Saturday, August 13, 2011

DC vs Marvel and How It Relates To Writing (pt 2): Captain America

Super hero movies have really come into their own in the last decade. It was long believed, along with fantasy, that it was a genre that would never be tapped. Marvel struggled for more than two decades to get Spider-Man off the ground. Even the super hero movies that had been made (the Reeve Superman and Burton's Batman, neither of which I liked) were only brief flashes that quickly descended into all sorts of foolishness. None of which can be forgiven. I think the nipples on the Batman and Robin costumes in Batman & Robin scarred me. However, all of that changed with X-Men, the movie that proved a real super hero movie could be made. And it opened the door to everything that has come since in terms of super hero movies.

Marvel has shown again and again that they know how to capture the essence of their characters even while changing some of the details to be more contemporary. Spider-Man and Iron Man are as near to perfect adaptations as you can get. I would like to say that DC got it right with Batman Begins, but, even though it's a great movie, it failed to really give us a distilled Batman. Rather it just gave us Nolan's version of Batman, a man really motivated by revenge, rather than the protector, the knight, that he's supposed to be. With the fiasco that was Green Lantern (along with Superman Returns), I'm beginning to think that Warner Brothers doesn't understand comic books or super heroes. Marvel, though, has given us another movie to add into the near perfect adaptation category: Captain America: The First Avenger.

Of all the new movies I saw this summer, Captain America was the one I enjoyed the most. I think it also has to rate as the best. I could break that down movie by movie, but I don't really want to spend the time to do it.  Set against the other super hero offerings, though, I think it's the winner, although Thor may make it a close call. At any rate, I've added it to my top three of near perfect super hero adaptations (alongside the aforementioned Spider-Man and Iron Man).

Before the release of the movie, I was worried about how they would deal with the whole being frozen in an ice cube thing that allows Cap to be revived in our time. After all, Captain America wasn't actually a part of the original Avengers team; he wasn't re-introduced until Avengers #4. I was pleased with how they chose to handle that, though, and telling the story as a flashback worked really well. I'm also not troubled by Cap starting out in the Avengers from the beginning in the movies. Captain America has become the symbol of the Avengers, inextricably entwined with them, and it's part of delivering the essence of Cap and the Avengers that has him there from the beginning.

The casting was spot on. Chris Evans was excellent. Beyond excellent. I think he was perfect in all actuality, and I can't imagine a better choice for the part. Like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Or Patrick Stewart as Professor X. Tommy Lee Jones was completely enjoyable and perfect for that role even if it wasn't a stretch for him as an actor. Hugo Weaving was impressive as the Red Skull; likewise, I can't think of a better choice in actors for that part, although I'm not as committed to my position on that as I am on Evans. Stanley Tucci is one of my favorites, so I was glad to see him included. Joining the Howling Commandos to Cap made perfect sense, and the casting there also worked.

The weaving of the plot into what is going on in the rest of the Marvel Universe was superb. The cosmic cube ties in the Asgardian elements. Tony Stark's father is there. And we've already seen pieces of the Captain America legacy in some of the other films, so they've done a great job setting up for The Avengers. And the story as a self-contained entity was also excellent. We see the kind of person Steve Rogers is. Someone who believes in doing what's right no matter the personal cost. Someone who won't back down even against impossible odds. And, most importantly, we get a glimpse of him as a man out of time and dealing with having to adjust to a brand-new world.

The only negative thing I can say about the movie has to do with something my son pointed out. My younger son. He didn't like that they had "lasers" during World War II. He thought that was too sci-fi. Otherwise he loved the movie. Of course, they didn't have lasers in World War II or in the movie. After he said that, though, I realized that they didn't make it entirely explicit in the movie that the Hydra weapons were being powered by the cube. They do show what they're doing, but they never actually explain what's going on, so, to him, it was blue lasers. Of course, he does live in a Star Wars house, so, perhaps, that mistake is to be expected. After I explained to him what was going on with the cube, he was okay with the "lasers," but I probably shouldn't have needed to explain it to him. I mean, he's a smart kid (in fact, we just found out that he's going to be skipping 5th grade (school starts next Wednesday, and they're just letting us know this) and going right into middle school a year early), and, if I had to explain it to him, I'm sure there are other people out there that missed what was going on there, too. Other than that one snag, though, it's a pretty near perfect adaptation.

For this year, at any rate, if you line up the Marvel offerings of movies against the DC offering, Marvel is clearly dominant. Marvel delivered two excellent movies while Warner Brothers dropped a turd. Warner Brothers' desire to challenge The Avengers with their own Justice League is beginning to look absurd. They failed to pull together a Wonder Woman movie and decided to make a television series instead. The reviews for the Wonder Woman pilot were so abysmal that they're not even getting that. The re-boot of Superman is being re-booted. And, to top it off, they're losing Nolan (and, probably, Bale) after The Dark Knight Rises. Things for DC don't look good. However, Marvel's prospects keep looking better and better.


  1. This is definitely the best review I've read. I haven't yet seen Captain America (I'm generally too cheap to go see movies in the theater) but am really really looking forward to see it soon.

  2. Great review. Captain America was brilliant, a real standout in hero movies.

  3. I loved Captain America too. I have a hard time being objective about the marvel movies anyway, as I was feel like I'm 9 years old again every time I see that Marvel logo splash across the screen at the beginning of each movie.

    And we've discussed this before, but I find it so odd the things that bug me in movies that are filled with absurdities/anachronisms/sci fi elements, again, I have not issue with the super solider serum, the vita rays, or the cosmic cube powered super weapons. No, none of that bugs me one bit.

    What irked me was that at some point, the female lead (I forgot her name), casually starts throwing around lines about unlocking the genetic code and whatnot. The story is set a full decade before the discovery of DNA in the real world, and probably much longer before things like 'genetic code' became part of anyone's lexicon.

    I try to think about why it bugs me, I mean, I can swallow a lot. The best I can come up with is that I need more of an explanation of why this is common knowledge. I mean, just throwing the term out there makes me think of that movie with Christopher Reeve in the early 80's (warning, spoilers coming). The one where he travels back in time and falls in love. I think he's warned that any reminders of where he is from will bring him back to the present. So he goes to all this trouble to get period authentic clothes, trinkets, products, bedsheets, whatever it is, it all has to be perfect. Then it all gets undone when he finds a penny in his trousers (end spoilers).

    So, for me, it was like that. I guess I could have gotten all worked up about that slick looking stealth sub too, but I think at that point I'm okay because it's commonly understood that Marvel era WWII is full of robots and other high technology of a mechanical sort, just not biological.

    Okay, I'm talking in circles, sorry about that. Good post, good review. I agree that Marvel has done an infinitely better job with their movies.

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  5. Chris Evans is hotter than Satan's toenails. Man I loved that movie. And yes he's perfect. A perfect man. Let along Captain America.

    Okay so I like the Marvel movies better than D.C. period. But I read a lot of D.C. And I'm going to disagree with you on Nolan's Batman. This is the Dark Knight series. "Dark Knight" occurred after the Joker murdered Jason Todd who was the second Robin. Now I know there has been no mention of Robin, but Batman was a loaner for many many years after that. It was a big deal for him to take on Tim Drake as the third Robin. And for the record, I hated Jason Todd. He was such a whiney bitch. But Bruce Wayne loved him like a son. So yeah...motivated by revenge...that's the essence of the Dark Knight, why he is called the Dark Knight, and what we are seeing in the films. That whole aspect of Batman minus the Robin but with the dark world of the Arkham Asylum gang thrown in. Kudos to Nolan to be able to pull it off. Everyone else has failed.

  6. The Hubby's been wanting to see this movie--he's a HUGE comic book fan. Now I'm definitely looking forward to going with him. Thanks for the detailed, great review!

  7. Juliana: I definitely understand what you mean about going to the theater for movies. We don't see a lot of movies at the theater except during the summer, and, even then, each one is weighed as to whether it's going to be a theater experience, so to speak. Cap has a strong story and (probably) won't suffer too much in its transition to the smaller screen.

    Julie: Thanks for stopping by! And I agree.

    Rusty: That probably would have bothered me if I'd picked up on it, but, like I said over on your blog, it went right past me.

    I remember that Reeve movie. Vaguely.It didn't make much of an impression on me, though.

    Michael: So I take it you like Evans? :P

    Not that I don't agree with you about Batman and Dark Knight, BUT! DC has always (always) made a point of Batman NOT being about revenge. He's about justice. Justice completely removed from revenge. The Punisher, he's about revenge. There have been times when Batman has pushed the boundaries, but through it all, the image of Batman that DC has projected is that of a Knight, a protector, someone removed from revenge. That's what I mean by Nolan missing the mark on what Batman is "about." I think he's done a great job with the movies, and I don't have an issue with his interpretation of Batman; it's just not a pure representation of Batman.

    Alyssia: I hope you enjoy it. I'm pretty sure it's my favorite of the summer movies.

  8. I'm SOOOO with you! I've thoroughly enjoyed all the Marvel movies. Though I probably don't know as much about all the history - I'd never heard of Captain America till this summer. And I liked it a lot! Sorry to say, Thor was my favorite. I LOVE Thor!

    ps SHOOT! I forgot you'd be reading my posts. :)

  9. Barbara: Thor was good, very good, but I think it fell -just- short of Cap. Next post will talk a little bit about the history of Marvel (and DC).

    ps Well, next time, just hire her out in advance and she will make sure to tell everyone what to bring and what to do. :P

  10. Captain America was a great movie! It made up for my disappointment in the most recent HP movie (sorry HP fans!). Chris Evans was perfect in his role, but that is from a non-comic reader. I enjoy superhero movies and I sometimes think it is probably easier for my to enjoy them than comic fans, who come with a certain set of expectations and hopes, whereas I just want to be entertained.

    (And congratulations to your son! That seems like a frightening year for them to pull this.)

  11. Shannon: There have certainly been a few super hero movies that have failed because they didn't adhere to the canon of that character (or team). Fans can be vicious that way.

    As for my son, yeah, it's an abrupt change, but we've been pushing for them to do something to challenge him more for three years. In that sense, it's about time! And I just got to see his STAR test results, today, so I'm understanding why they chose now.