Captain America (1990) — All who oppose his campy shield must yield

“You remain a clownish symbol that no one cares about.”

Justin’s rating: For justice! And, perhaps, pizza!

Justin’s review: There’s something so dearly special about bad superhero movies that is hard for me to precisely relate to you. It has a little something to do with a topic that’s easy to swing from the cool to the ludicrous, and a lot to do with grown men and women gallivanting around in tights while demonstrating acting chops that dogs wouldn’t even touch if it smelled of butt. It’s a thing so incredibly special that you have no choice but to gather your friends and loved ones in the tight, inescapable confines of your embrace, and force them to share the “joy” as well.

It’s the honest truth that in 1991, 14-year-old Justin saw the failed Captain America straight-to-video effort without a harsh bone in his body. Even then, bored as I was and starving for a summer afternoon’s entertainment, I couldn’t fool myself into thinking that I’d been nourished by good theatre. The phrase my brother used for this film was “stoo-pid.”

As the late ’80s, early ’90s superhero revival blossomed, Marvel Comics was little less than discriminating in handing out its license to third-rate hack directors and actors composed mostly of compressed wood pulp and duck shavings. The Punisher bombed with a robotic Dolph Lundgren in the lead, Nick Fury was banished to oblivion, and Captain America, well, (kids at home: make the “crash and burn” noise now!). Originally, it was intended — and marketed — for a major theater release. After seeing how gut-wrenchingly horrible it was, Stan Lee and others pressed for reshoots… which did nothing. Nothing! They then shuffled it off to the retirement home for lame superflicks, and, having learned their lesson, ponied up more dough for Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four.

No one aspect of Captain America is by far and away the worst; it’s an ensemble effort of mediocrity and shoddy effort. The screenplay takes a can’t-fail concept of a classic superhero with decades of story behind his belt and then fails it spectacularly. The actors seem surprised to be caught on camera, more playing along with “movie making” than doing anything real. If you shy away from blue screen effects, jittery editing and laugh-out-loud plot holes, then welcome to your own personal purgatory.

World War II. Things are kind of sucking, and for a man named Steve Rogers, the quality of life is the pits. A deformed Italian super-soldier called Red Skull (so named for his bright blue head) is threatening a super-missile launch at the White House. Rogers volunteers for the same process that made Skully what he is today*, and he puts aside his sleepy good looks and mildly dimwitted girlfriend for a shot at the super-big leagues. One thing leads to another, and “Captain America” (so named for his Brazilian nationality) is being tethered to a missile and shot 3/4ths of the way around the world in the space of two episodes of Star Trek. He crash-lands in Alaska, is frozen until 1990, and thaws out to file an advance lawsuit against Austin Powers.

Meanwhile, Red Skull, wacky guy that he is, makes his face look even worse, kidnaps the U.S. President (who’s tooling about in Rome) and starts using mind control and whatnot. What can we do? It’s only up to a cluelessly out-of-time relic of WWII to bumble his way to FREEDOM and JUSTICE! I’m guessing the Secret Service had the day off.

It should go without saying that no characters in this movie are scripted or act in any way like actual people. The villain cackles and monologues, the President bulges his eyes and makes dire pronouncements, the love interest shrieks and falls down and gets hit as the scene warrants, and Captain America is constantly two seconds away from falling into an inescapable slumber. Really, Marvel? Next time you’re looking for a good lead actor, “someone who keeps their eyes open all the time” should be first on your list. Cappy is so lame that only extreme editing can turn his spastic battle motions into assured victory. You’ll also drink in his suave personality and wit, which ranges from mild disbelief at hoofing it halfway through Canada while being chased by Nazis on motorbikes to using childish tricks that have no right in fooling anyone.

Want to know Captain America’s super-secret special move? To ham-handedly trick his allies and steal their wheels, he — twice — jumps out of the car and pretends to be physically sick. When the compassionate driver comes out to see if he’s okay, our hunched-over superhero goes “PSYCHE!” and runs around them to jump in the driver seat and take off. It’s just about the least heroic (or mature) move a costumed wonder could perform — this is Captain America, not Jimmy “Nose Gold” Peters from two doors down. It’s as if Batman kept resorting to “Look! It’s the Goodyear Blimp!” to make villains twitch their heads around before he sucker-punched them. Or if Spider-Man kept giving 450 psi wedgies to bank robbers and crawled away giggling about it. Or if the Wonder Twins got really, really, really drunk one night and made out with each other.

Let’s just put it this way: Captain America is the reason why world governments conspired together to deny that 1991 ever existed. Seriously. Well, that and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What was so fresh about him?

*How did that sales pitch go? “Well, this super soldier serum turned the first guy into a horrible red scab of a thing, and also corrupted his sweet nature into pure, unadulterated evil, but I’m sure you’ll be okay. In you go! Don’t forget your goggles!”

Didja Notice? 

  • Ned Beatty!
  • Fascists. Always coming in through the windows.
  • Stop motion evil rat thing!
  • I really like Earflap Fascist. Is that bad?
  • Does the White House in Washington D.C. really need a subtitle to that effect.
  • Thank you for that load of exposition, Mr. Voice-Over Guy
  • “Be as strong and as brave as he was.” Just not… such much dead.
  • Captain America smokes!
  • Nice Superman name-drop
  • Nazi assassins always give the Nazi salute and a good “Heil Hitler!” before shooting.
  • Do military colonels often share top secret war info with common doctors?
  • They never really explain why they gave him a shield instead of, say, a rifle or Tommy gun. Were shields in vogue in the 40’s?
  • “I love you Bettyyyyyyy” as Cappy jumps from the plane. Ha.
  • The shield can explode tanks!
  • Red Skull’s makeup is pretty neato
  • All good villains lose a hand, sooner or later. Still, there had to have been a better way to handle that situation.
  • Okay, we didn’t need a SECOND White House/Washington D.C. subtitle!
  • Woohoo for cheesy bluescreen rocket effects
  • “SOMEWHERE IN ALASKA”. They can be specific with the White House, but not this?
  • Nazis could build rockets that not only could fly across the Atlantic to Washington, but have enough fuel to make an emergency run to Alaska, if kicked hard enough.
  • That’s one tortured medicine metaphor, Mr. President.
  • Aww he’s no longer so much red. That’s a pity.
  • “SOMEWHERE IN ALASKA” has been downgraded to simply “ALASKA”
  • If you find a guy in a block of ice and he comes back to life and leaves the tent, don’t bother chasing him or anything. Just be kind of astonished.
  • So, the Nazi doctor didn’t write anything about the super soldier serum yet also has a diary that talks about everything else?
  • “NORTHERN CANADA” Oh please please PLEASE let there be a moose. Just one. Please?
  • A guy wandering around in NORTHERN CANADA is pretty easy to spot from the air.
  • Dirt bikes are the only good way to canvas NORTHERN CANADA when you need to capture yourself a superhero.
  • Cappy eyeing the “Made in Japan” and “West Germany” labels in the truck and assuming the guy is an Axis. Where’s the Italian cappuccino, however?
  • If you’re faking being sick, you might want to try using a voice other than straight monotone.
  • Cappy is so immature. Stealing that guy’s truck like that.
  • Beach punks. Curses!
  • Wow, that’s bad old person makeup on Betty there.
  • “Call the jet! Captain America is in California-” By the time she’s done saying “Fornia”, a horrible screen transition takes us to a swooping-by jet. Neat!
  • Betty II seems pretty upset that Cappy’s gone into the women’s bathroom. She’s nearly crying hysterically when he does so.
  • That is so not how you hold a pistol, Mr. Thug.
  • If you’re going to have a long fight sequence, particularly with martial arts and gunplay, then a completely-dark basement isn’t the best place for it. Just sayin’.
  • The “pull over I think I’m going to be sick” routine AGAIN!?! Is that his only move?
  • This movie has more cuts per action scene than anything I’ve ever seen Michael Bay do. And that, my friends, is saying something.
  • Captain America: Really Bad Bike Rider.
  • Before Steve Rogers’s transformation, one character is addressed as “Senator Kirby”. Jack “King” Kirby co-created Captain America, as well as many other well-known Marvel characters.
  • The same story is used for all of the spinning newspapers. The story begins about the divorce of an ex-padre.

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