Friday, March 18, 2011

Emails #19: Torture During Wartime

RICK: Cap wanted prisoners treated humanely. No water boarding. No beatings or retaliation. He would even know a few phrases in German to speak to his enemy face to face.

These are the logical ideas of Captain America born in WWII.

BEN: I feel there is a propaganda angle to explore here, too. I wouldn't want to slow down the story any more than the substantial amount of ground we have to cover especially in WWII era, but I'd like at least for Cap to have a newspaper blow up the street with "American Devil!" or similar.

Nope. The propaganda should be thick and furious. Radio! People on the street. The German's will do anything to deflate the image of the Americans. Let us not forget the distinction between Cap's WWII and the real WWII. Part of Cap's angle is that he must find himself in a position of being crushed, defeated, demoralized, marginalized, ignored, hounded... He must feel the full weight of the hatred against him, the distrust even among allies. In one terrible moment he must doubt himself and his country and think bout folding it up. It is only then, when we are about to break him, when he is on the verge of collapse that Cap finds his true fighting spirit, an unquenchable flame that can not perish!

Gotcha. Being a film and being we have a limited amount of time in WWII, I'm thinking perhaps we should introduce this doubt, but perhaps we won't fully explore it until modern times. I think with the number of ideas we have and can have, we could do an entire film of WWII Cap. We'd delve into the anthropology of the time and create a detailed look at life and times, but I don't know if we want to. Where and when we tell the story doesn't really matter as long as the message is there so, what time do we want to tell it in? Ang Lee's Hulk took 60 minutes to burst forth causing some complains from fans who wanted more 'Hulk smash.' But why? Ang Lee wanted to tell a deeper story about a man and his father. Also, at this time they were pretty limited by budget as to how much Hulk appeared on screen. Lucky, the hardest visual effects we have are perspective tricks to make Cap look 1.5x the size of everyone else and his modern sheild-erang. The rest is production design, explosions, war machines and the red skull.

The WWII Version of Cap
  • Is the shield round? No. Cap's original shield had a shield shape. This is actually a good revisionist question.
  • Don't forget how many stars and stripes there are back in '42.
  • I'm thinking perhaps if the Brits are defending the town, its more tense because the Nazis are out there in the dark and who knows what they might throw at the Brits. The town might be surrounded, they must hold it. If they don't stave off the Nazis here, their pox will continue unabated with increasing momentum. We'll have to look at the real battles to see where this might fit. (The reason there being people know way too much about this war through stories, docs, movies, books, novels and even 'Axis and Allies' the game. We don't have to be totally precise, but I'm thinking there may be inspiration to find there, too.)
  • It is a good and valid point. People know way too much about this war. It is documented, photographed, made into film after film and countless documentaries. CAP doesn't exist there. He is involved in missions no one really hears about, in battles without names and meets soldiers who are otherwise faceless.
  • I hear ya. That frees us up a lot. That way we'd just need to refer to or participate in a few known battles for time reference and background texture. So, are you saying that you don't want to insert him into iconic battles, but work more behind the scenes? Secret missions, intell gathering, search and destroy, embedded with Marines sent in to lay the ground work for invasion or head off attack forces etc?
  • Embedding with the Marines hasn't been invented yet. CNN doesn't appear for several decades. Everything CAP does is secret or not official. If he were at famous battles, then he would become front and center just through his heroic nature. Think of Mel Gibson in the Patriot. Anyone could pick up that flag and rally the troops but it is HIS movie so he has to step up and do it. Cap can't sit idly by, even if he is injured. Maybe he gives a speech before DDay to a handful of troops before he gets airlifted to something nasty inland... His actual participation in real battles warps the perspective and also begs to open up a lot of technical questions as far as accuracy. We want the flavor of the stew, the smell of the stew, the taste of the stew, the feel of the stew but not the actual stew itself. We want Cap to be in the War without actually changing the known outcomes. This is not a Tarantino film of revisionist history. How does the audience care what happens? We walk them through the crowded party of people they know then get them in a back room somewhere where the rules are different and there is genuine peril to our characters. When the vine snaps, Harrison Ford is in danger. We can feel it. That is, until our expectation is that he will always triumph and then it becomes a lesson in masochism. Cap MUST fail and get up again. He MUST fail.
  • I say embedded, but what I mean is command placing him with a unit for a period of time-- moving Cap around to where he's most needed. I agree that whatever battle Cap appears in he'd be at the front. That's him. 'Shoot at me, I can take it. Shoot at me because I can dodge it. My brothers, the real backbone of this offensive, need me to keep these guns off them.' This is why it doesn't make sense that Cap would wear normal fatigues on the battlefield. The whole point is-- not only a symbol of freedom-- but a bright, shining target. And I totally agree that Cap must fail and get up again.

How is Cap inserted into WWII?
  • America is on the march! Cap participates in or a news reel tells of Normandy?
  • Blurry footage of an American secret weapon are also featured?
  • I suppose we could use the newsreel theme to start the film and keep using it throughout Act 1. We could even make it a theater of kids in the US watching the reel before a film (the kids are in awe and an adult saying that they think Cap is just propaganda)
  • I don’t know if I’d use this angle, but… “Is the US in the war?! Germany says so! Threatening remarks cross the aisle and Germany walks out of the UN.” (When did Germany leave the UN?)

The WWII Version of the Red Skull
  • War rages in the middle distance. The Red Skull is interrogating a suspected spy although we do not reveal his face until the end of the scene. I want a c/u shot of a bleached human skull in a pile of skulls. "Tell me what I want to know, not what you think I want to hear." C/U of gloved hand drawing a dagger with a skull emblem along side an SS insignia from its sheath. C/U skull on ground, ropes of blood splashing down covering everything. "I will not be denied!" A heavy boot crushes the blood soaked skull and breaks it into a million pieces. Red Skull is seen as a dark silhouette. Gunfire and bombs sound close by. For a fraction of a second, like lightning, a bomb strike illuminates the RED SKULL and he is sadistically licking the blood off the blade of the knife. His features are hideous to behold but it is already dark again and the scene ends.
  • Interesting idea to have RED SKULL sadistic. I might wonder if he's immersed in the magic Hitler was using to gain epic powers. Perhaps RED SKULL eats the hearts of his enemies to gain their strength? Perhaps not, but I thought I'd toss that out there.
  • The heart eating might be a bit much BUT a lot of the talk was about blood. Perhaps blood is needed for a Nazi super soldier elixir. Think of the Red Skull as a super Nazi who has been given direct authority from Hitler and who is running with his own agenda of power and death outside the normal bounds of command. Goes where he wants. Does what he wants. Reports only to Hitler. Wouldn't Hitler want an army of near invincible super soldiers? The appearance of the Red Skull (Blood and Bones - like a certain fraternity) and Captain America would justify Hitler's obsession with a master race. I really like the loose cannon idea. I've just been through an ordeal where a number of people were being loose cannons because they all were reporting to the top man. Unfortunately, the top man didn't pay attention so, individuals with no scruples were able to get away with murder. (okay, not murder, but...)
  • The skull at this point is a mask. Neat. Part of me wants the mask to disfigure him and be part of why he hates Cap and the world. The mask heats and burns him. On the other hand, I like him looking normal until at least until contemporary time. Reason being he can conduct himself as he wishes because he can still remove the mask. Thusly, he can use the mask to hide his identity and remove it to also hide his identity. The only other thing is if it's not a mask, how can he eat or speak without lips? You know?

Whether in chains or in laurels, liberty knows nothing but victories.
-Douglas MacArthur

A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me.
-George III


  1. Cap enters WWII and the Red Skull is debated. Cap needs a good villain as a foil and we have painted the Red Skull as a nasty, evil alpha male. He does not work for Hydra. Who can stop him?

  2. Cap wanted prisoners treated humanely. No water boarding. No beatings or retaliation. He would even know a few phrases in German to speak to his enemy face to face.

    Here is this boy who suffered his whole life and tottered for most of it between life and death. He has spent the entire time stewing on the meaning of justice. Now, through the miracle of science he is not merely saved but empowered. He sees the world as a child see it - full of right and wrong and wrapped in principles. Revenge is not part of his being nor is cruelty. He is gung ho to save the world. For him, the ends will never justify the means. I wonder how different his outlook becomes over time as he wades through the violence.