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When I came home from watching the new Captain America film I had the strangest reaction. I was surprised to find that I had a sincere sense of guilt for enjoying the movie as much as much as I did. My son and I watched it together and hung on every scene, it was great fun, exhilarating and, at times, even emotional. The film took its liberties as almost all adaptations do but there was such an apparent reverence for the source material and especially the main character that it was easy to overlook the alterations.
So why was I so hung up?
I think it’s a problem that we all run into when we get too close to any medium, let alone this medium of comics. The more we think we know, the more we are compelled to analyze.
This started for me as soon as the credits began to run and I found myself searching for the credits declaring “based on the Marvel Comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.” One blink and I missed it only to later see Simon and Kirby’s names listed along with Stan Lee, and three others in a column marked “Thanks To…”
That fast I began to cast judgement that tainted my appreciation of the film and the enjoyment that I had just encountered. Struggling with the inconceivability that the original creators might be overlooked or credited with the most vague salute ever, I rushed home to search the internet and was happy to find that the credits were indeed placed even though I personally would have loved to seen them monumentally displayed.
As I continued to search and read other critiques of the film, which were overall very generous, I was struck by a recurring assessment that there was a whitewashing of all things Nazi and American. How could this happen in a film about Captain America set in WWII?!
Welcome to the fine art of Disneyfication! Face it, Nazis and swastikas would not go over big in the Marvel/Disney merchandising machine. Imagine little kids running around with bright red arm bands bearing a swastika at a Captain America themed birthday party or dressing as Hitler on Halloween. Prince Harry could barely pull that off.
We all learned from Star Wars that the kids enjoy the bad guys as much as the good guys, especially when they are clearly defined. Expect to see
plenty of Red Skulls and Hydra uniforms if this movie takes off, after all they are not much different in form and function than the tremendously popular Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers.
The film also did veer away from outright American propaganda as it made great efforts to include a multicultural cast and made the theme much more about Cap defeating the Red Skull than America’s place in winning the Great War. Again, this film needs to make huge bucks overseas so it becomes necessary that Captain America represents Marvel properties more than he represents the good ol’ U.S. of A.
2011 is a much different world than 1941. Seventy years and Capitalism can make you forget a lot. Once I rationalized this in my head I was struck by the term “Reboot.” One thing Captain America The First Avenger is is a step-by-step blue print as to how to reboot a character. In one film the viewer was exposed t a fairly accurate retelling of the origin story, we even got to see the cover of issue #1 of the comic and see him in his original costume yet by the end we witnessed a few costume evolutions were propelled seven decades ahead to present day. Now we are perfectly poised and conditioned to witness an all new twenty-first century assemblage of Marvel’s version of the Earth’s mightiest heroes, The Avengers.
Seventy years rebooted in 125 minutes! Whew!
While the comics industry braces itself for the announced reboot of the entire DC Universe in September I have to wonder if it is at all possible that they will be able to pull it off as well as this film did. Will they provide long time readers and fans with a guilty pleasure of watching beloved characters morph into a retooled mythology that relates to our present world or will they be guilty of destroying the memories of the pleasures their characters have given generations of readers and fans? I guess we are all about to find out how much seventy years and Capitalism can really make us forget.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s just some dude in blue jeans and a t-shirt…never mind.
Making comics because I want to.
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