Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Allied Vaughn
DVD Release Date: August 30, 2011
Run Time: 97 minutes
might look at the recent big-budget Captain
America as a slow progression away from Suck. Said Suck began in the
1970s, with a pair of truly ridiculous made-for-TV movies that featured
silly plastic shields and a slumming Christopher Lee.
From there, it took an ever-so-small step up to a 1992 direct-to-video
version: less crappy than the first films, but still a far cry from the
Chris Evans blockbuster this summer. It was re-released on DVD last month in
an effort to cash in on the character’s heightened profile. Judging by the
quality on display, there was absolutely no other reason to do so.
To its credit, it stays more true to the character than
the 1970s films. And it attracted a pair of comparatively famous actors (Ned
Beatty and Ronny Cox) to help shepherd it home. But in the face of the 2011
version, its shoddiness is almost shocking. Like the new film, it starts
during World War II, with the scrawny Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger, son of
J.D.) volunteering for a secret experiment that transforms him into the
pinnacle of human perfection. Donning the red, white and blue long-johns of
Captain America, he does battle with the evil Red Skull (Scott Paulin), who
has been injected with the same super-soldier serum and now furthers the
aims of the Axis. Cap thwarts the Skull’s plans, but ends up frozen in ice
for his troubles, thawing out only in the 1990s to take on his old nemesis
The problems begin almost immediately, with an
unnecessarily convoluted back-story and the inexplicable decision to make
the Skull Italian instead of German. Salinger himself makes a shockingly
feckless Captain: filling out the suit well enough, but otherwise more
stumblebum than super-stud. Director Albert Pyun plays up the
stranger-in-a-strange land notion to the film’s ultimate detriment. We’re
treated to interminable scenes of Rogers wandering through the 1990s
landscape, amazed and los in equal measures with no clear direction in which
to proceed. Only when the Skull kidnaps the President (Ronny Cox) does he
leap into action again, but by then the bulk of the film is lost.
The lack of budget doesn’t help matters. With limited time
and funds, the action scenes feel like a third-rate cop show: using the
pretty Yugoslavian locations in an effort to make the amateurish stunts look
more polished. None of the actors invest much in the proceedings – even
Beatty and Cox are phoning it in – and the cheap production does nothing to
justify their attentions. Admittedly, it respects the character enough to
stay true to his origins and tries desperately to bring some fun to the
proceedings. But with the sea change in Marvel’s cinematic fortunes, it
exists more as a curiosity than a worthwhile experience.
Indeed, that may constitute its only worthwhile purpose.
Captain America was released amid a glut of similarly cash-strapped
efforts, from the Dolph Lundgren Punisher to the David Hasselhoff
Nick Fury. Looking at this film and the new one side by side highlights
how much we’ve gained in the last decade: how even mediocre efforts like
Fantastic Four stand head and shoulders
above earlier generations of Marvel movies. That’s not Captain America’s
fault, of course, but that doesn’t mean that anyone but the most die-hard
fans should suffer through it.
THE DISC: This is a quickie cash-grab and it shows.
The menu is minimalistic and the disc contains nothing but the movie itself:
indifferently transferred and lacking even a chapter search function to help
you navigate through the sludge.
- Rob Vaux