I have seen the future, Captain. There are no flags.
Captain America is directed by Albert Pyun and stars Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty, and Darren McGavin.
Would you believe me if I told you that there actually was a point in time when DC was the top dog of the superhero world and Marvel was nothing more than a hapless laughing stock? If I had to guess, an accurate estimate of that time period would be the late 1970's all the way through the end of the 20th century. DC was finding success with the Richard Donner Superman films and later with the Tim Burton Batman films, while poor Marvel was trying to get some kind of mileage out of their lame Captain America TV movies and short-lived Spider-Man live-action TV series. And while comic book movies weren't exactly the cat's meow until they became huge money-makers in the 21st century, DC was at least making them respectable. Marvel was like that one poor kid at school who just couldn't find a way to fit in, and every time that kid tried to do something meaningful, he got laughed at and berated by the bigger, meaner kids.
Let's just say that Marvel was basically irrelevant before X-Men, Sam Raimi, and the MCU all came into the picture to help perform a complete U-turn and turn a bad joke into an unstoppable juggernaut. But let's rewind for a second. I'm going to ask that you pretend it's 1990 and you are a dedicated fan of Marvel's comic book superheroes. Also pretend that you're aware of those awful late 70's Captain America TV movies, the Spider-Man live action series, and that Incredible Hulk TV series (which, to be fair, isn't terrible). Things aren't going well for your beloved Marvel superheroes, who are just no match for the likes of Superman and Batman. But not to worry! For there is reason to be confident. You have come to understand that Marvel has pretty much hit rock bottom, and what happens once you hit rock bottom? The only way you can go is up, so Marvel is most likely to rebound and get back on track. The future is bright!
Well my friend, have I got some bad news for you...
Hitting the UK in 1990 and in the US two years later was Marvel's first attempt at giving the Captain America character a feature-length production, and oh my goodness, did it go horribly wrong. This was not Marvel hitting rock bottom. This was Marvel taking a jackhammer and burrowing their way through the imaginary bedrock of rock bottom and entering an unholy sanctuary that only the most heinous and unforgiving works of cinema would ever dare to breach. It's a satanic realm where the likes of Movie 43 and Manos: The Hands of Fate have dinner parties, and only the worst of the worst of the worst have reservations. And while Captain America isn't anywhere near as repulsive as Movie 43 and Manos, it still should not be viewed by any normally functioning human being. The first time I saw it, which actually wasn't terribly long ago, I was simply astonished at just how bad the whole thing was. And just so I could feel better about writing this review, I forced myself to watch it again, and nothing changed. I am positive that a lot of people don't even know this movie exists and for good reason. The film had a shaky production history and a limited theatrical release, and anyone who had the misfortune of seeing it most likely buried any memory of seeing it firmly into the dirt.
We can talk all day about all of the oh so many reasons as to why this version of Captain America turned into such an atrocious misfire, and I guess it's worth starting with the plot. The movie opens in Fascist Italy in 1936, where the government breaks into the home of boy genius Tadzio. Tadzio is taken away to be the subject of an experimental project to create a so-called supersoldier. One of the scientists, Dr. Maria Vaselli (Carla Cassola), objects to Tadzio being the test subject and flees to the United States. Seven years later, the U.S. government selects Steve Rogers (Salinger) out of 600 possible volunteers to be America's test subject for their own supersoldier. The experiment proves successful, transforming Rogers into Captain America. The Captain goes to confront Tadzio, who now goes by the name Red Skull. Red Skull defeats Captain America and straps him to a missile aimed at Washington D.C. Captain America is able to detour the rocket towards the middle of nowhere in snowy Alaska, where he remains frozen solid for fifty years. Researchers find Rogers in the ice and manage to dig him out. Rogers thaws out from the ice and runs away, still believing he's in the 1940's. Rogers eventually finds out that the Red Skull is still out and about, needing to find a way to stop him once and for all.
So the plot seems pretty cut and dry with Captain America going up against his archenemy in Red Skull., except that the movie can't even get its basic plot right. When Captain America isn't fighting Red Skull, the movie plays off like some bizarre soap opera that looks like it should've been cancelled after two episodes. It also zips through several scenes, barely giving you time to soak in whatever you just watched and killing many chances the movie has at providing any sort of excitement or emotional appeal.
- Captain America is best enjoyed with a close-knit group of bad movie loving friends and a few cold drinks in hand. I am not one who finds Captain America hilariously bad. I find it just shockingly bad. There is absolutely nothing about this movie worthy of any small semblance of praise except its potential for a wild drinking game with friends.
- Basically everything is a low point, but I'll pick and choose what stands out the most. And what does stand out more than anything is the truly horrendous editing, done by some guy named Jon Poll. Truly I say, this is some of the worst editing I have ever seen in a feature length film. It mostly comes during the action/fight scenes which are constructed using a fast cutting technique that completely obscures what's going on. I felt a physical resistance from my eyes after just a few seconds of the rapid fire cuts, and the thing that really grinds my gears is how unnecessary it is. I would not be surprised if someone out there suffered a seizure while watching the fight scenes, because it is just too many cuts for one normal brain to process in a short time span.
- Matt Salinger is nothing short of awful as Steve Rogers/Captain America. And if you recognize that last name, I tell you yes, Matt Salinger does have a connection to Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger; Matt is J.D.'s son, and I have no idea how he got to be casted as the lead. There is nothing charismatic about Salinger, moseying along through the film with no enthusiasm or ambition to make the Captain appear super in any way. What he does do is turn Captain America into a heartless coward. Not once but twice does Captain America pretend to be sick while driving in a car with someone, only to take the car for himself and leave his passenger stranded along the road. There's also a scene in the woods in which the fully suited Captain America is running away from Red Skull's henchmen. This happens well after a scene in which we clearly see Captain America take down some henchmen no trouble. Remember, shockingly bad.
So Salinger and the editing are the absolute worst things in a movie overflowing with worst things, and there is just a small handful of other superhero films that I can think of that come anywhere near as bad as Captain America. You will feel black and blue by the time this movie finishes its red, white, and blue assault on your senses during its wretched 97 minutes. To say that Captain America is just a bad superhero movie is not good enough. This is an abomination to the cinema and a permanent stain on the reputation of Marvel and their comics. You might be one of the lucky ones and find this movie to fall into the hilariously bad category, but I am not one of those lucky ones. I am one who can only sit in stunned silence at the epic disaster that unfolds before me. If you can find any way to wash all knowledge of Captain America from your memory bank, please do so immediately, preferably with some very strong alcoholic beverages. Do not give it one second of your precious time, and don't be afraid to deny its existence if such a question about it should miraculously come your way.
Recommend? No. Just pretend that it doesn't exist.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: