Saturday, August 6, 2011

Captain America: Too Perfect to be Interesting

Tonight I met another member of “The Avengers.” At first, I was charmed by Steve Rogers, the man who wanted to serve his country but wasn’t physically able. Too soon, though, Rogers became the man with no faults. He ran the fastest. He could swim like a dolphin. His reflexes never failed. His aim was never off. Women wanted him. He sweat liquid gold (okay not really, but you get my point).

He was boring. In the beginning, his friend Bucky mentioned that Rogers had something to prove, but it was never mentioned again. The audience could infer that he wanted to live up to his father, who died of mustard gas or that he wanted to prove that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn could defend America. This message wasn’t clear, though.

Rogers physical weaknesses weren’t enough to give him any real faults. (SPOILER) Even when Bucky died, it wasn’t a weakness on Roger’s part. It’s not like there was anything he could do. That’s not a weakness; it’s an unpleasant fact of life- and war. (END OF SPOILER)

It was too easy for Captain America to beat his enemies. Of course, he is going to win, but it’d be nice to see him break a sweat. He took some punches, but they didn’t make a real difference. At least Iron Man and Thor have faults. Their faults are part of why they are interesting characters. Even a fear of heights would have given Captain America a little depth.

The problem with a perfect superhero is that nothing is a challenge. When he can easily beat any foe, the audience has no reason to worry. There’s no suspense. Why would I watch a movie if I know that all it will take is a couple punches and the hero wins? Even if I know the hero will survive, the fights needs be difficult. I want to see a hero have to use all of his wits. I want to see a hero fight to overcome some weakness or personal flaw in order to beat the villain. That is interesting storytelling. Watching the perfect person kick the enemy a few times and declare victory is boring. It adds nothing to the character.

The movie was tolerable. The villain, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, wasn’t fleshed out enough. It was clear that he was nuts, but there was no real information about the tesseract he uncovered. I admit, I found it amusing that Red Skull resembled a Yuuzhan Vong without tattoos or implants. The best parts were the war bond rallies and seeing so much of Howard Stark.

The entire movie felt like a quick briefing of who Captain America is. The end is rushed, and leaves out some information. (Spoiler: Like exactly how he survived the crash.)

Captain America is essentially what the army made him: the perfect tool of patriotism and physical ability. Unfortunately, no personality was injected into his veins.

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