Fixing Comic Book Movies: Captain America


There have been some pretty good comic book movies, but no perfect ones. In this series I’m putting superhero movies under the microscope and seeing what went wrong, what went right and what could have gone better.

Captain America

I thought Captain America was very good, but was disappointed that it wasn’t great. When I was a kid, Cap was my favorite superhero so I guess I had some skin in the game.

What Went Right?
A whole lot, actually. It was a great idea to set it during World War II and Cap rode a motorcycle, had an awesome team of Army dudes and fought robot Nazis with flamethrowers. The 12-year-old version of me would have lost his shit.

What Went Wrong
The beginning drags a little, but at least has a coherent story. The problems arise once Cap frees his team in Europe. There’s no clear goal or story, just a long montage of disconnected action scenes. As action scenes, they are pretty good, but there’s no dramatic propulsion to them and as a result come off as a little bit boring.

I was skeptical about having the Human Torch dude play Cap. I thought he’d be too glib. But he was fine. Mostly, he just had to look the part and project earnest optimism.

Otherwise, it was an embarrassment of riches. Stanley Tucci was great, Tommy Lee Jones was awesome and Hugo Weaving was perfect.

Source Material
Emotionally, Captain America’s origin is very satisfying. This little do-gooder squirt becomes the nation’s most powerful soldier and then he goes off and fights evil Nazi mastermind the Red Skull. But logically, Cap’s start fall short.

For the purpose of the character and the story, there can be only one super soldier. So immediately after Captain America is born, the scientist who created him has to die. But the idea that they couldn’t replicate the experiment is frustratingly dumb. The guy didn’t leave behind any notes? Tony Stark’s genius dad couldn’t figure out how to do it again even with all of the equipment at hand?

The Hero Problem
There’s zero character development for Cap, which also makes things more boring than they have to be. He starts the movie as a great guy who wants to serve his country and by the end of the movie the only thing that changed is that he got muscles.

Story Problem
Other than what I mentioned above, nothing too important.


You have to give Captain America reasons to do the things he did in the movie. We know that in general Cap has to fight the Nazis, but some scene to scene explanation of why he has to fight these Nazis night now would have really helped. They could have strung the action sequences together like Raiders of the Lost Ark did: we have to go here and get this so we can go there and do that, but that didn’t entirely work out so now we have to do this instead and, if we’re lucky we can make it to this thing. It’s all flimsy excuses for action sequences, but they’re enough to look like a story.


Published by Mister Bulger

Adam Bulger is a frequent contributor to the parenting website He's written for the wedding site and the college student aide Less recently, he's written for The Believer, Forbes, The Atlantic's website, Suicidegirls, Inked Magazine and probably about a dozen other places that are too obscure or defunct to bother listing.

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