While the “new” Captain America movies are both excellent, the late 70s movies are so bad and boring that it feels like they reached forward in time to throttle any enjoyment we might get, and leave any fans with a sense of dread upon seeing the iconic outfit in any media. So with those two cancelling each other out, we’re left with 1990’s version, with a suitably odd backstory to it. Which side of the fence will this one fall on?
Cannon Films, old friends of ours (subjects of the documentary “Electric Boogaloo”) had the rights to create movies based on Spider-Man and Captain America, thanks to Marvel not realising how many billions of dollars they could make from these franchises. They’d hired our old friend Albert Pyun, and he had the truly insane idea of directing them both at the same time; luckily, Cannon had a cashflow problem at the time so sold the rights to Spider-Man.
The only two things we really know about Albert Pyun is that he’s the guy hired to finish off films that are running way over budget, and that he’s completely uninterested in showing how one thing logically follows another thing in his movies. His best effort here is half a second of a plane in flight to show that action has moved from the USA to Italy, but he doesn’t usually even give us that much, leading to the feeling that poor Ned Beatty (the childhood friend of the President) can teleport from Washington to northern Canada and back in minutes.
But the film! After giving us a whole new Italian origin for the Red Skull, possibly because the actor they hired for the part couldn’t do a German accent, possibly because they were offered some filming time in Italy, we’re right in there with Captain America himself, Steve Rogers. As they couldn’t make him tiny by CGI means, a la Chris Evans in the recent movie, they make him disabled, as he walks with a stick, which is actually quite a clever way round it. Anyway, in shocking news for a film we review, they actually get on with it quite quickly, and Rogers is super-serumed and in full costume as the Cap by about 20 minutes in. Well done!
It’s just everything after that that falls to pieces. Cap tries to stop a Nazi rocket bound for Washington, but just rides it across the Atlantic and only tries to divert it when it’s about 100 feet away fron the White House; he ends up then going to Alaska (all the way on the other side of the country from Washington) and getting himself frozen until the present day. Luckily, the freezing doesn’t age him in any way, so there’s that.
The Red Skull has set up a criminal empire in the intervening years, and from about 30 minutes in he’s just a guy with a normal-coloured face and some nasty scars. Whether the Red Skull-ness healed itself up after a while or they were planning to tear off his fake skin near the end and never got round to it is sadly never revealed. Cap has to go to Italy with his old girlfriend’s adult daughter (they do the reunion after 40 years rather well, I thought), rescue the President and save the day.
Just as you’d expect from an Albert Pyun movie, the problems are legion, even if you ignore the lack of connective tissue between scenes. The first 20 minutes are sort of okay, then it just becomes boring – yet another movie that just doesn’t understand why people want to watch superhero movies. Captain America displays no evidence of super-powers at all, and they never bother explaining how he got his shield or why it’s indestructible and always returns to his hand. The guy playing him, Matt “son of JD” Salinger, can’t act worth a damn either…it’s just a boring waste of time pretty much starting at the time Cap is thawed out.
Actually, there’s a handy little reminder of how no-one involved in making this cared, at all. There’s the spinning headlines thing to illustrate the passing decades, and despite the camera focusing on this, no-one thought enough of the audience to do it again, only without the spelling mistakes:
Albert Pyun has spent most of his adult life making movies, while I’m currently sat with a sore arm trying to get my cat to stop trying to climb on it and hurt me, after yet another day at the office. I just wish he realised how lucky he was to be doing what he’s doing and put some effort into it.
Rating: thumbs down