Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America: First Avenger - Double Barrel Movie Review

This double barrel film review represents Rick and Ben's separate opinions after viewing the Captain America film. Neither knows what the other will write. It contains plenty of spoilers so don't read these reviews if you haven't yet seen the film or unless knowing details of the film won't bother you. Please enjoy and leave your own comments or reviews for us!

First Avenger: First Impressions.

Review by RICK

You Need To Go See It!
Captain America: First Avenger is a fun movie which I highly recommend. Joe Johnston needs to be credited here for succeeding in making the era and the characters come alive. I recommend it for Cap fans, comic fans, families and just about everyone - as it is designed and executed with a great deal of care toward making the story accessible. When I spoke to non-comic people who had seen the film, opinion was very high and almost universally all were surprised with just how good it was to watch. This is the sort of film that hasn't been made in a while, a thoughtful character heavy summer action blockbuster. And it also has a very sweet love story woven through it. Hats off!!

Like many movies, ambitious or not, all the cylinders did not fire properly. This is not meant to denigrate the total achievement but when they go to make another Cap film some fine tuning is in order. As evidenced by the entirety of the blog Ben and I have amassed, we might have done things a lot differently. I would like to keep my focus just on what the filmmakers themselves present, it's own logic, execution and how elements work in the whole film. I will try to keep away from blog comparisons for now.

I was really quite impressed with the visual effect of Steve Rogers being scrawny. As the director has rightly pointed out, watching the character as played by Chris Evens as skinny and then puffed out as superhuman lends a lot of credibility to the transformation of the character. Unfortunately, later, the same trick can not be applied to show Cap changing from U.S. war bond shill to leader on the battlefield. While I feel that Chris Evans pulled off what he was asked to do, the story itself did not convincingly portray him changing to fill that role or commanding with any kind of authority later. This is too bad. One of the important parts of the character is his presence and this was not successful.

Friday, July 22, 2011

ReCap! BEN

Though I've reached a signpost,
It's really not the end,
Like Old Sol behind the mountain,
I'll be coming up again...

(Rush - Caress of Steel, "The Fountain of Lamneth")

Life is interesting in its endings and beginnings—especially these days how quickly they come and go. Even if you don't know where you're going, all roads lead somewhere so it's best to pay attention! And what a trip it's been. As both Rick and I have said a number of times, neither of us expected to write all these notes and emails on myths and shields and Cap, let alone a blog. There was just something that felt very right about asking these questions. Cap is a character largely viewed out of step with modern characters and we dared disagree—to the extent of saying Cap is exactly the character we need right now. There is nothing wrong with real patriotism or being proud of freedom and democracy. It just takes... tact. You can't force someone to believe in freedom. There's a wonderful line in the venerable western film High Noon which says it pretty dern well...

"People gotta talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it."
-Lon Chaney, Jr. as "Martin Howe"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Thoughts and Thanks by Rick.

Before we get too far along, there are two BIG posts left in the series after this one. Friend, collaborator and filmmaker Ben Alpi will have some space of his own to say thank you and then we will have a double trouble film review of Captain America: First Avenger. Do not miss these upcoming posts!

I would like first of all to thank God for his many blessings. Without His love and guidance none of this would have been possible. Ben Alpi deserves a huge round of applause here as well. For more than four years, he worked tirelessly, patiently and helped provide an environment where my constant questioning and tinkering were acceptable. My brother, Doug Arthur, also an artist, filmmaker and musician constantly supported my efforts with his own wild brand of enthusiasm which has been of tremendous help to me through the years. My parents, who have watched me go through a lot of different phases, have always told me to get a real job but supported my decisions when I didn't. Simon and Kirby who created Cap at the right time and the right place. Wife Lynn whom I love most of all for putting up with my extremely late nights, especially this past year. Thank you one and all.

Captain America! Redefining Modern Myth did not start out as a blog at all. Ben and I simply traded emails back and forth for three years, then collected them, then made posts out of that. Our original intent was simply to have fun and explore what Cap might be like if we were going to make a two hour movie. I have told Ben many times that the best part of the blog was the conversational tone. He gave me a lot of leeway to run with plot or character points that were off the beaten path. Taken as a whole, the blog paints a rich picture of not only Steve Rogers and Captain America but the time in which both exist.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cap Reference Archive

Links. Books. Film. TV. Thoughts. Some influences and suggestions.

This section is an eclectic collection of links and suggestions for books and films. Some of them have to deal directly with Captain America while others deal with WWII, myths, screenwriting and a lot of influences that inspired the collective work that is Captain America! Redefining Modern Myth. It should be noted also that certain items have been included just to get the mental gears turning or for entertainment value.

For example, we didn't use this to inform our overall opinion but for entertainment purposes, check out Matt Salinger in the 1990 Captain America film. This is the IMDb link:

Pre-WWII History

On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. "As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent," he wrote James Madison,"it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
Quick George Washington bio from the official White House site.

Benjamin Franklin bio

Timeline for Declaration of Independence
via Google Images

Revolutionary War flags

1776 the Musical: The Film - IMDb

Quick bio of Thomas Jefferson

Abe Lincoln bio

Abraham Lincoln was the president that held together the union—by force

1918 Flu Epidemic timeline

PBS site re: 1918 Flu Epidemic

Flu Epidemic additional info

The Great Depression timeline

Friday, July 15, 2011


RICK: Red Skull is Captain America's villain during WWII and an evil bent on destroying the world. Red Skull must be defeated and Captain America must win. Yet, Cap must also end up frozen in ice AND the Red Skull must get away to plot evil again. To portray this in terms of film, each scene must balanced or the ending will be flat.

BEN: I think y'all get the picture so I'm going to add a couple of notes at the end. Enjoy the show!

SUMMARY PT. 1, 2, 3 & 4
Somewhere below the Arctic Circle the Red Skull holds Cap inside a submarine. Cap is weak and bound, an easy kill for the Red Skull. We soon discover that the Red Skull has other plans for Cap. They come face to face and must fight. We pick up the story as Cap has just beaten Red Skull.


Continued from last post...INT. SUBTERRANEAN BASE - HANGAR
...Cap lands a flurry of lefts and rights until Red Skull collapses on top of a stack of crates.

How far will you go? What are you willing to do to stop me...

Until I have beaten you. That is how far.

Cap punches Red Skull directly in the face, dislodging a tooth. He is down for the count. Cap walks over and picks up his shield. The girls are huddled next to a car crying, flames still burning in the background.

You have proven to be rather resilient Captain America.

Cap turns to find Red Skull standing, leaning heavily against some crates. He is obviously injured and cupping both hands against his chest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


RICK: Red Skull is Captain America's villain during WWII and an evil bent on destroying the world. Red Skull must be defeated and Captain America must win. Yet, Cap must also end up frozen in ice AND the Red Skull must get away to plot evil again. To portray this in terms of film, each scene must balanced or the ending will be flat.

BEN: Like 1-3, I'll comment after the first go-through of Rick's script.

SUMMARY PT. 1, 2 & 3
Somewhere below the Arctic Circle the Red Skull holds Cap inside a submarine. Cap is weak and bound, an easy kill for the Red Skull. We soon discover that the Red Skull has other plans for Cap. They come face to face and must fight.


Cap and the Red Skull stand a few feet apart. Cap is looking for an opening.

You are totally out matched. Why don't you simply give up. No one would
know except you and I. If you found yourself back in Europe or in the
States and told them I got away, it wouldn't be a lie.

Cap swings with his right and connects hard then follows it with a knee to the chest and another right. Red Skull staggers.

Is that all you've got? (Wipes trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth with
the back of his hand) That Super Soldier Serum you have in
your veins is only going to make you my punching bag.

Monday, July 11, 2011


RICK: Red Skull is Captain America's villain during WWII and an evil bent on destroying the world. Red Skull must be defeated and Captain America must win. Yet, Cap must also end up frozen in ice AND the Red Skull must get away to plot evil again. To portray this in terms of film, each scene must balanced or the ending will be flat.

BEN: Like last time, I'll comment after the first go-through of his script.

Somewhere below the Arctic Circle the Red Skull holds Cap inside a submarine.
Cap is weak and bound, an easy kill for the Red Skull. We soon discover that the Red Skull has other plans for Cap.


Captain America stands in the doorway of the compartment, shield in hand. The stinging, icy water filling the area and the hallway is now just above the knee. Lights flicker. The sound of rushing water and twisting metal becomes louder. Cap sees a pipe overhead marked "Hot Water" in German and decides to take a right down the corridor. No sign of Hilda or the Red Skull.

He goes through a hatch which he has to force open because of the water and comes to a shaft leading downward. He slides down using just the handrails. This level has less water in it, up to the shins. The ship gives a great shudder and the groaning and breaking of metal can be heard everywhere. Cap only has minutes to get out. At that moment, the electric lights go out and Cap is in pitch blackness with the water rising rapidly. Which way to turn?

The Red Skull walks the girls into a front compartment.

Mein Fuhrer did not like to retreat but it is time for me to get started and pop the champagne.

Friday, July 8, 2011


RICK: Red Skull is Captain America's villain during WWII and an evil, sadistic man bent on destroying the whole world. Red Skull must be defeated and Captain America must win. Yet, Cap must also end up frozen in ice at the end AND the Red Skull must limp away to plot evil again. To portray this in terms of film, each scene must balanced or the ending will be flat...

BEN: Like last time, I'll comment after the first go-through of his script.

Somewhere below the Arctic Circle the Red Skull holds Cap inside a submarine. Cap is weak and bound, an easy kill for the Red Skull...

What was motivating you to crawl to me on your hands and
knees? You are simply too weak for me to care about.

He leaves Hilda to slit Cap's throat.

An now for PT. 2!



Red Skull can be seen walking through corridors, sliding down ladders to lower levels until he catches up to the two large Nazis and the three remaining bar maids.

Where is Hilda...?

She volunteered to stay with the American. She won't be joining us.

They reach a hatch going down. It has a warning "X" on it. The Red Skull spins the handle, opens it and motions for the girls to go down the ladder.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


RICK: Red Skull is Captain America's badass villain during WWII. Without a doubt an evil man bent on destroying the world. I wanted to do a version of the climatic last scene with the two characters facing off. This is rough. If you understand the dynamic it fits nicely with how comics operate as a serial form of storytelling. Red Skull must be defeated soundly and Captain America must be triumphant. Yet, Cap must be frozen in ice at the end which is not much of a victory. AND the Red Skull must be able to limp away to plot again, which also is not much of a victory... Note the cliffhanger moments and pulpy, movie serial feel.

BEN: What I'll be doing afterward is commenting on Rick's rough here about character and dialog and refining it into the film script.

The following five part series takes place after Teaser Trailer: The Cold (Emails #28). Cap has been soundly beaten by the Red Skull, Bucky has been killed and all seems lost even though Hitler is dead...


The wind howls and tears at the camera. We are in the frozen wasteland. It is snowing very hard.

A single open pipe measuring four to five inches around sticks up out of the ice.

Goes into the pipe and we follow it down a long way unto we start hearing voices, German voices. We now CUT TO the interior of what appears to be a compartment on a submarine. It has metal portal doors and bolts everywhere. Cap lays unmoving on a metal bunk bed and four beautiful girls dressed as barmaids are moving about the room taking turns kissing Cap and giggling while he sleeps.

SOUND EFFECT: Loud knocking at the door, metal on metal. The hatch handle spins and a giant man in Nazi uniform steps in followed by another. The girls line up against the far wall. Next through the hatch is the Red Skull looking very menacing. He gestures with his hand for them to be quiet and steps toward the bunk where Cap is motionless. He produces a cigar, lights it and takes a few long drags.

Wake him.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Captain America: Independence Day


Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 in which we declared our independence from Great Britain. America's a young 235 today and this year, Cap turned 70! To commemorate this grand occasion, Rick and I would like to feature the actual documents that define the great American experiment and to treat you to one of our little original story sketches the blog here is known for. We know Steve Rogers would definitely approve.

As always, thanks for reading, folks! Have a GREAT 4th!

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Emails #63: Revisionista

RICK: I just finished reading a particularly breezy "first look" article of Captain America: I am the First Avenger in the Avenger Movie Franchise! Hugo Weaving is pictured. His uniform bears a Hydra patch. No Swastika. No Iron Cross. No German emblems or otherwise mandatory Nazi symbolism. We wouldn't want to offend German movie goers by painting them as villains now would we? I bring this up because the director is quoted using the old two step. We wanted to stay true to the original source material. We don't want it to look like a comic book, too bright, winged mask... It is set in real world WWII. It is set in the Marvel universe. Oh, Cap will lead a group called the Howling Commandoes AND Tony Stark's father, Hydra and an international group will be part of Captain America's origin. In historical fact, the UNITED STATES FOUGHT NAZIS during WWII. They were German and they were evil (not all German people were evil then or now). Millions lost their lives in the struggle. Surprisingly, in Marvel events, CAP FOUGHT NAZIS!!! Lots of them. So many in fact that the theme of Cap fighting them carried for decades in the comics long after the real WWII had ended. Don't forget that Simon and Kirby had created Cap for the sole purpose of... you guessed it... FIGHTING NAZIS. Why is fighting NAZIS important? Because they WERE EVIL!! A greater example of non-ambiguous evil can not be found in recent history although you can certainly stack up quite a few regimes and failed states in the evil category. Yet Cap, who was created as a response to NAZISM by comic book legends Simon and Kirby, was punching Hitler and Tojo in the comic pages before America even entered fighting. But maybe I got it all wrong. I haven't done as much reading on the subject as it warrants. Maybe Hydra was the real enemy in Simon & Kirby's Cap. Maybe in Marvel lore, it is Hydra and not the Nazis...

As a plus side, Chris Evans seems to be quoted showing a great deal of respect and concern for the character. A few more stills in print show him looking much, much more Cap than I had previously thought. He is starting to look the part and I haven't seen anything in print attributed to him that indicated a poor attitude as far as the character was concerned. My concern that he not have enough gravitas to play a genuine leader still remain.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emails #62: Working Title


We are getting close to something. People throughout time have needed heroes. The world now, in its dangerous and cynical shape, needs heroes. America has had the wind taken out of it's sails. It too needs heroes. What better hero for America than Captain America? The need for heroes is so strong that if none are handy, we invent them. Where was Cap when the space shuttle exploded? Out on a smoke break? Cap represents American virtues. He is the kind of person we all want to be, compassionate, full of conviction, forthright, honest and moral. Where was Cap during Vietnam? Cap is also a leader who inspires hope. Does Wolverine or any of the 60,000 other X-Men inspire hope? Cap is the role model we need to help us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue on...

Cap! A Modern Adapting
A discussion about film, storytelling and the American spirit
Ben Alpi - Director/Producer for Runic Films
Rick Arthur - Writer/Cartoonist

BEN: Cap! Modernizing Modern Myth
A discussion about film, storytelling and the American spirit.
Ben Alpi - Director/Producer, Runic Films
Rick Arthur - Writer/Cartoonist
You like?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Emails #61: American Identity

Mr. Rick, what do you think we might call the blog? I usually do a little brainstorming, a bit of word play. Let me see...
Cap and Trade (hmm, that might be kind of horrible)
Cap: Declaration of Adaptation
Cap: Culture War
Cap: Media Conflict
Captaining Across Media
Cap: Bridging Media
Cap: Adapting a Legend
Myth and Legends
Adapting Cap
"from a production based perspective" I'm not sure that's quite it.
"A discussion into the inner workings of creativity in film, comic books, writing and popular culture"
"A discussion about adapting comic books to film that transformed into a..."

Benito- Try these on for size:
Cap: Myth, Legend, Media Adaptation
A discussion into adapting an icon across media platforms

Cap! Adapting the Myth and Legend
The creative discussions to rethink an American icon for film and narrative media
I like this last one.We should have a big Cap star and a swastika on the front page as a graphic motif to symbolize the conflict...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Emails #60: No Swastikas

BEN: A collaboration sounds great, Mr. Rick. Question for you: Can and should we do a joint blog post which tells a bit of our story and includes parts of our letters and writings? You can see other posts I've done at

RICK: Do you mean a Cap blog? Since the original material was not designed for a blog, it will have to be edited.

If you mean a blog for a new project, I will have to think about it.

I was thinking of a single article (post), not a continuing blog. One thing we could do is work up a brief telling of our story and our findings. Another possibility is sort of interview each other conversationally and add in any other details we think relevant. I wouldn't want it to be very long as we're so busy, but I think the core of what we found is something worth telling the world about. Even if we don't talk about Cap at all, we could still talk about the state of the movie biz and our opinions on what we'd like to see in future films (of ours and others.) As an example of what I was thinking lemme try...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Emails #59: 1,000 Script Changes

Sept 28, 2010

Dear Rick,

I'd like to respond to your letter now from back in August, although it will be brief since you've stated so eloquently feelings that so closely mirror my own. It has been a wonderful experience to work with you on this, Rick. We may come at things from very different angles and opinions, but creative nuance boils down to semantics. What really counts is our heart-ache at the current state of things we love. Graphic novels have become quite popular (and have always been exceedingly popular in the UK, I'm told) but comic books have languished. I don't think they're dead, but I think the mass media money, money, money aspect may finally do its damage and reduce the industry back to a manageable size. But I have to note that the art I see coming out is horrible. X-Men looks like a fringe indie comic by some kid just starting out or some hack who thinks he can draw. Re-hashed ideas just piling up and flooding the market with garbage. I look longingly back at writers like Chris Claremont who I kind of hated for being so dang deep and heart-wrenching. And so the fertile concepts grown over 80 years are now being farmed slash-and-burn style. The film industry has lost its way in the same manner. It bites at its own back for fleas they can remake. Meanwhile the indie market has been bought and packaged by the studios as tiny versions of themselves and no one is taking risks anymore. Forgotten are the out-of-no-where/never-going-to-work films that grew their companies into massive corporations. STUDIO: 'We have to make another Spider-man film right now or our profits will shrink by billions. Just make these 1000 script changes to expand the audience appeal, add this pop star and this other villain (our metrics show kids like this one) and get shooting.' RAIMI: 'Eff you.' Bravo Sam.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Emails #58: Schedules - More Important Than Content

Note from the editors: Don't worry folks, there is more blog goodness to come! There are 15 posts (oh my!) to follow. Stay tuned!



The Avengers will get made. People, even those with blocks of ice for heads will understand that Cap is part of the Avengers team. The title is clunky and not very catchy. Maybe I will be just blown away by the Cap movie. Maybe my socks will actually come off. I kinda doubt it though. The technology exists to create just about anything for the movies, fully rendered and realistic if need be. This technology has developed rapidly in the last thirty years and the crunching power of computers to do the hard work of making special effects, backgrounds and composites and now actual characters has leap-frogged. The sophisticated matte shots thought up by George Lucas for the original Star Wars are kid's stuff compared to what the camera and computer can do now. I mention this obvious point to bring up the fact that it is good old fashioned storytelling that makes a movie great, not effects. The writing, the performances, the sound, the music, the direction, the editing... Labor intensive human efforts and collaborative at that. A tremendous amount goes into making a big budget film these days and it seems a shame that scripts get rushed through, too many hands are on the page marking it up, schedules are more important than content. Release dates are announced ahead of scripts or casting or even choice of director.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Emails #57: Two-Fisted Justice

RICK: My Captain America feels the losses. He also knows that ending the war quickly is the only way to save lives. He looks over his shoulder at the men who have fallen and it only galvanizes his efforts. Should have copied the interview link but it is since lost. How would World War II have been different if America had gotten involved in 1934? Or 1936? Or 1938? Part of the reason for this isolationist policy was the horrors of WWI. This was Europe's war. The land struggles and ethnic rivalries were European. America was not yet a super power either. It is a sign of the nation's moral softness that we did not intervene earlier. Think of the lesson we did not learn in Rwanda. Evil must always be made to face the righteous fury of those who stand against it. We came to the aid of France, Britain and Russia when they were on the mat NOT because we opposed evil, a European evil so far away. Captain America was dreamed up by Kirby and Simon BEFORE America entered the war. They understood this evil and they had Cap fighting Hitler and Tojo before Pearl Harbor. In their comic, Cap is a hero, a full blown patriot. There were no excuses for him being American. He doled out two-fisted justice where it was needed. This was not some impassioned plea by two Jewish kids for America to sit on the sidelines and wait it out. Simon and Kirby saw America as being in the thick of it, leading by example.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Emails #56: Unmistakably, Unrelentingly American

RICK: I just finished reading a series of comments that the Cap director Joe Johnston made regarding Cap. I suppose it is to be expected. Shooting has already begun and the script vetted by everyone who was going to get their hands on it. It was disheartening because his view of Cap as much more "international" in range. This kind of revisionist, liberal crap is what turns people off.Cap as a character, as envisioned by Simon & Kirby, was a direct response to the hideous evil that was unleashed in Germany, Japan and Italy during WWII and America's need to step in and combat tyranny. The struggle to create a super soldier has by necessity been a long one covering many years and guided by many hands—all with the express purpose of giving the United States of America a secret weapon during war time. Steve Rogers becomes Captain America (Not Captain Ally or Captain United Nations) and is able to give hope to our troops in the darkest of fights. This is the real strength of Cap and not his fighting prowess. In the field, he can do very little except act as a human symbol to remind the other soldiers why they fight and what they fight for. The ideals of liberty, freedom, might and compassion. Victory in WWII was not assured just because the Americans got involved. England was taking a pounding and many other countries had already been overrun. Germany had also been racing to develop its own super soldier...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Emails #55: Strength To Inspire

Okay. This is sorta what I am aiming for. Not exactly. Mostly I am looking for a large variety of different ways to tell the Cap narrative and also give the human angle; the impact, the emotion, the changes that Cap made to people during the war. His strength to inspire will go from the lowest Joe to the highest general, from the peasants and partisans to the Nazi soldier in the trenches and the folks back home. If that means:

  • An eighty-two year old recounting events.
  • A letter home.
  • Flipping back and forth in time to get different perspectives.
  • A radio broadcast.
  • A news reel.
  • A newspaper headline.

You get the idea. I want to be able to capture the feeling that Cap is inspiring millions during the black days of war. I want to be able to do that by being able to flit through other people's experiences.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Emails #54: Most Of These Men Won't Make It

SUPER: D-Day - Normandy, France

I want you to speak to the troops son.

I've never given a speech before.

Odds are that most of these men won't make it. For those that do,
I want you to remind them why they are here. Just tell them what you told me
last night. I have a feeling you'll be a natural.

I'll give it my best, Captain.

These men are counting on you...

Captain M. L. Phelps, Ret.
Captain America and a World at War
Documentary Interview

Weather and enemy guns had turned the parachute drops into a massacre. We found ourselves huddled in a farmhouse wine cellar behind the lines in France. We were rattled awake by the thunder of German tanks and the parade of infantry boots streaming by on the narrow road outside. We had found ourselves pinned down and ferociously outnumbered. It was only a matter of time before our location was scouted for supplies. We waited in silence for the enemy to find us. Each of us in that small group knew that every breath could be our last. Abruptly we heard the sound of doors being kicked in upstairs and glass breaking. This was it. We all lost hope that we would make it out alive...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Movie Review Double Shot

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you another super-powered double feature of two fresh movie reviews! We'll return to you to our regularly scheduled 'Emails' series (every Mon, Wed and Fri!) program tomorrow. Please enjoy!

SPOILERS! DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER! TURN BACK! (unless you've seen the film)

Review of X-Men: First Class by Rick

This is an odd review for me to write. It is odd in that X-Men was one of my favorite comics when I was collecting and like a lot of people I have a strong fondness for the characters. It is hard for me to watch what the comics have become. Oversold. Over hyped. In many cases the artwork is just about as much gibberish as the stories. Characters sprout up at an alarming rate and the mutant abilities they posses are so outlandish as to be comedic punch lines. In many ways the "success" of X-Men as a tent pole franchise for Marvel is what has destroyed its uniqueness. While this is not to sweepingly condemn art and story in all the X titles, coherent work is drowned out by the incoherent. This trend has continued with the X-Men films. Without much surprise, the first X-Men film was the best of the lot.

If you want to have a quick read about the high pressure/high stakes of film making take a look at the wiki for X-Men (film).

It has the typical trajectory of many movies during the development process where rafts of scripts are written and characters are included, excluded and blended together for budgetary and other reasons. For me this is an important consideration. While the wiki I have linked to discusses the original X-Men film, the behind the scenes twists and turns of making a big movie are pretty standard. Big budgets and egos are involved as well as contracts, overall film schedules and casting. It is sort of a fascinating area of study that makes you wonder how and why movies get made at all! I include this here to give context to any discussion about the finished product.

As a movie goer, I often rate movie titles for there appropriateness and impact. This title, X-Men: First Class, is bad I feel for a whole variety of reasons. The first class that they speak of is not the first class from the original comics or the team from the Uncanny X-Men. The inclusion of young characters to populate the school includes: Mystique, Angel (the Tinkerbell girl), Beast, Banshee, Darwin and Havok. Am I forgetting anyone? It is hard tell. "code names" are given by the Mystique character for flimsy reasons to the rest of the group. Perhaps the First Class has something to do with high quality? No. My third guess is about airline seating and a fourth guess is postal mailing. We could see sequel titles like: X-Men: Handle With Care; X-Men: This Side Up; X-Men: Xpress Delivery... You get the idea. If they are talking about the first group of mutants to be at the Xavier mansion, great. Except this movie has very little to do with that. The students have almost no bearing on the main plot which involves Magneto taking revenge. They are barely involved in the climax of the film and have nothing to do but provide dorky training sequences and some forgettable dialogue toward the secondary plot. So why is the movie named for them?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Emails #53: ODIN IS A GOD

RICK: I like it and also dislike [Cap's costume for the film as seen on AICN]. Could they at least paint the FTD florist wings on the side of his head? Except for the boots, he doesn't look like he has on any materials which existed during the time period. The harness he is wearing looks good but is totally impractical. This is a good first effort. Unfortunately, it probably won't be revisited. Note the shoulder gear that makes his chest seem bigger and width wider. Get rid of the distracting patches on the leggings. Yuck. Also, GUN!!!! This is a fight to the death.

BEN: Ack! I forgot it was supposed to be WWII era. You're totally right. I didn't mind it so much, but in that context it makes no sense at all. An interesting design, but like you said, not much thought went into it. My first reaction was "What are the buckles for? So he can be grabbed and tossed around?" because they serve no function at all. Brown instead of red gloves/boots I wasn't really a fan of. They keep putting the stars on his shoulders and a Bat-Utility belt. Not sure what that's about. I don't think the belt and glove buckles existed yet. Looks like a football player. I seriously doubt he's going to have the flexibility to raise his arms like that in the top image. It's also interesting that the stars (all) are small and lines try to make him broad, but then his utility belt has pouches big enough to store a Big Mac and large fry each. Pouches as big as his face and fist make him look as tiny as he really is. These are of course concepts, but if they don't modify, he'll look like a child in a costume.

Mmmmmmmmmmm... Big Mac and fries. Maybe Cap can have the golden arches design instead...

The straps on Cap's chest are supposed to be the RED in his red white and blue costume. Maybe a parachute harness? Or perhaps he needs the straps to hold his powerful torso down so it can be glued to the rest of his body... Cap is already sporting the familiar round shield (don't they ever listen?) What was wrong with the original Kirby Cap design? If it is an icon, why change it? Hey, lets make the Coke logo unrecognizable because, you know, modern audiences won't get it until we tinker so much that you can't see the original design...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Emails #52: INCREDIBLE HULK - On The Rampage

RICK: Hulk. Ang Lee Hulk not Stan Lee Hulk. The same questions need to be asked of the Hulk as are asked of Captain America. What is the essence of the character? What is the major conflict? Villains are just icing. I don't blame Ang Lee for making a "Daddy was bad to me" movie. Not understanding the comics, he is trying to tell the story in a way that he understands. Psychology. It fails on so many levels that it is hard to point to one thing as the master stroke.

You must have heard people use the expression, or even use it yourself, "I was not myself." THIS is the Hulk. We are talking about a man who is so bottled up and repressed that he is almost passionless and these emotions live as a distinctly separate identity who channels all the rage, the lust, the greed, the envy. An accident produces very unexpected results, releasing the Hulk from his cage of Banner. Each wants to be totally free of the other. There is no Liv Tyler girlfriend. Banner would never have the courage to talk with her and would leave the room if she entered. The Eric Bana and Ed Norton Banners are both too strong willed. Banner is weak, cowardly, sniveling, he whispers and maybe even stutters. He is book smart and otherwise unworldly, unsophisticated. Hulk on the other hand is all his passion. His rage is not necessarily against his father as in the Ang Lee version. Nope. This guy's rage is against his domineering mother who belittled him, scolded him, emasculated him and taught him to keep his emotions inside. No crying. No speaking. Do as momma says.

Jeckel and Hyde. Two personalities. One body. The accident allows both to be expressed but not at the same time.

Years of psychotherapy and all the King's horses and men can not put Banner/Hulk back together again. Sorry Ang. And as to there being a quiet side to the Hulk, absolutely NOT. There is no such thing. Banner IS the calmer side. Hulk is only passion. The minute you show the green behemoth acting all soft you have violated his character. In Ed Norton's Hulk, he has a pretty moment with a girl, you know, aside from yelling at the thunder. Never happen. Hulk is a toddler filled to overflowing with rage and he will fight like a berserker until exhausted. That is the Hulk. You could never put him for a second into a team of super people. No way.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Emails #51: I AM IRON MAN


The Iron Man material you are about to read actually predates our discussions about Captain America and may have been responsible for kicking off the whole thing. It is included here along with posts #52 & #53 which discuss Thor and Hulk for the obvious reason that they are part of the original Avengers line up. Sadly, no Ant Man exchanges were ever made so the line up just includes The Dream Team.

Please note that the rigor of examining character for film takes these classic stars in different directions than maybe you are used to seeing. I had actually opened up a separate document for the Hulk at one time because I thought it would be great to explore the dramatic Hulk/Banner Jekyll/Hyde relationship further. If you follow certain logical thinking, the path you can take with the characters will be vastly different than what you have come to expect. So, #51 Iron Man followed by Thor and Hulk along with Captain America comprise the heart of the Avengers team as conceived by Stan and Jack for Marvel.

These original messages featuring Iron Man were written on Tue, 23 Jan 2007.

(This exchange starts after Ben sends a link for the Live Free or Die Hard and Iron Man movies.)

Subject: Re: At the movies...
From: Rick Arthur
To: Ben Alpi

Isn't that the dude from Moonlighting? What is he doing in the Iron Man movie?

Tony Stark is...
Stark Raving Mad!
Stark Raving Exciting!
Stark Raving Sexy!


PS Watched Silver Lining. NNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIICCCCCCEEEE. Real Nice. Great little character piece.
Coming SOOON to a bus stop near you...
Thought the special effects were well done. Good acting.
Okay now I need 2 more hours worth and we have a feature.
Good job Ben.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Emails #50: Jean Reno - A Magician's Trick

RICK: Ben, thanks for the conversation. That ten minutes sure seems to fly right by... I was happy to discuss the overuse of special effects as a crutch in storytelling. Repeating any trick fifty times in a movie will make the audience not care. Look at a scene from Mission Impossible. You know the one. Tom Cruise is hanging from a wire. Jean Reno is holding the cable. It is like a magician's trick. Show all the details of an impossible situation and let the audience see that it is impossible. Next, find a way to put your characters in that situation. Up the stakes by having things go wrong. Rat appears. Sweat. Add in a tight time frame. Mix. Stir. Enjoy. This scene is so much more suspenseful (which is the intent) than the helicopter vs. train nonsense at the climax of the film. The helicopter sequence is much more visually intricate and stimulating than suspending Tom Cruise from a wire. But tell me which one feels like the characters are in real danger? Which scene conveys a sense of risk and consequence? Now combine the two. Put Tom Cruise, suspended from a helicopter trying to get inside a room inside a train. Now you have a masterpiece. I am sure Hitchcock would have disdained all the ILM trickery and explosions if he had access to them. He wanted to get inside people's heads and he did. Although the man loved cameras.

Cap is hanging by a wire. Jean Reno is from the French Resistance and he is holding the cable...

BEN: Subtext: Bird on a wire. Hehe.

Very interesting points. I think movies have become like video games and the action movies they were modeled after. Start out weak, get to the end of the level and beat the weak boss. Gain experience and power ups, beat bigger boss... repeat until the end where you fight with massive powers against an uber-boss. Most of the time, the last boss fight is kind of a joke. All flash and no substance. With movies, the climax seems to require some huge stunt instead of real tension. The end of Hulk is a kind of abstract fight that you don't really understand against Bruce's father who really doesn't have the motivation to be a such a jerk face. Why wasn't his dad a drinking asshole who beat him? What does his dad return instead of another villain who represents his dad? The tragedy in the comic seems to be it was his dad that Bruce never got to make pay. No matter how smart he was or how powerful, he'd never be able to get back at his dad. Anyhoo... :-)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Emails #49: Pretty Spry For Eighty, Mr. Rogers


"Order. Order. This hearing will come to order. Honorable chair member Abraham J. Stensdale presiding. Let it be noted that these proceedings are open to the public but may be closed at any time. We call our first witness to testify and in accordance with his wishes, no counsel has been retained. Please place your hand on the bible and before the committee and the American people state your name, age, place of birth and occupation for the record."

"My name is Steven Rogers. I am eighty years old," a collective gasp comes from the gallery. "I was born in Manhattan, New York City and I am a veteran."

"Very well Mr. Rogers. You may be seated. Chair member Stensdale will offer brief remarks and then we will open for questions. This inquiry is simply to ascertain the facts as presented in affidavits before this committee. This body does not have the authority to press criminal charges although all testimony is considered sworn under oath and is a matter of public record. "

Red Skull stands watching a
bank of huge televisions. "Oh how heart-warming. All your wonderful patriots lining the streets to show their devotion and appreciation for all you've done for them." Beaten and bloody, Cap hangs from massive chains in the dank dungeon.Two leather clad vixens pose with whips. On the television is the news, crowds hold anti-Cap signs, chant and shake their fists. "Look up now, this is my favorite part!" On the TV, Cap stands with his hands out, pleading for the crowd to calm themselves. The crowd surges forward. Some jump at him and hit him, others are simply forced forward, eventually overtaking and trampling Cap. "Ahh! In sixty years, I've not been able to do that!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011


The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Remember as you go about your day that people have fought and died for you. They have shed their blood protecting your freedoms and liberties. Do not forget the untold sacrifices made by those standing between us and those bent on destroying our ideals and way of life. The price for freedom is eternal vigilance and it is regretful that lives must be lost to preserve our basic rights.
Remember them and their gift to all of us. They died in service to the preservation of this country, wore our uniform, saluted our flag, honored our traditions. They signed on the line to protect this nation and by doing so put themselves in harm's way. Many, a great too many, were young and their deaths spark the question of what could have been had they lived. Those that serve and die want to be remembered.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Share a story. Most of all remember our fallen for surely there are no greater heroes in this life than those who gave everything for us all.

May 30, 2011

The Soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
-General Douglas MacArthur

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, May 27, 2011

Emails #48: Bucky, Brooklyn and Beyond

RICK: Okay Alpi.

I see you.

I have a few minutes....

Nice conversation. Touched on several elements of Steve Roger's illnesses, why neither HULK movies hit the mark, Spider-man I, II & III. Iron Man I & II, Thor, Samuel L Jackson as Marvel savior, Cap & Red Skull in WWII and in modern times and what it will take for Cap to become a true leader... more soon.

BEN: Yes, it would seem we should probably multiply 10 minutes by 6 when we talk:) BTW, I agree that the iron lung isn't something I'd recommend for Stevie per se. With his history, he might not survive polio. To keep things concise, I think keeping him to bed is fine. For some STRANGE reason, doctors came to you back then... Might not be bad to include polio reports in the newspaper or some such.

One other note, I think what we have done is delve into the history and culture of the time. Other folks might rely on their production designer to just make things look right while they thumb through the comic book. For us though, it's not just the comic that we're interested in, it's the times that inspired it. Why did Kirby and Joe Simon create him? What is it about him that has kept his comic alive all these years? If we look at the roots of the story as well as the character, we'll create a superior film. How many long anthropological conversations and archeological digs must the Nolan boys done to get inside Batman? You know they didn't just say "This dude drives around Gotham and likes rubber nipples. Got it." They probably studied old Chicago. They studied why people like super heroes. They studied myth and symbolism. In a corrupt (Gotham) and technological world (our world), the Nolans made a super hero believable. Not to say every super hero should get that treatment, but it made sense for Bats. The point is getting inside the skin of the characters. Something I think writers do more often than directors or even actors, sadly. Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes set out to knock that mythos on its head. He succeeded, but without really knowing the source material, he also kicked it down the stairs. Great concept, but lost it 1/2 the way through.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Emails #47: Idle Hands Make The Devil's Work

"You're gonna be sick and in bed for awhile son and I know it is hard on a boy your age. You're gonna miss more school and your chores will suffer. Doc says we gotta keep your mind occupied and I can't have you laying about without something useful to do."

Mr. Rogers exits and returns with a large heavy chest which he places next to the head of the bed of the sick Steve Rogers.

"Idle hands make the devil's work son. While you're in bed sick I want you to go through your uncle's things," he pauses for a second, choked up with emotion, "and make sense out of them for your aunt. It would mean a lot to her... And son, I'll get you to church every week if I have to carry you on my back. So don't worry."

Stevie, weakly, opens the chest to discover his uncle's belongings. A uniform from WWI. Medals. Maps, Letters and postcards bound in twine. Lining the bottom, dozens of books. Everything smells old. Steve's uncle was killed in The Great War and he never knew him. This trunk hadn't been opened in ten years...

Handed down from generation to generation, the love of this country must be preserved for those coming next. Also, continues with the letters motif and ties events backward to WWI as well. Plus, chest can contain anything so it is a useful story device.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Emails #46: Ways To Mangle A FIlm

BEN: I would say, if you want to work more by inspiration than linearly, chose a spot where you feel most interested at the moment. Like when I was feeling "Cap Goes Home" I wrote it. You're right that there is a evolution of Cap that is more intricate than most people might realize.
Maybe we have to view this as Cap's life story up-to-now instead of trying to make it fit a formula. If we establish a mythos, we can pull from it. Actually, a friend of mine who is a screenwriter recommends against writing without an outline and I agree to an extent, but if working another way is more comfortable or more fun, I say go with it. If you want to write it in prose, do so. If you want to write it in script form, here's some info for that. I've never used Celtx, but it comes recommended. It requires OSX 10.4 I'm thinking it should be pretty straight forward, but let me know if you run into trouble. So...

  • If you want to look into the crystal ball or magic mirror to see him as a child, go for it. Stevie at the theater watching newsreels with his dad before cartoons or Flash Gordon. Who is his father? How did his job or their relationship effect Stevie? His mom? Were his grandparents around? Part of me wonders what's been written about in the comics.
  • There are also his teen years where his idealism is born. Denied for service.
  • Then he gets juiced. Assuredly a frightening process. Was it just POOF or was there a period of pain or fear of the unknown?
  • WWII. The real formation of Cap. The fast-forward tempering of the steel all men go through in war. Instant adulthood. Blood, sweat and tears. Guilt. Fear. Must be strong for the men. They're the real heroes. I'd die for these guys. They don't realize how amazing they are.
  • Red Skull. Where did he come from? Do we need to see his childhood? Why is he so angry?
  • Battle of the Skulls.
  • Freezing.
  • Unfreezing.
  • Danger, battle, we need you Cap!
  • Reality. The 40's are long, long gone. Cap is an adult now. Is he cool with all that? Does he feel or is he numb? Culture shock. Retreat or over-indulge? Cap searches for his new self. Does the government use him? Over-use him?
  • Skull returns. Was he frozen? Was he trapped somewhere, but was able to survive? What's the opposite of what happened to Cap? He hatches his plans to once and for all take over the world.
  • Battle Skull agents. Cap finds out about Skull.
  • Has Skull infiltrated the gov? Was the president his Manchurian Candidate? Dirty bomb justifies a clamp-down?
  • Cap gets beaten. Bad. Turned into an Enemy of the State.
  • Cap must find himself. He realizes it's been inside him the whole time. Friends in the government remind us of the Constitution and the men who wrote it.
  • Cap returns as Skull engages his plan.
  • The final showdown.
  • Cap has learned something. America has learned something. Skull has learned that terror doesn't pay.

Or, of course any deviation of anything here :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Emails #45: Almost Zero

RICK: Okay. This is not the Middle Ages. We have running water. Success has made us weak and flabby. Toughen up boy! Those chills you feel are the chemical rushes a fan boy feels. Perhaps in the end, the Cap project will turn into something else. Renamed. Reworked. Modern era. There is always room for a true hero on the stage of public opinion.

You are interested in throwing some of this out there? We will talk about it. I honestly don't feel we have enough material for a screenplay however which is our goal.

Despite meandering character development which has been useful, no plot has developed which could be fit into the Syd Mead (or any other) paradigm. I think the unconstrained exploration of the character has helped cement his major principles. Liberty. Justice. The Constitution. The need to stand against evil no matter what the odds. The path of Cap's development on these various sites is one of the freedom the explore, react, comment, research, delve, disagree...

Turning it into a blog reduces the chances of us making a screenplay to almost zero. I think you realize this. Also, unprotected by privacy, our Cap story becomes subject to the whimsical opinions of others even if only by the self consciousness of our own designs.

BEN: I hear ya and agree. Just was thinking that letters could bring out our feelings in a way that doesn't betray our story. It would probably be too much work taken away from what we already don't have time to do though :)

The only part I don't agree with is that the chills are fan boy in nature. I suppose that could be true in small part— my love for heroes— but what really gives me chills is the concept of this story. It's the part of it that's more than the sum of its parts. The spirit of America.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Emails #44: Nobody Does WWII Like The Guy From Jaws and E.T.

Letters to Captain America
Liberty and Hope During WWII

A special exhibit at the Smithsonian running from January 7th through July 4th.
Curated by Anne B. Hawthorne and Julia W. Gilbert.

Does Captain America exist? A single letter dated 1942 from a Pvt. Horace Garber to his family back in Memphis, TN seemed to answer the question definitively yes. While preparing an exhibit for Letters at War: Homefront to Frontline more of these curious references to a star spangled soldier cropped up. We knew right away the letters addressed to or mentioning Captain America were beacons of hope during one of the darkest periods in the history of the world. Does Captain America exist? Comb through nearly 2,000 letters and postcards from 1942 to 1945 on loan for this exhibit and decide for yourself.

Does Captain America exist?

We hope that you enjoy this collection.
Anne B. Hawthorne, Curator
Julia W. Gilbert, Curator

Monday, May 16, 2011

Emails #43: Wickedness Flourishes In The Darkness

"He was there for every battle even if we didn't see him."

"A feeling would come over me like he was in front of me deflecting bullets or behind me, backing me up."

"Sometimes it was like I could hear his booming voice on the battlefield urging me on."

"After we lost Joe, Cap was there. He reminded me that what we were doing was right. Yeah, I lost my best friend from high school, but I knew he died for something. Cap was right. Joe didn't just save the unit. He was saving the world."

BEN: Saying Cap is a manifestation of the American spirit is perhaps obvious, but I don't think Hollywood sees it that way. Any perfectly intelligent person might see Cap as an action figure, not a symbol. That's what makes the character a modern myth-- he is far more than the sum of his parts. Over the years, I think Marvel has had trouble keeping Cap's comics interesting. It would probably be because different writers and artists might see him more as a muscle-bound ass-kicker-- not the protector of freedom and liberty. Luckily, a film can most certainly bring out the reality.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Emails #42: Humbled By Their Sacrifice

Captain America
The Boy who loves his country

The Red Skull
The fiend who lusts for power

World War II
The war of good versus evil

"She's dead Cap. You can't save her."

"We weren't in time. How could we know? We couldn't protect them."

"War doesn't make sense, Cap."

"I might be just a hick farm boy but I know evil when I see it. These were people, all of them..."

"Don't snap on me now. We still need you."

"You shall be avenged. Evil will not triumph. So swears Captain America. May you all rest in peace."

Camera pulls back to reveal what Cap sees. A large pile of skeletal bodies heaped in a grey mass. The only color in frame is the red, white and blue of Cap's shield and uniform.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Emails #41: Soap Opera 101

Hurt Locker* and new Lady Hurt Locker opening soon at the mall... Great movie. Extra fine script and pretty concise. Well acted and suspenseful. *Referring to Emails #40. -Ben

Wow Mr. Hollywood. I think you are wrong. Dead Wrong™! Actually I think you are right. I take a different angle however to come to a similar conclusion. I have not spent time in Hollywood-- the land of broken dreams-- and yet certain facts remain. First, of all the material produced or waiting to be produced or trying to be produced or hoping to be produced, more than 99% of it is schlock, high school writing and unintelligible concepts. The other less-than one percent does not float to the top however. This tiny fraction does not triumph and prove its worthiness over all the rest. Since the overwhelming motive is profit and not content, the struggle for both is quickly supplanted by the quest for one. It is an accident that quality material is made. An accident. The really quality material is only arrived at by the painful process of sculpting the film. There is both the additive process of clay and wire structure combined with the careful chiseling and polishing of stone. Compound this with the fact that it is a group project. Many voices and opinions on the creative end combined with studios, marketing, sales, and demographic groups all chipping away or adding to a film.

Auteur film making only proves the point. The Hurt Locker proves the point. Clint Eastwood proves the point. Tarrantino proves the point. They don't get started until the concept is solid, clear. They are patient, deliberate and painstaking. They know what is important and they fight for it. They spend more of their time chiseling to reveal rather than forming to create. A good idea needs to come first. A strong story. A strong screenplay or outline. A patient studio and resilient producers. Clear minded and flexible director. Clever actors. A competent crew. Geniuses in post production who will sweat the details and make it fit in the edit. Spot on sound. Supportive music... Well you get the idea.

Monday, May 9, 2011

THOR Movie Review Double Feature!

We interput this broadcast to bring you a special THOR movie review!

This post is not part of the 'Emails' series regularly seen three days a week here on the Redefining Modern Myth blog. A little bit down the road, we'll have a full scale look at Thor and the other Avengers' films which actually precedes THOR's release in the same way that the casting of Chris Evans was actually discussed before and during the real casting. We'll return to the series on Wednesday.

My Mighty Thoughts on The Mighty Thor.
A few thoughts by Rick.

Thor is not part of Captain America's WWII origin. He will show up later with a few pals in a little movie called The Avengers.

Spoilers? I will try not to wreck the movie-going experience of those who have not yet seen THOR. I liked the THOR movie a lot. There is good meat on it's bones and I will try to keep my thoughts focused on what worked and what didn't. I won't go into the plot too much. Thor is arrogant. Loki is a trickster. Odin banishes Thor to Earth. Suffice to say Thor must kick ass before he can return from Earth and kick ass in Asgard. Lots of quality action and destruction. More fighting than I expected from director Kenneth Branagh.

The Clothes Make The God.

I am going to make my first observation an odd one. While the medium shot does not seem to be totally absent from this film, it must have had other commitments. It seems that THOR is filled with expansive vista shots, nosebleed swooshing overhead pan shots and ultra tight closeups. I mention this because I wanted to talk about the costumes first. They are impressive when you are able to catch a glimpse. Almost immediately, I found that the reimagined threads were not too jarring and the characters seemed to wear them as one wears clothing. Perhaps this is a trick of design or directing or acting but the whole cast from Thor, Sif, Hogun, Fandral, Volstagg, Odin, Loki, Heimdall and the humans on earth seem to be pretty comfortable, relaxed in their costumes. Their postures are natural and movements seem to be unencumbered. This might seem like a minor detail but period dramas featuring characters that don't seem comfortable in their own clothes rubs me the wrong way. They got it right here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Emails #40: Evans Gravitas?

Reactions: Chris Evans Cast as Captain America

RICK: For all intents and purposes, Evans is an unknown. After looking at a few pics I can see why he could be okay. Young looking and cartoonish. Muscled but still limber looking. Experienced with action movies and Marvel. I am seeing too much humor and not enough gravitas however. Maybe this is just the shadow of his FF character talking. Rogers is a broken, sick, unhealthy kid who has suddenly been given the body of a Super Soldier and then is sent to fight in a war where the atrocities are stacked up high enough to blot out the sun. I suppose that in a Marvel universe movie where the only real concern is rushing Cap along so he can lead the Avengers, scripts might not include the rape, torture, mutilation, fear, pain, suffering and EVIL that actually existed in WWII. Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings trilogy and V for Vendetta) has been cast as the Red Skull. This is inspired. Hugo CAN do dark and evil. He has tremendous presence and carries something profoundly tortured and human in his portrayals.

Maybe Evans can learn some acting tips from Weaving who I am sure has had to claw for his roles and convince people that he can get the job done. No depending on the baby faced good looks and swagger of a wanna be star for him. Can you imagine Evans in the same universe as Iron Man (Downey Jr.)? Or a CGI Hulk? After one or two movies, Evans will be too old to play Cap anyway. I know they have a nine picture deal but that is standard with the super hero franchises. He will get replaced easily if he can't cut it. Unfortunately, these things are driven by the inexhaustible engine of release dates, already announced, bought and paid for before the first draft is written. It makes you wonder how anything successful can ever be produced and the answer is flatly that all the elements are gelling at once and only talented crews, directors, actors and screen writers can pull it off. It is a miracle.

BEN: I agree on all points. Evans would not be my pick. I liked him as Johnny, but that's because he was cocky, a funny punk. Cap is the leader of men. Evans is Bucky.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Emails #39: How Old To Cast Steve Rogers

Rare color footage released by the Pentagon...


Cap scrapes mud from his shield while a dark-haired US Army Signal Corps documentarian, Lt. Col. George Stevens, interviews him on camera.

What do you want the people back home to know about?

The men that are fighting and dying here today are true patriots. They ask only that you
remember them and never forget that they died fighting evil. They died protecting our
liberty and freedom. Their blood is the terrible price that they give to all of us.

RICK: What seems to be the essence of Captain America? Patriotism. The kind that adheres to the constitution. Leadership. Making hard choices on the battlefield, pressing ever onward and giving no ground.

Cap is 17. Maybe. Pearl Harbor is in December. School is about half way through for the year and crop planting is still a few months away. Maybe Steve Rogers is in the tenth grade. He has missed a lot of school due to illness and would normally be a senior. There are only forty kids in the grade anyway including Betsy, a curly haired angel who admires Steve's courage. With the world at war, will he really drop out of school to join the army?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Emails #38: Say Goodbye Amerikaner

Screenplay: 120 minutes or approx 120 pages.  

RICK: Working backwards...

Resolution:  The ending must be killer and reaffirm all the values that make Captain America great.  On the physical plane, Red Skull must be soundly if only temporarily defeated.

As Plot Point II: Cap must regain his fighting spirit and turn the tables on the Red Skull.

Midpoint:  Cap must become absolutely irrelevant and down in the dirt.

Plot Point I: Cap is found in a block of ice with the Super Soldier Serum keeping him alive.

Set-Up: Cap fights in WWII earning his reputation as a hero.

120 minutes or approx 120 pages.

Resolution:  The ending must be killer and reaffirm all the values that make Captain America great.  On the physical plane, Red Skull must be soundly if only temporarily defeated.

Cap tosses his shield away.  It is riddled with smoking holes.  He stands bloodied but confident in front of his foe the Red Skull who steadies his gun and has Cap dead to rights.

"All your talk of a master race Skull and I only see cruelty and weakness."

"The dream shall be realized Captain America.  I am the one true superman.  My blood is superior.  I alone will triumph.  Soon I will command an army of super soldiers.  The world will surrender to the one pure race.  I will lead them."

"You are wrong Skull.  There is nothing left of you but a gibbering husk, a blood junkie with delusions of power..."

Red Skull now has his gun pointed directly at Cap's head.

"You seem to miss the point.  I have the gun.  You have to die Say goodbye Amerikaner, goodbye to your whole pathetic way of life."

Pulls on trigger.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Emails #37: 1918 Epidemic and the Super Soldier Serum

BEN: Hmm! Very interesting points about Cap's early life. I guess Cap would have had to have be born later than I thought to be 18 in the war. Sucks that doesn't match up with your Spanish flu-relation to Cap's creation. But, if the US entered the war in 1942 and Cap's 18, he would have been born in 1923 smack dab in the Roaring. My idea was that Cap would enter the war before the US was officially in, but this made me think again...

The US entered the war in '42 after Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941, but isolationist policy had done a number on American fighting readiness. Summary history Our military leaders were scrambling as we were getting crushed in the Pacific. By January, we only had ONE battle-ready division of an estimated 215 needed. (We ended up with 90 divisions through a huge and total restructuring of our entire military.) This calls for drastic measures! We were very limited in how much we could ship to the theater which also called for an overhaul of training and what equipment we sent out. This effort was lead by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, head of Army Ground Forces, who was all about agile mobile forces. If we can only send so many, might as well make them super soldiers!

RICK: Matches up exactly with flu as creation. Sorta. The particulars of Cap's timeline do have to be nailed down so that events make sense.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Emails #36: Patriotism - Not Catch Phrases

BEN: An anecdote about General Benedict Arnold and the American Revolution. General Gates became the commander of the Northern theater replacing Schuyler, whom Arnold was under. (Schuyler lost Fort Ti and Gates had more political power so, Gates nabbed his command.) The Battle of Saratoga was actually two battles. The first one was kind of a draw and the Continental Army pulled back when night fell. If I recall correctly, instead of attacking, Gates allowed the Brit forces and mercenaries to build a stronghold, a giant wall of logs called a redoubt. Arnold disagreed with this because he knew the Brits had been fighting siege warfare for hundreds of years. Gates was confident that he could just wait in their similar stronghold. Arnold demanded they not wait. Gates said to let the enemy have at it, they have no chance against their fortifications. Again, Brits have been doing this for hundreds of years. Arnold knew if they didn't attack, they were screwed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Emails #35: I've Had My Fill of War

Thoughts on Bucky and D-Day

BEN: New ideas just to jot down so I don't forget...

Cap might sometimes change into fatigues to blend in, perhaps visit the troops incognito. I had this scene in my head where Bucky finds out his identity. Of course, they could have trained together or something instead but, it was a thought...

Also, I think we talked about Cap rallying the troops before D-Day. What if command pulled him out before the assault? He'd be pretty torn up.

Or, what if they didn't even tell him about D-Day and is really mad when he finds out? Of course, he'd feel like he could have saved lives.

RICK: HE WILL BE FIRST. He will be in that first boat. The importance of D-Day to Cap is that there is tremendous loss of life. It wasn't his planning but he was there. "I was looking at old newsreel footage of D-Day and I could swear that Captain America was there in the background..."

Hmm, perhaps Cap's speech
fails to rally troops, but he leads by example running to the beach and the men follow.