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Archive for April 23rd, 2019

by J.D. Lafrance

The popular comic book superhero Captain America had his debut in March 1941 courtesy of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; created as a patriotic symbol in response to the actions of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the United States’ involvement in World War II. Like any enduring comic book icon, Cap has undergone all kinds of changes over the years, but adapting him for modern movie-going audiences was considered difficult as his beliefs came across as old-fashioned. The dilemma Marvel Studios faced when making Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) was how do you make him relevant today? Made early on in the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it and subsequent sequels are among the studio’s best as they managed to make Cap’s personal dilemmas compelling while not losing sight of his place in the larger mosaic of the MCU.

Instead of modernizing the character right away, the filmmakers wisely stayed true to his origin story and made The First Avenger a period movie. These kinds of retro comic book movies rarely do well (case in point: The Shadow and The Phantom) and part of the problem is the talent attached to them. Getting the right director and cast that understand the characters and the worlds they inhabit is crucial. Joe Johnston was wisely hired to direct. Since it was decided that the movie would be set during World War II who better to recapture that old school action/adventure vibe then the man that helmed The Rocketeer (1991) and Hidalgo (2004)? For the pivotal role of Captain America, Chris Evans was cast. He already had experience with superhero movies playing the Human Torch in the awful Fantastic Four movies, but Marvel believed that they could reinvent the public’s perception of him. The question remained, how would such an earnest, idealistic character translate in our cynical times?

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