Geoff Boucher at LA Times:
The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.
“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include “Jurassic Park III“ and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”
None of that is surprising, of course — Christopher Nolan pared away significant parts of the Batman mythology (such as Robin the Boy Wonder and any super-powered villains) that didn’t fit his grim take on Gotham City, while Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. manufactured a version of Iron Man that is hard-wired for far more humor than the old-school Marvel Comics character.
Still, Captain America, with his name and history, is a sensitive case. A red-white-and-blue character that dates back to the Franklin Roosevelt era stirs up plenty of civic emotion — just take a look at the dust-up over the recent change to Wonder Woman’s costume. “Wonder Woman” comics are hardly a publishing-world sensation these days but still, for a day or two, the whole world seemed to notice that she put on some pants.
The movie’s set during World War II, so obviously we don’t want any jingoistic demonizing of the enemy happening. Question: If you want to make a superhero movie but you don’t want to be troubled with the hair-raising spectacle of out-and-proud patriotism, why the hell would you choose Captain America? Choose Aquaman instead and have him deliver the requisite lecture about fearing “The Other.” Granted, CA’s a symbolic character whom lefties would like to appropriate, but they’ve already been there and done that. Remember when Marvel was waging its anti-Bush crusade and had ol’ Cap martyred by a sniper’s bullet for championing civil liberties? Or how about earlier this year when they had him take on the greatest threat of our time, Al Qaeda Red China the tea-party movement? If Johnston’s hot to do some radical reinterpretation of Captain America, making him the flag-waving Nazi-smiter he started off as is about as radical at this point as you can get.
Only the liberals in Hollywood would change a classic comic book hero who (gasp) is patriotic and turn him into a character who “makes the rest of the world great”…
If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural. American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys. But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture.
But a WWII Cap? It doesn’t make sense.
Bob Calhoun at Salon:
If Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church had his way, God would be sending biblical plagues down upon the San Diego Convention Center right about now and turning hundreds of nerds dressed in Batman costumes into pillars of salt.
It’s the first full day of the San Diego Comic-Con. I was in front of the convention center, trying to cross the street against an unending tide of convention-goers carrying oversized bags stuffed with assorted plastic figurines and video games. As I made it to the crosswalk, I saw a man in a checkered shirt on the side of the road holding up a lime-green Day-Glo sign that read “GOD HATES KITTENS” with a picture of a cat pasted to it. I chuckled and snapped a couple of pictures of him. I’m taking a lot of pics at Comic-Con this year. Next to the man with the sign expressing the Lord’s hatred of baby felines was a person dressed like Bender, the robot from “Futurama,” holding up a sign that read “KILL ALL HUMANS!” I took some more pictures of the beginnings of a picket line bathed in satire.
I then saw a line of cops behind Bender the robot, and beyond them were the God Hates Fags people. Fred Phelps and his congregation from the Westboro Baptist Church took some time away from protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers to spend a little time waving their hateful placards in the general direction of Comic-Con and its annual mega-gathering of movie stars, geeks, nerds, Klingons, stormtroopers and multitudes of gals dressed in Princess Leia slave-girl outfits.
“…of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for the Dark Knight is by my side.”
I normally would at least wag a finger there – it’s not unreasonable to find that at least a little rude – but it was in response to the Fred Phelps freaks showing up at a comic book convention, which means that context is going to come into play here. Given that I’ve heard ordinary, decent Christians happily endorse the idea that a good curbstomping would be an excellent way to respond to the Phelps clan’s habit of protesting soldiers’ funerals, I think that we can forgive invoking the geek community’s invocation of Batman.