rather as perfect as a human can get. Because of the serum, he is fast and strong, but not impossibly so. His body regenerates the serum so he does not need future doses and his endurance is beyond that of normal men due to his increased metabolism, which repairs his muscles as he uses them. He cannot get drunk or feel the effects of drugs, nor can he catch any diseases from terrestrial sources. His iconic shield helps protect him in battle, and he can wield it with tremendous dexterity, but it too is non-magical or super-powered. Steve Rogers is smart and well-trained, but he is thoroughly mortal. If he gets hurt, he’s hurt. He can die just like the rest of us.
The Movie (Out of necessity for Avengers prep, there will be spoilers. For a spoiler-free review, click here.)
So close to the original version of Steve Rogers and Cap is the portrayal by Chris Evans (AKA The Handsomest Man in America) in Captain America: The First Avenger, we needn’t spend too much time on him here. Through some truly amazing technology the filmmakers transform the hunky star into a remarkably believable short, skinny Steve Rogers for the first act of the film. Evans himself gives a convincing and authentic performance, providing the needed conviction, patriotism, and kindness. He also provides all necessary muscles post-super-soldier serum.
Like the comics, the first villain Rogers needs to defeat is Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving, a chameleon of an actor if ever there was one. After rescuing a group of fellow soldiers, Captain America builds a team that while never called the Howling Commandos, consists of many of the same characters who form Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos in Marvel Comics.
After the death of Bucky and a series of fight scenes in which Cap saves the day, he makes the ultimate sacrifice, crashing his plane into icy waters in order to destroy the weapons of mass destruction on board, created by Red Skull and meant for New York, Chicago and other cities across the world.
Cut to the future! Perhaps the most exciting and effective sequence in the film comes as Steve wakes up in a hospital room meant to mimic his 1940s reality and escapes into modern-day New York. So convincing is Chris Evans, he seems to hold the 1940s sensibility in his very essence in this scene. Nick Fury shows up and gives a short and sweet explanation (“You’ve been asleep, Cap”) and call to arms, after which Rogers responds with a wistful “I had a date,” referring to his plans with the beautiful Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) back in 1942.
Perhaps most important to the events for what is to come in The Avengers is the mysterious, glowing blue cube Red Skull uses to power his weapons. Shmidt refers to the cube as having come from Odin’s tomb and it bears striking resemblance to both the cube seen after the credits of Thor and to the power source sought by Laufey in that film (I can’t say with absolute certainty that they were the same thing). It is likely that this box is what will motivate Loki’s trip to Earth in The Avengers.
Cap’s powers and abilities as portrayed in the film are exactly the same as those in the comics, at least so far.
Much like Thor, Captain America comes from a different place/time than the other Avengers. He is likely to be appalled by Tony Stark’s cavalier attitude and alienated by Thor’s divided loyalties to his brother. Who knows what he will make of Hulk? My guess is in the end his authenticity will win over his fellow Avengers and he may very well end up sharing internal leadership with Tony Stark. With Hulk and Thor as something of wild cards, it will be up to our two tried-and-true, 100% human-humans to hold the group together. In some ways, Rogers represents old-school America, at least in our own mythology about ourselves, and Stark a new, more savvy and cynical America, yet both are bent ultimately on prevailing against evil. Tony will likely be ready and willing to do whatever it takes, Cap to argue for making sure that they do what is right.
I find it unlikely we will see his love interest or old friends in The Avengers, but you never know – if he survives the film, they may very well end up in a sequel to Captain America.
I look forward to seeing Evans reprise this role in The Avengers. While I found him perfectly suited to the part, I have to admit, CA: The First Avenger was the least compelling of the origin movies. I think with a Whedon script and under Whedon’s direction, he will get a chance to be far more interesting this time.
Commentary with Director Joe Johnson, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford. These three do a nice job balancing discussion of the logistics of shooting the film with tidbits and fun stories about the cast. To be honest, I liked the film better with the commentary.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer – another three-minute, one-shot featuring Agent Coulson, this time on his way to investigate Thor in New Mexico.
Costuming a Hero – A discussion of the evolution of Cap’s suit in both the comics and the film. Also serves as a cool little reminder that Tony Stark’s dad was responsible for designing the suit in the film.
The Howling Commandos – Giving some love to the decidedly under-featured friends of Captain America.
Heightened Technology – A discussion of the technology portrayed in the film, particularly as headed by Stark and the Hydra group.
The Transformation – For all those who ask, “How did they do that?” This featurette explains how they made Chris Evans look so small in the first act of the film. Fascinating stuff, at least for geeks like me.
Behind The Red Skull – A discussion of the make-up and CGI used to turn Hugo Weaving into The Red Skull.
Captain America’s Origin – Joe Simon discusses how he first came up with the idea for Captain America and the original story arc.
The Assembly Begins - Brief run-down of the Avengers, building excitement for the May 4th release.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
There aren’t many, and most are given only cartoon-style CGI, but they are worth watching. One provides more time with the Howling Commandos, including their capture by Hydra forces using the guns powered by Odin’s orb, and the scene with Nick Fury and Cap at the end of the movie gives a bit more depth to their relationships.
That does it for the first, and our last, of the major Avengers. Stay tuned for a post on S.H.I.E.L.D and Joss Whedon, as well as a wrap-up of this whole crazy thing. You can catch up on all of our Avengers Boot Camp Posts here.
This post originally appeared on Good Girls Gone Geek, April 28th, 2012