Title: Captain America
Director: Albert Pyun
Writer: Stephen Tolkin (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby)
Distributed By: 21st Century Film Corporation
Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, and Kim Gillingham
Release Date: December 14th, 1990 (UK)/July 22nd, 1992 (US)
Dr. Maria Vaselli (Carla Cassola) flees from Nazi Italy after one of the experiments she worked on turns a young boy into Red Skull (Scott Paulin). After arriving in America, she uses her work to begin a Super-Soldier Project, turning polio stricken Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger) into Captain America. His mission is to stop Red Skull, but unfortunately, his mission becomes compromised and he’s strapped onto a nuclear warhead and sent into the icy waters of Alaska. After being frozen for nearly fifty years, he finally revives, alive and ready for action. Will Captain America be able to cope with the 90s and stop Red Skull from kidnapping President Tom Kimball (Ronny Cox)? Or will it be another mission failed?
With The Avengers coming out in less than a month, there’s a lot of excitement building up. There’s a good chance that you might have seen Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America: The First Avenger, but there’s also a good chance that you haven’t seen other films from The Avengers roster. While Captain America got an amazing adaptation with the 2011 film, there have been other attempts at putting him on film. Perhaps the most well known (and infamous) one is the 1990 Captain America.
This is one of those films that starts off looking like it might be decent or terrible. The first scene is in Italy, where we learn the origins of Red Skull. Wait a minute…Red Skull is Italian? Mamma mia! Fine, they’ve taken liberties with the film. So what? Captain America: The First Avenger took quite a few liberties and it was a damn good film. Captain America might start off slow in Italy, but it looks like there’s promise. And then…the film falls apart.
The problem about Captain America is the same problem with just about every other low budget film with a big budget franchise/idea. Even though it has plenty of potential, it fails in the production department.
One of the biggest problems is the acting. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad actors. In fact, many (OK, probably just some) of them are decent actors. Just look at Melinda Dillon (playing Mrs. Rogers), who was nominated for not one but two Academy Awards (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice). Accolades aside, most of the acting feels stale and stiff.
Captain America stars in "Encino Man II."
However, like most cases of decent actors giving bad performances, much of the blame can be put on the screenplay. While the dialog isn’t the worst I’ve seen, it’s definitely not helping the film. In fact, the dialog could easily be forgiven if they had written better characterizations. There are no great characters here. Don’t expect any character development or complex relationships. And instead of giving us recognizable characters, we get stuck with guys like Sam Kolawetz (Ned Beatty) and President Tom Kimball. Despite no-name losers, the worst offender of bad characterization is definitely Captain America. He might’ve gained strength from the Super-Soldier Project, but he definitely didn’t gain competency. Captain America doesn’t really beat up anyone in a fight. I suppose this makes sense on some level. In real life, if you only had a shield and went up against someone with a machine gun, you’d get your ass handed over to you. Still, this doesn’t make for good storytelling. And this definitely doesn’t excuse Steve Rogers from making some stupid mistakes, such as waking up the whole Nazi neighborhood while on a stealth mission.
Red, white, and blue are the colors of America (and for taking on stealth missions).
A film can have bad dialog, bad characters, and even a low budget and still be great. After all, bad dialog and no budgets are a trademark of exploitation classics. The big nail in the coffin here is the story. It’s full of plot holes, and worst of all, doesn’t make the most out of the story. Instead of Captain America saving the world or even him readjusting to life after nearly fifty years of being frozen, we just watch him running around while pointless scenes of the president and his photographer buddy are shown.
After watching countless terrible comic book films, I can’t say Captain America is the worst. Horrendous wouldn’t be the right adjective for this film. Flat is the best description. Have you ever drank a soda that’s a few months expired? You know, that bland, gross taste? That’s Captain America. You know it should be better, you can see the potential, and there’s bits and pieces that could work, but something isn’t right about it. Although I suppose that can be said for most pre-1998 superhero films.