Comic book movies are celebrating a renaissance right now, but historically films based on comics haven’t always been as good. Prior to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the majority of comic-based films languished as tepid, over-wrought, formulaic slogs (with exception to Superman I & II, Tim Burton’s Batman movies, and Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies. And maybe Blade, which I liked). I’ve avoided watching the worst of these so far, but I’ve decided that it’s time I appreciate what nerds like me once had to put up with. I’ll watch these terrible movies and report on them so that you will never have to. Along the way I’ll drink to dull the pain. Let’s hope this doesn’t kill me.
The rules I’ve laid down are simple: the movies are based on a comic book, made before 2000, and have a sub 5.0 rating on IMDB. On top of that, each movie will be paired with a liquor or signature drink that will not be repeated.
The first misadventure in film is the first big-screen feature starring Captain America. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad- it was never released theatrically in the United States, but did have a foreign release. The drink of choice is Brewer’s Art Bird House- a very nice pale ale made by the folks here in Baltimore. It’s easy to drink, with a good balance of malts and hops and has an oriole on the can. I have a feeling the beer will be the most pleasant thing of the night.
This movie is… ugh. This was a painful way to start out this series. The movie starts in Nazi-controlled Italy and everyone speaks Italian or German, with three or four lines subtitled. It starts with the back-story of the Red Skull, who’s now Italian and his family was killed by Nazis. This is not befitting of a villain who is supposed to work with Hitler until he decides Adolf isn’t evil enough, but you soon find out that nothing in this movie makes sense. Captain America is shown as a dorky looking thirty-something living with his mother when he gets chosen for a government project. Thanks to handy exposition, we learn he has polio. He becomes Captain America by flexing while being electrocuted, because there must have been absolutely no budget for this movie. I’m going to need more beer.
After he becomes Captain America, the military waits all of five days to drop him behind enemy lines to stop a rocket launch. As much as the characters describe everything that’s going on, they never say why they thought this was a good idea. The Red Skull is there because of course he is, and his makeup actually makes him look really cool. They never explain why he’s evil, though. After getting his ass kicked, Captain America is strapped to the rocket and as it’s about to launch he grabs the Red Skull’s hand. The Red Skull, a genius because the movie told us so, pulls out a knife and cuts off his own hand. Genius. There’s no other way the Red Skull could have gotten out of that with a knife and close proximity to a dork strapped to a rocket. Also, for as good as the Red Skull looks, Cap looks that much worse. Look at these goddamn ears:
Anyway, Cap gets frozen and we’re treated to a montage of spinning newspapers (honestly) to tell us that it’s modern day. Red Skull now runs some evil Illuminati but couldn’t win WWII for some reason, and he now looks somewhat normal. Cap thaws after being found by West Germans (the good Germans!) and wanders around Alaska for a while. He steals a car and smuggles himself in a beer truck back to mainland USA. I wish I was kidding about anything in that last sentence, but I’m not. During the truck ride the movie stops having characters tell us what’s going on and has a song do it for us. It’s the worst song the 80s has produced, and I’m including Milli Vanilli on that list.
The main crux of the movie is that the Red Skull wants to stop the President of the United States for some reason and kidnaps him. As an aside, only the President and the Red Skull know that there is a Captain America, and only because the President saw him when he was a kid wandering around Washington DC at night. So when Cap thaws, the Red Skull knows he’s back and sends his brooding and inept daughter to kill him. The Red Skull captures the President and his daughter kills Cap’s old love interest, so Cap takes his ex-girlfriend’s daughter and goes to Rome to stop this. That’s the last we’ll see America in a movie called Captain America. It makes me feel patriotic and not drunk enough.
Cap tracks down a recording of the Nazis killing the Red Skull’s parents and his ex-girlfriend’s daughter records it on a walkman because one Chekov’s Gun deserves another. I think I should point out that I didn’t learn anyone’s names for the entire movie because they were completely forgettable and wooden. Anyway Cap tracks down the Red Skull who now has some super weapon that had never been mentioned before and he plays the recording of his family getting murdered before knocking him off a castle turret with a piano on it down a cliff. There’s so much stupid shit in this movie crammed into 90 minutes I wish I had to patience to dig into all of it, but 20 minutes in I just gave up getting frustrated. I only finished three beers but I was aiming for five. I should have had eight.
- In addition to spending 20 minutes in America, Cap spends about 10 minutes in his uniform. But considering his ears, that’s not a bad thing.
- The Red Skull chopping off his hand is never mentioned after it happens. It serves no purpose but to show how poor he is at being a bad guy.
- Even at the end of the movie, only a handful of people know that Captain America exists. On the other hand, he’s a shitty hero.
- They make the Red Skull out to be a misunderstood villain, ala Frankenstein’s Monster, but don’t bother to redeem him. A better- and more comic-friendly- ending would have him breaking down after hearing the recording to be hauled off to jail.
- Cap’s shield sounds like a bobcat every time he throws it. I enjoyed imagining him throwing a feral mountain cat and bad guys.
- Good at spy stuff: Cap steals two cars by pretending to be sick and then running back in the car when the driver gets out to check on him, and he also hides from bad guys by just standing underneath stairs at one point.
Bottom line: It’s bad enough to be good to watch with friends and make fun of. The whole thing is shot like a “very special” episode of Full House, but with more transparent writing. Stan Lee claimed that movie went for re-shoots because it was so good the audience was clamoring for more. That’s some of the best spin I’ve ever heard from a producer.
Next up will be “The Fantastic Four” from 1994, a movie that was never meant to see the light of day. It will be paired with four different vodka drinks. If you have any suggestions for movies or drinks, or just want to yell words at me, leave a comment below or tweet me @CaptJohnstarr.