The Captain America ’79 movie: Time for Another Look

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Captain America is huge right now, even if you didn’t realise it.

Don’t discount the character once dubbed “nobody’s favourite Avenger”. Winter Soldier was possibly the best of the Marvel films so far, and set events in motion that have changed the landscape of the entire franchise. The excellent Agent Carter series had plenty of references to Cap, along with a major plotline. Age of Ultron looks to be featuring him prominently, and his own film Civil War is making waves already. But let’s go back and look at his first movie. Not the serial play from the ’40s, or that 1990 flop. No, let’s look at what 1979 had to offer…

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00:00:20 Welcome to the 1970s! There’s a red, white and blue patriotic logo for the film, but the sedate music and tranquil coastline scenery make this look like a travel documentary.
00:00:36 You can see the helicopter pilot’s head come into shot by accident as they film the road down below. Oops.
00:03:05 Steve-o! Not the one from Jackass, but the solid, muscular Steve Rogers, complete with a van that looks even more sedate than the scenery. His surfer buddy digs his “mellow” set of wheels.
00:07:30 Steve’s back in his van and is falling into a trap of Wile E. Coyote-size proportions. He’s following a fake detour up a mountain road…
00:10:53 …and has crashed off the side of the mountain, after two minutes of trying to drive through a massive oil slick. Bizarrely, his shirt seems to have become ripped at the shoulder but he looks okay. His van has seen better days though.
00:12:00 Steve’s gone to a science lab and is promptly told that the resident lab boss Simon has been closely watching him since Steve was a child. Uh, aren’t there laws about that sort of thing?
00:12:33 Wait, Steve hasn’t had the super-soldier serum yet? How did he survive the car crash, and why is he built like a rugby player then? More amazingly, Steve’s dad developed the serum… but it has nothing to do with “super-soldiers”. In fact, they just called it “steroids”.
00:16:35 Hang on… Steve’s dad was some sort of hero opposing villains? And these lab jockeys want Steve to be the next one, sort of..?
00:21:22 Having rejected any involvement in the steroid project called F.L.A.G., Steve has gone to his friend’s house and promptly found the guy dead. Steve doesn’t look too concerned… or is it bad acting?
00:24:01 It seems like some shady business people led by a man called Brackett killed Steve’s friend to get their hands on a camera film. Weirdly, they seem to know all about Steve and how he may be taking steroids soon. They’re a shifty-looking bunch.
00:30:50 Wow! It turns out that Steve’s buddy was working on a neutron bomb called Zeus and the buddy’s daughter is played by Robin Mattson, who’s been in a whole bunch of soap operas! Um… not that I recognised her from them or anything. Honest.
00:32:30 Like an idiot, Steve gets outwitted by villains again and is chased up a mountain road…
00:34:36 …and crashes his bike off the edge. He’s not having much luck with mountain roads at all.

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00:37:52 To save Steve’s life the doctors and Simon the scientist have given him the super-steroids. They’ve made him better. Stronger. Faster. A ‘roid-rage freak!
00:40:45 Well that’s gratitude for you. Granted, Simon injected Steve with steroids against his wishes – steroids which may actually kill him in the long run anyway – and he used him as an unwilling guinea pig, but he still saved Steve’s life. In exchange, Steve doesn’t want to play ball and do any lab tests.
00:42:00 That was a dumb decision. Now Steve’s been kidnapped from his hospital room by one of Brackett’s henchmen.
00:44:46 Steve’s escaped using his new steroid-infused strength, but disturbingly the soundtrack is now full of off-key synthesized beeps and boops that sound like R2-D2 committing suicide by drowning in syrup.
00:46:30 Well, he must be stronger. Steve just beat up some henchmen by, um, hitting them with dead cows. Don’t ask.
00:55:46 Steve’s debating about being a hero. Simon the scientist has tried guilt-tripping him into it, coercing him, and now it’s down to old-fashioned bribery. The government has pimped Steve’s van out with a built-in jet-launched motorbike that can whislte dixie, apparently. But it can’t make scrambled eggs. Seriously, Steve asked.
00:58:32 Did I just see what I thought I saw?! Steve’s testing out the bike and comes to a ramp. Naturally he jumps it. Instead of some exciting two-wheeled turbo-boost launch he jumps a gap of about half a metre. Gee whiz, that’s thrilling!
00:59:50 Steve’s on a military base and the bad guys want to attack him here?! Cue a helicopter chasing Steve.
01:02:59 “I’ve dreamed about this for nine years!” Simon the scientist says. What, seeing a butch man ramp a motorbike, leap on to the landing strut of a helicopter and toss someone into a puddle? He needs therapy.
01:07:36 Now look at what’s happened! Steve’s spent so long making his mind up that his friend’s daughter and his new scientist girlfriend have both been captured. Way to go, Rogers!

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01:10:31 On the plus side, Steve’s super-hearing has given him a clue as to where the women are being held…
01:12:13 …and he’s going to rescue them as Captain America! Creepy Simon just happens to have made the suit for him already, and gives Steve the worst possible motives for suiting up: “Jam Captain America down their throats,” Simon says enthusiastically. I think he wants to watch it happen, too. Creepy.
01:12:50 Brackett’s strapping the neutron bomb’s detonator to his chest. It’s worse than it sounds.
01:14:10 Whee! Cap comes flying out of the back of his van on his bike, riding off to save the day! Don’t forget to put the bike in silent mode, Cap!
01:15:54 Cap’s mighty shield may look like a flimsy clear dustbin lid and his costume may be hideous, but he can do a decent vertical leap. That’s the only thing saving him from shame right now, I’m sure.
01:17:00 Cap takes time out from being chased by rent-a-cops to laugh at them.
01:19:18 He’s rescued the women (well, he ripped the door open and told them to run, even with armed guards nearby ready to shoot them) and found out about the neutron bomb. But why does Brackett want a neutron bomb anyway?
01:22:00 Money, that’s why! He’s going to detonate it and then break into a gold repository to clean them out of a billion dollars in bullion. With two henchmen and one truck. Hang on a minute. Uh… Didn’t he see Goldfinger? That plan just won’t work…
01:28:35 It’s hard to take endless shots of a helicopter tracking a truck, so they’ve finally allowed Cap back out on his bike. To spice things up, he even jumps on the back of the truck and starts doing the Indiana Jones routine. It’s so boring though that even the bad guy has a book to read. I’m not kidding.
01:33:22 Now this is action (not)! Cap is sitting around while Simon uses CPR to save the life of the villain, in order to prevent the bomb from going off. I’m glad that Cap’s around to hold the oxygen pump. That’s an exciting job.
01:34:45 Wait, Cap doesn’t even get to deactivate the bomb?! The bomb squad are on their way and are going to do it? I don’t blame Cap for leaving. What a rip-off.
01:36:16 Okay, everyone’s happy and our heroes are talking about Captain America jamming himself down people’s throats again. This is disgusting. On the plus side they’ve given Cap a new suit – the classic suit, sort of (if you discount the motorbile helmet and flimsy shield) – and he poses for Simon’s rather creepy approval. “Magnificent!” is the verdict from his new, um, friend.
01:37:12 And with an classic comic book illustration of Captain America on the screen, I’m just glad it’s over…

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I could say how bad this film was, but words wouldn’t describe it accurately. I could make obscene gestures, which might be more appropriate. I’ve seen worse but this film is simply boring and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, not even for a laugh. The origin story is so wrong that it defies belief, and because of that you can’t buy into any of it. It’s more than just hampered by when it was made – Superman was released the year before, so that’s no excuse – it’s just a cheap, bad movie.

Cap’s huge right now, but no thanks to this film. If anything, Captain America’s on-screen success is in spite of films like this, not because of it. That should say something about the quality of the work they’re doing right now if nothing else, and that the fans can forgive almost any mistakes.

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