I spent part of my birthday digging through boxes in the basement, to find a working VCR and my copy of the 1990 Captain America film. The things I do for you readers! So how did the first Cap movie hold up?
I first remember seeing it on a tape I borrowed from my local public library, and eventually a couple of times on some random cable networks. Seeing it again reminded me of something…this is a really disjointed film.
It starts out with a re-imagining of the Red Skull, who as a child was abducted by the Italian Fascists and forced into the Super Soldier Program before World War II. The same scientist responsible for that fled to that, and created Captain America (who’s played by JD Salinger’s song Matt Salinger).
Things go on back and forth with Red Skull’s fascist regime being used by the American industrial military complex to take out anyone who is deemed a threat to them, basically anyone with a peaceful national agenda like MLK and JFK. Eventually Cap gets unfrozen in the modern-day and has to save the President from Red Skull’s forces.
So why was the movie so awkward? Well first, it had a really tight budget. That can ruin any film, let alone something that is supposed to be an action/adventure flick.
The other part is that the movie studio didn’t necessarily like the original version of the film. Director Albert Pyum said this about studio 21st Century Film Corporation’s involvement in the project in a recent Las Vegas Weekly interview:
I was disappointed in the version they released, because [the studio] had no interest in the movie I made or the character of Steve Rogers. They wanted it to be strictly a costumed-hero action-fest with no depth or pathos. The movie I made had a melancholy feel to it. There was sadness at its heart for what can happen to our lives when a government steps in and uses individuals for their own questionable purposes. My Captain America was more about the loss and lies these “heroes” experience, similar in a way to what the U.S. government recently did to Pat Tillman and his family.
Well that explains a lot. The film was critically panned; it became a direct-to-video release in the United States and was a limited release abroad. If you find any reviews of this movie, people are quick to pull out their torches and pitchforks.
So was it that bad?
Let’s look at the positives. Salinger did a fine job as Cap in spite of all the drama, which you can read about over here. The film would have been an awesome made-for-tv movie. It’s become a cult film, because its pretty silly. After watching it, I was perfectly content with the experience. It’s not great by any stretch but its watchable. It was a great way to kill some time and makes me look forward to tomorrow’s release of The First Avenger.