The leaps of Captain America

20th Century Fox has re-released its 1992 version of Captain America in the hopes of attracting the legions of new fans who enjoyed watching the most recent iteration of the superhero story.

It may be difficult to watch the film quality from 1992, but the movie can hardly be blamed for that, and it’s certainly easier to view than the 1979 version, or the one from 1944. 

This film follows roughly the same canon as the new one, and there are a lot of parallels between the two.

For example, the transformation scene is startlingly familiar, but the film presents a starkly different view of the pre-experiment Steve Rogers. He is weak from polio rather than stature, and he’s a popular, well-loved kid, rather than a poorly respected dweeb.

The big difference, however, is that the film mostly focuses on the modern Captain America. He is frozen early in the movie, and made to fight in our world. A large part of the story is spent depicting how Cap becomes familiarized with the modern world. He’s forced to go through all the tropes that we now find cliché, in Rip Van Winkle tales. Friends are old, food is weird, hemlines are far too high, and social norms have advanced strangely.

Perhaps the most odd thing here is that Captain America hardly seems to have any powers, or at least, he hardly seems to use them. Most of what he does is standard action film fare – acrobatics and knock-out punches, with little dependent upon his super strength or speed, with the exception of the few times he throws his shield around. He actually spends more of his time running from the bad guys than he does fighting them.

I hadn’t seen the film since it was released almost 20 years ago, and I can’t remember what I thought of it then, but seeing it now, it seems mostly corny. For the most part the acting is poor, and the writing is weak. I think, however that this is mostly due to the intense quality of Marvel’s recent films. Watching the film now creates and unfair comparison with modern superhero films. 

Though looking back at more memorable super hero films from the era (Tim Burton’s Batman was three years earlier, and sparked that phase of comic book adaptations – the way Batman Begins launched the current wave), those haven’t aged all that much better. There was a lot more of the old corniness of silver age comics in those films, as was expected at the time.

Still, it is an amusing and interesting nostalgic look at what was once the best Captain America film we had, and it would be worth at least a watch from any Captain America fan, or a fan of the new movie, who would like to see some of the – admittedly sometimes poorly wrought – roots of the Marvel Film Universe.

Captain America stars Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, and Ned Beatty. It is available now on DVD from 20th Century Fox.

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