Captain America Is No Flag-Waver

For several days before Comic-Con officially opened there has been lots of news, with much of it being dominated by Marvel. There has been the release of the above movie poster for Captain America, and now there is even some political controversy surrounding the movie. The shocking news is that Captain America isn’t going to be a flag-waver. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.

“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include “Jurassic Park III” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”

None of that is surprising, of course — Christopher Nolan pared away significant parts of the Batman mythology (such as Robin the Boy Wonder and any super-powered villains) that didn’t fit his grim take on Gotham City, while Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. manufactured a version of Iron Man that is hard-wired for far more humor than the old-school Marvel Comics character…

“He wants to serve his country, but he’s not this sort of jingoistic American flag-waver,” Johnston said. “He’s just a good person. We make a point of that in the script: Don’t change who you are once you go from Steve Rogers to this super-soldier; you have to stay who you are inside, that’s really what’s important more than your strength and everything. It’ll be interesting and fun to put a different spin on the character and one that the fans are really going to appreciate.”

Some pundits will pounce on all of this as another desecration of an American touchstone, but how many of them have ever read the books? The character, created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, was certainly unconflicted about his country and its mission during the clear-cut days of the 1940s, but it didn’t always stay that way. In late 1974, for instance, in the months after President Nixon’s resignation, Steve Rogers chucked the star-spangled costume and changed his hero name to Nomad (although, by 1976, Cap and original artist Kirby had the hero in bicentennial mode).

In recent years, Marvel star writer Ed Brubaker’s work on the character has been exceptional and never two-dimensional. Brubaker (the son of a Navy intelligence officer who was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) came to recognize that Cap is a vessel that can contain whatever any generation or reader wants to put in it. In 2007, Brubaker told the New York Daily News: “What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on — and giving speeches on — the street corner against the George W. Bush administration, and all the really right-wing fans want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam Hussein.”

How much of a flag-waver Captain America should be depends a lot upon the era in which the story takes place. If this is to be a World War II story going back to his origins, then James Joyner has a good point:

I’ve got no problem with rebooting decades-old comic book characters and tweaking their origins to fit modern sensibilities.  After all, Marvel and DC have done this multiple times with their flagship characters.

But here’s the thing:  They’re still setting Cap’s origins in WWII and having him as an American super-soldier fighting the Nazis (including, one presumes, the Red Skull).  It would be incomprehensible for that character to be other than a flag-waving patriot, as that was simply the norm.

If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural.   American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys.  But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture.

But a WWII Cap?  It doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t completely make sense if it is to be a WWII Captain America, but I’m not certain that the entire movie deals with that era. Another consideration is that the movie is being made for modern audiences, not those of the World War II era. Just as M*A*S*H successfully took Vietnam era views and portrayed them during the Korean War, it is conceivable that a World War II era movie might be written with more modern cultural views. I think we need to suspend making a decision until we see what the actual story is and to what degree Captain America ceases to be a flag-waver.

SciFi Friday Labor Day Weekend Edition: Doctor Who Comes to the US, Star Trek, and Rebooting Catwoman (as Cher?)

After taking a long Labor Day weekend off there will be an abreviated edition to end the weekend.

News of the World reports that two of next season’s Doctor Who specials will be filmed in the United States. The report says that The Doctor will “save the world with a BIG-NAME American female assistant.” The article also claims that The Doctor will regenerate after these specials. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether David Tennant will return for another season, and I don’t know to what degree we can trust the claims in this article.

On September 2 BBC 4 is rebroadcasting the 2005 show, The Quartermass Experiment. The cast includes David Tennant, Mark Gatiss who has both written for Doctor Who and appeared in one episode (The Lazarus Experiment), and Indira Varma (Suzie from Torchwood). Torchood, incidentally, has begun filming on the five part story which will make up the third season of the show.

One question about the upcoming Star Trek movie is to what degree they will follow continuity from the previous shows and to what degree this will be a reboot. In discussing this issue, producer Damon Lindelof points out that even the term “reboot” is open to different interpretations:

To date the Star Trek team have been careful in the terminology they use. Although many franchise fans use the word ‘reboot’ when talking about an approach to canon, ‘reboot’ is also used in terms of reintroducing a franchise to a new audience and also re-invigorating a franchise’s popularity. In fact, Lindelof has been known to call the film a ‘re-invigoration.’ From what TrekMovie has learned about the new film, it certainly is not a ‘reboot’ in terms of continuity the same way Batman Begins relates to the previous Batman films (if it were, would Lindelof care about the continuity of Kirk dying in Generations?). However, in discussions with various people involved in the new Star Trek film, Batman Begins is often held up as an example of how a franchise successfully came back after some unsuccessful outings.

The last two Batman movies were excellent, but I fear Star Trek fans would be upset if the show was changed to this degree. Rumor has it that Christopher Nolan will be bringing about big changes to Catwoman since she was played by Michelle Pfeiffer (above):

A Warner Bros. studio executive is quoted by the UK’s Telegraph as saying “Cher is Nolan’s first choice to play Catwoman. He wants to her to portray her like a vamp in her twilight years. The new Catwoman will be the absolute opposite of Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry’s purring creations.”

It is also being suggested that Johnny Depp will be starring as The Riddler.

If the rumor that Cher is under serious consideration is true, and if she portrays Catwoman as this aging vamp of a troublemaker for “The Batman,” then having her in the role could prove to be quite interesting. However, if Cher succumbs to ego and insists on trying to pull off a younger, more athletic Catwoman, then the franchise will simply slip back into the doldrums that Nolan originally rescued it from.

Sci Fi Friday


While not much goes on in television SF over the summer, there’s a few recent news items.

Battlestar Galactica has an upcoming episode, The Story So Far, which recaps the first two seasons. It will air on some NBC affiliates and on Universal HD. (I wish Universal HD aired BSG episodes as they are broadcast on the SciFi Channel rather than months later). If you have not watched the first two seasons, I recommend that you do not, repeat, do not, watch this. If you haven’t seen the first two episodes, the only sensible thing to do before the third season starts is to pick up the DVDs of the first two seasons. They were just too good to settle for a quick recap. Just make sure you get Ron Moore’s remake, and not the dreadful original show this is loosely based upon.

Dr.Who will also resume with the second season in the US this fall, but the Christmas episode, which first shows the regenerated Doctor in action, will be held back until Christmas. I’m sure glad I downloaded the Christmas episode (as well as some of the second season) with bittorrent. Meanwhile, fans in Great Britain are getting ready for the third season–and I hope they continue to upload the episodes to the internet.

The Prisoner will return. A while back there were stories of a remake of the television show but I haven’t heard anything on this lately. Now Sci Fi Wire reports that Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) will be directing a movie version.

Under the fold I’ll reprint some of my older posts on science fiction television, including Karl Rove with the Cylons.