DVD Review: Captain America (PG) / Director: Albert Pyun / Screenplay: Stephen Tolkin / Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty / Release Date: Out Now
Long before the birth of Marvel studios and Joe Johnston’s expertly crafted take on the star-spangled avenger, there was this cinematic oddity. Released in 1992 (although it was finished some two years previously), Captain America provided Cap’s first screen outing for 13 years (following the ill-fated TV attempts which were less Captain America and more Evel Knievel). No doubt spurred on by the reignition of the big-screen comic book genre thanks to Tim Burton’s Batman, Cyborg director Albert Pyun stepped up to the plate and got ready to hit Marvel’s heroes into the stratosphere. Unfortunately for all involved, the home team appeared to have forgotten to bring their ‘A game’ (or, indeed, anything which even gave them a fighting chance).
Our story begins in WWII Italy (yes, that’s Italy) where a young boy is orphaned thanks to some helpful government soldiers, before being taken to a secret facility and introduced to the Super Soldier program. Flashing forward seven years later, we meet Steve Rodgers (Matt Salinger), a strapping 6’ 4” chisel-jawed Californian who is hopelessly debilitated by a bit of a limp. Seeing their chance (and with the nice Italian Super Soldier doctor on board), the American government recruit Steve in the hope of turning him into… well, a strapping 6’ 4” chisel-jawed Californian without a limp. The high tech experiment (which essentially involves shining a light on the subject) goes well and before you know it, Steve has become Captain America.
Steve’s first mission is a trip behind enemy lines to stop the maniacal Red Skull (Scott Paulin) from launching a big missile at the White House. Dressed in bright blue latex, Cap goes in, launching his mighty shield at all who get in his way and fighting his way to the prize. But all doesn’t go well and Steve is strapped to the missile and sent packing to Washington. Managing to divert the rocket at the last minute (as a slack-jawed kid looks on), Cap winds up crashing into the Arctic wastes.
46 years later, explorers unearth the body and what could have been a passable comic book romp suddenly turns into an almost Capless TV movie as Steve comes to terms with losing his past, falls for his ex girlfriend’s daughter (bleugh) and embarks on a nice little weekend break to Italy, presumably because that’s where the funding was.
The problems with this half-arsed superhero flick are myriad. Eagle-eyed readers will have already spat out their coffee at the sight of words like ‘Italy’ and ‘California’, and issues such as having a giant of a man playing pre-Cap Steve Rodgers are only highlighted by the phenomenal work accomplished in last year’s film. But the biggest issue of all is the plot. What there is of it is so unambitious that it defies belief. While last year’s flick had Cap stopping the world from falling under the tyrannical rule of the Red Skull, this one features a Skull whose biggest sin is profiteering from anti-environmental products.
As for Cap himself, while Salinger does a decent job of playing a dough-eyed Rodgers, his only resemblance to Captain America is a physical one, and even that’s a stretch given his shiny tricolour suit and mask that looks like a shoddy cosplay knockoff.
There are no extras onboard this release (which is a shame given its tumultuous history) and the quality isn’t much better than the VHS it was most probably lifted from. None of this helps what is essentially nothing more than an interesting (and hugely flawed) piece of Marvel’s cinematic history.