- Directed by Albert Pyun
- December 14, 1990 (UK) / July 22, 1992 (US)
After being freed from the ice, Captain America does battle one more time with the evil Red Skull.
Captain America is a 1990 feature film that was eventually dumped on direct to video in many areas (US included) while getting a theatrical run elsewhere. I would like to say that over the years since originally seeing this film I have read bits and pieces on the making of this particular movie that state what we get here is not close to the original cut. It’s my understanding that the original film was much longer with a completely different ending but the powers that be decided it needed a new ending as well as to be trimmed down. If that is accurate, I would love to see the original cut if that is at all possible. Ronny Cox, who plays the president in this film, said in an interview with Retro Junk that it “…remains to this day the finest script I have ever read… how those guys messed that film up, I will never know.” And now onto the movie…
There are moments in Captain America that show potential for something seriously emotional and dramatic and others that feel as if they were crafted for a cheesy 80s action-adventure television series. The tone is uneven and at times far too lighthearted for the events being portrayed.
The plot feels rather mundane and kind of silly. In order to keep polluting Gen. Fleming (Darren McGavin), who was present at the creation of Captain America (Matt Salinger) as a lieutenant (Bill Mumy), conspires with the Red Skull (Scott Paulin) to kidnap the President of the United States (Ronny Cox) to brainwash him so he and others can keep polluting. I found the plot not all that different from The Naked Gun 2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear. There it was to be an advisor to the President. I’m not against an environmental message in a movie but it just comes off here as kind of cheesy.
But more importantly-and to me more curiously-is that they turned the Red Skull into an Italian. He is still implied to be a Nazi but there’s not much talk of the Nazis if any at all. Just makes absolutely no sense. Being German is very core to the character. The closest we get to a Nazi is someone that appears briefly that is dressed in what might be a German army uniform. Not sure though.
I give them kudos for the makeup. While not comic book accurate, it is cool to look at and rather intimidating. Once the story leaves WWII behind though the Red Skull is revealed to have gotten extensive plastic surgery and now looks more like a heavily scarred Italian mafioso than he does a Nazi supervillain.
Ned Beatty plays reporter and friend to the president Sam Kolawetz whose existence in the film has absolutely no impact really on events other than to give Captain America access to a car to get to his old flame’s house. Considering the interstate highway system and the general construction that happened in post-War America, how was he able to get there?
Creepily Steve Rogers takes up almost immediately with Sharon who is his love’s daughter (both played by Kim Gillingham). In the opening scenes the actors had real chemistry but in the present-day Sharon was about as much of a token girlfriend as one could ever find in a film. What was done in the beginning did not translate to the latter portions. Star Wars has real trouble depicting romance but what we got here makes Padmé and Anakin look positively electric.
The first time I ever watched Captain America was on a rented VHS cassette tape. The costume looked good then but courtesy of modern technology you realize just how not good it was. It looks a lot like rubber-which is what it was. There was no effort to dress it up. Reportedly there was a version closer to the Chris Evans design that the makers of this film rejected.
After Steve Rogers is turned into Captain America, they make a bit of a deal about the physical properties of the suit which at no point after they mention them come in the play. I mean if you’re going to drop an element then you should at least use it in some way. Maybe in a previous cut they did. The point is you do not drop useless information. All it does is weigh down the narrative flow.
The dialogue is clunky in some scenes and in others excellent which gives further credence in my opinion to this being a film made by two different directors. That goes with the directing as well. There are shots where it looks cinematic in nature with true acting and others where it has all the polish of a forgettable movie of the week. Albert Pyun is solidly a B-movie director, and I am guessing he could not step up when needed. Some B-movie directors have talent and just make what fits but others are just bad.
The story lacks focus and doesn’t build to a climactic ending. The narrative just kind of meanders along to get to the point it needs to finish. And worse the Red Skull doesn’t feel like a threat. This is the Red Skull! He is Captain America’s greatest nemesis and just an all-around big threat in the Marvel universe yet he is kind of forgettable here. He is supposed to be evil but Paulin cannot convey that. And he is kidnapping the President.
Captain America had the potential to be something interesting for the era but instead it came off no better than some television movie in its execution. The plot is mediocre, and the acting is poor. I would say watch this one out of curiosity but otherwise you can skip it.