Patriot games

We saw Captain America last night, despite my never having had an interest in the comics on which it’s based, because we keep hearing how good the movie is. And, shock of shocks, it actually was. Good, I mean. Somehow they managed to take a comic book I find insipid, stuck it into a film genre I find dull (it’s basically a World War II movie with an elevated nerdservice quotient), and somehow wrung a thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick out of it. High art? Nah. But as far as blockbuster Hollywood fare goes, this was way up there at the pinnacle.

I’ve always found Captain America as a comic character forgettable for the same reason that Superman is: Namely, they’re cut from the same “champion of wholesome goodness” cloth that’s terribly hard for most writers to fashion anything interesting out of. The movie managed to make it work by playing it absolutely straight, turning Steve Rogers into an endearingly earnest man whose moral compass never wavers. They even managed to build an unusually convincing love story into the movie, mainly by keeping it generally pretty understated.

Also, Hugo Weaving.

It’s nice, you know? I’m glad I watched it. Now something pleasant will come to mind when I think of Captain America, rather than… this:

7 thoughts on “Patriot games

  1. Oh man you totally need to get on board with the Ed Brubaker Captain America run that’s been going on since 2004. Redefines an awesome character and it’s critically acclaimed goodness.

  2. Captain America is like everyone’s deceased or soon-to-be-deceased Grandpa who thinks we can still “fix” the world like we supposedly did during World War II. Which is to say, now comic book companies are digging into characters or IPs which don’t make rational sense in society today. I mean, I don’t care how good or not The Avengers movie ends up being, it’s still a little bit too out of the loop to matter.

  3. “Namely, they’re cut from the same “champion of wholesome goodness” cloth that’s terribly hard for most writers to fashion anything interesting out of.”

    Only because most writers are terrible.

    There are quite a lot of good stories about Cap and Superman out there (and if they were forgettable, it seems like we wouldn’t be talking about them 70 years later). Superman’s gone from being a straight-up socialist vigilante in the 1930’s to a character with weird, ever-redefined powers in the wildly creative stories of the 1960’s, to a straight-up Sun God in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman. Cap’s gone from pure, gloriously-unrefined propaganda in the 1940’s to a stranger in a strange land in the 1960’s to a deeply-disillusioned patriot in the 1970’s to a sidekick taking up his mentor’s mantle in Brubaker’s run. Unfortunately, they’ve also had Smallville, Superman Returns, Superman Goes for a Walk, that Captain America movie with JD Salinger’s son, and Heroes Reborn.

    Put another way: people don’t use this “Well, X and Y are hard to write and most of their stories are boring” reasoning for, say, Batman or Spider-Man, but are there REALLY any fewer bland or downright terrible Batman or Spider-Man stories than Superman or Cap?

    I think it largely boils down to Spurgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

  4. I liked the movie too, even though I agree with a lot of people in that it did feel like a big setup for the Avengers.

    I’m not really the one to toot the horn of modern superhero comics, but Ed Brubaker has done some pretty good (if overrated) stuff with the character the past few years.

    • Calling it a teaser for Avengers is being way too cynical. It does feel like the first part, but the story itself is neatly self-contained and is easily the best comic-style “origin movie” I’ve seen.

  5. Cap being altrustic is the exact reason why he’s the best superhero out there. People are so used to Deadpool being an annoying meme-y anti-hero and Spider-Man whining about girls and the X-Men screwing each other all the time that they forget good is good and bad is bad.

    At a certain point we need to step back and realize that The Punisher mowing down 300 mobsters isn’t the norm; Superman saving passengers from a speeding train is. If you can’t find enjoyment in a selfless person committing acts of sacrificial heroism, you might be confusing “depth” with “angst”.

  6. Very interesting, if only because I thought the Captain America movie was absolutely terrible. Also, I really liked Green Lantern while most everybody else thought it was horrible.

    I have weird tastes, I guess.

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