On Friday night I reluctantly dropped $17 to watch Captain America in 3D. Sliding into the cushy seat with a bag of popcorn and a Diet Coke, I hoped the experience would be worth it. Truthfully, I’m no die-hard Marvel fan, but by the time I left the theater, Cap had stolen my heart and ignited it with patriotic pride.
I was worried about classy Cap being thrown into the mess of our age. I’d rather him stay in 1940 so I could dream of time-traveling back to the good ole days when women wore skirts instead of yoga pants. Instead, I thought he successfully injected our cynical world with a dose of WWII American pride.
So you can imagine my shock when I read Armond White’s scathing review of the film. He writes:
[Captain America] Evans’s emblematic face has no emotion behind it. What he conveys, actually, given the way the actor plays down physical passion in favor of bland duty, is a political anachronism.
He continues, bashing the movie’s alleged liberal politics, raging against the superficiality and lack of substance, and yearning for something more.
I’m dumbfounded. All I can say is that’s not at all what I saw.
Let’s get this straight: His dashingly good looks aside, Captain America is still 95. He was part of the greatest generation, and has the mind and memories of the days before the Internet and Steve Jobs. Throughout the film, Cap is clearly the good guy. He doesn’t lie, he stands for truth, he can hardly remember how to kiss a girl. As the last vestige of the “greatest generation,” he believes in fighting for what’s right, even if he’s confused about what that is.
It also reveals a fundamental shift in modern war. Cap isn’t fighting Nazis anymore—bad guys clearly labeled by their uniforms. Our enemies today don’t come from within a country’s borders. As M declared in Skyfall, “I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map. They’re not nations, they’re individuals.”
It’s that frightening reality which drives the Security State. That’s where we get the NSA tracking our every move and drones targeting a kill list. Unsurprisingly, Cap simply isn’t comfortable with that kind of intrusion.
“This isn’t freedom. This is fear,” he tells Fury. Later he quips, “I thought the punishment usually came after the crime.”
The bad guys explain how they envision a world where people, so exhausted by turmoil and chaos, willingly give up their freedom for the sake of safety. One informs Cap, “Captain, in order to build a better world, it sometimes means tearing the old one down.”
Yes, this is a blatantly political movie, but I would call it neither superficial nor liberal. In fact, a government where the powerful usurp personal freedom in the name of safety sounds terribly tyrannical. That’s something conservatives should rally against.
So I must respectfully disagree with White. Not only are this movie’s themes inherently American, they are revealing and probing. Not only does Cap’s physical strength awe, his moral fortitude and deep-set loyalty win the day. Additionally, the movie has all the humor, action, and flirtatiousness that a good superhero flick needs.
Cap’s a classy all-American guy, navigating the twenty-first century while keeping a grip on traditional, timeless values. It doesn’t get more heroic than that.