A Quick Review of "Captain America: The First Avenger"

Yet another WASP hero

After reading a hilariously bad article at Racialicious bemoaning the fact that Captain America wasn’t going to be played by a Black guy (I decided to write something over at Vdare.com on that issue), I went and saw the film at 12:01 a.m. I still think the movie should have come out on July 4th, but what do I know about marketing and branding?

These are just some quick thoughts that will be fleshed out in the morning (by that time, Alternative Right should have another article by me up addressing the question What Would Captain America Think of America Today?) but I wanted to post them while they were still fresh on my mind. Update: here is a link to that article – which like the Vdare piece – set the stage for the book Captain America and Whiteness that comes out Tuesday. 

Rotten Tomatoes has aggregated a high fresh rating so far for the film, though Armond White has yet to weigh in on the lack of Black people in the movie (he hated Green Lantern, Thor, and X-Men for having Blacks play second fiddle to white stars).

Captain America: The First Avenger is a fantastic film, a special film even. Only through advances in technology – thank you James Cameron and George Lucas – could we see such visually stunning effects that make the 1989 Captain America look like some mid-day television show for kids. Chris Evans was stellar as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and was afforded yet another opportunity to play a white superhero (he’s played one in The Fantastic Four, Push, The Losers, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World).

Coming later this week…

It was a combination of Forever Young (a Mel Gibson movie about a test pilot who is cryogenic-ally frozen), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Rocketeer, plus Pearl Harbor, as Marvel Studios felt the need to Black the film  up a little. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s career is still stuck in 2001, so he was unable to play one of the handful of Black people that were peculiarly placed in the segregated military units of the US Army stationed in Italy.

Let’s be honest, World War II featured a segregated military. Captain America’s handpicked soldiers (His Howling Commando’s) had more diversity then a current Navy SEALs or US Special Forces unit.

Scenes in the barracks had plenty of Black faces sprinkled in that hopefully will make Spike Lee happy after his blasting Clint Eastwood for his incredibly historically accurate Iwo Jima films. That film featured no Black soldiers (like The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan), and was incredibly historically accurate, much to Lee’s chagrin:

Clint Eastwood has advised rival film director Spike Lee to “shut his face” after the African-American complained about the racial make-up of Eastwood’s films.

In an interview with the Guardian published today, Eastwood rejected Lee’s complaint that he had failed to include a single African-American soldier in his films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, both about the 1945 battle for the Japanese island.

In typically outspoken language, Eastwood justified his choice of actors, saying that those black troops who did take part in the battle as part of a munitions company didn’t raise the flag. The battle is known by the image of US marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

“The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go: ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.” Referring to Lee, he added: “A guy like him should shut his face.”

Despite Marvel’s politically correct World War II United States military, the movie was special. Chris Evans was fantastic as Captain America, and the scene where he awakes in 2011 New York City is fantastic, but ruined by the Mark Millar Ultimate Avengers version of Nick Fury (played by the insufferably Black Samuel L. Jackson):

Here’s Mark Millar on why this change was made (as explained in a Marvel spotlight interview available in the Civil War hardcover edition) and Nick Fury went from being a white guy to a Black dude:

Spotlight: Nick Fury’s look appears to resemble the actor Samuel L. Jackson. Assuming this is intentional, why the reference to him in particular?

Mark: Well, he’s the king of cool, isn’t he? This goes back to our idea of stripping these guys right back to basics and just finding what made them work. I love Nick Fury like no other. He’s one of my favorite Mravel characters, but the Steranko cool that he imbued on the character was rat-pack cool and very much of the period. Obviously, that’s still in a classic, retro sense, but it means little to a modern kid. Also, Nick Fury just sounded like one of those great , 70s blaxsplotation names. He sounded like an African-American disco super hero or something and we wanted to play around with that too. 

Movies have reached a point where anything white is seen as almost square, dull and an anachronism in a culture that has grown to see a white Nick Fury as “retro cool” but a character that means little to a modern kid weaned on a steady diet of Will Smith (for more on this, see Hollywood in Blackface).

Knowing that the world Steve Rogers left behind had so much promise (ultimately we went to the moon, but bankrupted ourselves paying for Black-Run America –BRA- after whites were made to feel infinitely guilty and at fault for the condition nature selfishly left Black people in), only to wake up in nation still filled with promise – but hundreds of decaying cities filled with neighborhoods that not even Captain America would dare go in – is an incredibly melancholy thought.

In the final scene of movie, as Rogers looks around an alien New York City, you can feel his pain. Regardless of the politically correct nature of the film, Chris Evans does a fantastic job bringing to life Captain America and for two brief hours, a glimpse of what life in the United State could be is offered by watching The First Avenger. To do that, you have to go back in time to when a nation actually existed and whiteness was synonymous with American.

Concepts like treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity were years from taking root in the minds of DWLs and the halls of academia… as you get a glimpse of The Greatest Generation. Sure America had problems, but I ask you this in all sincerity: would you rather live in 2011 or 1944 America?

Sadly, we all know what comes next, and when Rogers wakes up you realize the nightmare is just beginning.

Update: New York Press movie reviewer Armond White didn’t disappoint. He called the film yet another useless WASP Hero and a White Elephant film. White guys just can’t save the world anymore in movies:

In this moment of convictionless movie-going, Captain America lacks the fun that comes with belief in the essence of its premise. The comic originated in 1941 as an exploitative but gung-ho response to evil, with its first cover depicting Captain America socking Hitler on the jaw! But in today’s pop culture, good-vs.-evil has been blanded into an idiotic shades-of-gray, and Americana has been made suspect.

Ultimately Johnston and Evans are selling an anachronism. Steve Rogers develops from a Benjamin Button-style CGI dork to a pecs-forward athlete with Ricky Nelson eyes—termed “a new breed of super soldier.” Yet the culture no longer believes in soldiers (not even when pitying Iraq or Afghanistan vets suffering PTS disorder). Audiences who yawned when Aaron Eckhart movingly enacted the WASP soldier icon in Battle: Los Angeles are now stuck with Evans playing a blanded out version of the hunkiness he already satirized in Scott Pilgrim. Evans runs with a dancer’s grace like he did in Cellular, but his WASP heroism here is not just anachronistic; it’s a white elephant.

Cinephiles who swear by Manny Farber’s old dictum about useless, over-budgeted “white elephant” movies should recognize this Captain America as a bloated summer epic whose hero wears unfelt sign, shield, stars and stripes. There’s no regard for patriotism or the flag, just loyalty to comic books—and to action montages (including a nifty aerial dogfight that prolongs the story with after-thoughts of Pow!).When all these bland Marvel Comics franchise movies blur together in memory, it won’t prove that they amounted to one great epic master narrative, but that they’re all indistinguishable.



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