Fun, if narratively thin, flick that balances humour, ideology and action well, even if at the end of it you don’t feel you’ve been taken anywhere.
Aside from the film’s quality, I found it particularly fascinating for its knowingly false presentation of the past – operative word knowingly.
Well you know how the film has a female officer and non-segregated minorities in its US army?
Obviously not historically accurate, but instead of being “political correctness gone mad” I think there’s something interesting going on when you consider how it establishes an alternate reality.
There’s Howard Stark’s convention, established in Iron Man 2, that raises eyebrows – technology beyond its time, even ours, arguably.
Then there’s the existence of the super-soldier, which, although it incorporates the character’s impact on pop culture as we know it (the comics), goes noticeably beyond. Captain America gets shows, posters and propaganda films. The latter is particularly fascinating because we know, and the filmmakers know, that we’re watching a Captain America film within the Captain America film. It’s not exactly Charlie Kaufman meta, but the larger film (and its ideological values) holds up to the idea that it also is a propaganda flick. Despite being full of modern effects, in many ways it feels like it could have been made back in the 40s. So my interpretation is that the film is actually built on this separation from reality.
Ordinarily this forms (at least part of) the disequilibrium that must be resolved, and the film takes strides in this direction. e.g. Schmidt and Rogers are of course doppelgangers, both ubermensch, products of a serum, and the rule dictates that at least one must be removed from the equation. But the movie never really brings its universe in line with our own like, say, Watchmen does. (Of course this is because an alternate reality has already been established – most thoroughly in Iron Man – that the movie needs to lead into.)
Now, if Captain America is a propaganda film, isn’t it a bit late for WWII? One might posit that it speaks about America’s current wars – the talk of “bullies” might be an oblique reference to terrorists, but there’s not enough for me to consider it among the film’s central concerns. Instead I believe it is faux-propaganda, its nostalgia at odds with its science fiction and modern ideology (gender and racial equality). I believe that films are built on contradictions, and these contradictions, the tensions between them, give the movie its form.
I was particularly delighted at the end of the film when Steve sees through the phoniness of the recreated 1940s, revealed thereafter to be a set and an actor. Where else have we seen the time recreated in such a manner?
In a very ‘Goodbye Lenin’-esque scene, a bewildered and scared Steve runs out into the present day Times Square, which appears to exist as we know it. Has the rewriting of the past had no effect on our present? It has: we see Captain America on at least two of the billboards, reintroducing his status as false cultural icon – possibly the central component of the film – which brings everything back.
The end of the film finds Steve Rogers a man out of his time. Truth is, he’s been a man out of his time all along.