Posted on by Scott Delahunt

The Avengers Adaptation continues!

Leading up to a review of The Avengers, I’ve taken a look at Iron Man and Thor, two of the longest serving and iconic Avengers in Marvel’s history. However, the iconic Avenger is Captain America.

Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics, published in early 1941* by Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics. The character and the comic were intentionally patriotic, almost a given considering world events. Marvel brought back Cap in The Avengers #4, thawing him and bringing him to the “modern”** age. Cap started as Steve Rogers, a scrawny young man whose desire to enlist and fight the Nazis in Europe was thwarted by his own ill health. However, his persistence got him noticed and invited to the Super-Soldier project, where Steve was given the Super-Soldier Serum, transforming his body to perfect health and physique. Cap then fought through WWII with his sidekick, “Bucky” Barnes, battling the Third Reich.

Captain America: The First Avenger essentially retells Captain America’s origin. As you might have read last week, I went on for a few paragraphs about superhero origins. However, in Cap’s case, there are two elements to consider. One, Cap’s origins aren’t well known to the general audience. Comic book fans, especially those who follow the Avengers, are aware, but Cap isn’t the household name Superman is. Two, Captain America’s origins alone are an exciting story, especially in the context of modern Marvel stories (as opposed to the Timely comics). How Steve Rogers came to the modern world is well worth spending a movie on, if done well. The other key part to the origin is that Steve already had the right mindset to be a hero, even if his body wouldn’t let him. Falling on a grenade that he thought was live without a thought towards what would happen to him while everyone else dove for cover tends to show people what a hero is.

The First Avenger was done well. Once again, as in Iron Man and Thor, the right cast, the right crew, the right director were all involved. Joe Johnston, the director, had worked on pulp-like projects before, including The Rocketeer and Jumanji. The First Avenger definitely had a pulp feel, from time period to larger-than-life heroes and villains. Casting included bringing in Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Carter.

If you go back a bit in Lost in Translation, you’ll find my review of Flash Gordon. The two movies work together to show what’s needed to make a good adaptation. Both movies had great casting for supporting roles, excellent music, and a script that acknowledged the comic book feel of the original works. The big difference is that Captain America didn’t have executive meddling. Flash‘s execs interfered with casting, to the point where de Laurentiis’ wife picked out Sam J. Jones from the lead role from a game show. Everyone involved in the making of Captain America had the goal of making the film a success.

Casting wasn’t the only item that got attention. Little details about Cap appeared. The shield he used during the PR tour was based on the original one from Captain America Comics #1, which had to be changed because of a similarity to the one carried by Archie Comics’ The Shield. The First Avenger also had links to the previous movies in the Avengers Initiative, with Yggdrasil, a Norse artifact, and possibly the fate of the Red Skill calling back to Thor and Tony Stark’s grandfather Howard a supporting character. These connections may be the first time a comic book movie acknowledges the rest of the original comic’s universe. Usually, multiple studios have rights for the different characters in a setting. In Marvel’s case, Sony had the rights to Spider-Man while Twentieth Century Fox had the X-Men. With the Avengers Initiative, though, all the movies are being created by Marvel Studios and being released through Paramount. Just as important, many elements of the Marvel Universe were introduced. Hydra, a secret society out for world domination, with the Red Skull and Arnim Zola, could easily be the antagonists of a Captain America sequel set in the modern day.

Was the adaptation accurate? Not completely. Bucky Barnes became Steve’s childhood friend and a sergeant in the US Army instead of being a kid mascot. The Howling Commandos appeared, but without Sgt. Fury. Philips became a colonel instead of a general. Small details. However, the feel of the movie, aided by the direction, by the music, hit the right note.

Next week, on the nature of remakes.

* Prior to the US officially getting involved in World War II.
** As in, the day of publication.

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