Marvel Studios Annotations: CAPTAIN AMERICA – THE FIRST AVENGER

“This one’s waited long enough.”
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Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He first appeared in Captain America Comics #1, which was published by Marvel (then known as Atlas Comics) a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Captain was a young man named Steve Rogers, who was deemed physically unfit to enlist in the United States Army. He was chosen as a test subject for Project: Rebirth and became America’s first super-soldier. Captain America appeared sporadically following WWII before being fully revived in The Avengers #4, published in 1964. It was revealed that Cap plummeted into the ocean while attempting to disarm an explosive UAV. He was frozen in ice before being unknowingly revived by his Invaders teammate Namor and found by the original Avengers.

The U.S. government never publicized Captain America’s supposed death for fear of demoralizing the nation. Instead, two other costumed crimefighters would assume the identity of Captain America. They were William Naslund, the Spirit of ’76, and Jeffrey Mace, the Patriot.

The Incredible Hulk originally featured an alternate prologue showing Bruce Banner traveling to the Arctic to commit suicide. Before he can pull the trigger, he Hulks out and causes a massive ripple effect that cracks the ice. Cap’s shield can be seen briefly beneath the surface of the cracked ice. This can be found in the deleted scenes of the 3-disc DVD or the Blu-ray.

In 1944, Republic Pictures produced a movie serial that took a radically different approach to the character. Captain America was now a district attorney named Grant Gardner, who fought a mad inventor named the Scarab. There is no shield or super-soldier serum. Dick Purcell played the lead role and died of a heart attack weeks after filming was completed.

He would later appear in two made-for-TV movies that aired on CBS in 1979. Captain America’s origin was now contemporized, his uniform incorporated an oversized motorcycle helmet and his shield was also the bike’s windshield. This is ironic considering the Cap of First Avenger rides around on a motorcycle a lot. These movies weren’t nearly as successful as CBS’s Incredible Hulk series.

Finally, there was a low-budget direct-to-video film that was released in 1990. Cap’s origin is relatively faithful though the serum’s inventor is now female. Cap was played by Matt Salinger, the son of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger.

0:04:36 – HYDRA
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HYDRA is a terrorist organization that has plagued the Marvel Universe for decades. It was founded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker with support from the Red Skull and funded with gold plundered by the Nazis. Two offshoots of the organization have been AIM, a specialized science division, and the Secret Empire, whose leader was alluded to be then-President Richard Nixon.

The Viper aka Madame Hydra is one of HYDRA’s top agents in the comics and appeared as one of the villains in The Wolverine.

In the 80’s, Hasbro commissioned Marvel to aid in their revamp of the G.I. Joe action figure line. Writer Larry Hama took an unused treatment for a new Nick Fury series and reworked it, turning SHIELD into G.I. JOE and HYDRA into Cobra. At the time, Hasbro hadn’t even considered making villains, as their toys didn’t sell as well as the heroes.

0:05:10 – Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt
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Hugo Weaving from The Matrix and Lord of the Rings plays Johann Schmidt, alias the Red Skull (1st appearance, Captain America Comics #7, 1941). Schmidt was one of Hitler’s top lieutenants and originally wore a skull shaped mask. He used a “dust of death” to warp his victims’ faces into the form of a red skull. Later, his mind was transplanted into a clone of Captain America. He was then exposed to his own dust of death and literally turned into the Red Skull. Weaving gets major points for playing the character as German filmmaker Werner Herzog.

In the 1990 Captain America film, the Red Skull was an Italian child prodigy who was abducted by the Nazis and indoctrinated as their loyal soldier.

The village of Tonsberg has the worst luck ever. In addition to being invaded by Nazis, they were attacked by Frost Giants in the 9th century as depicted in the beginning of Thor.

0:06:40 – The Tree of the World
Yggdrasil, the Tree of the World, links the nine realms together and was referenced in Thor.

0:07:30 – Digs for trinkets in the desert.
“And the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert” is a reference to Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Director Joe Johnston worked on Raiders as a visual effects artist and also directed another retro comic book movie, The Rocketeer.

The Tesseract first appeared in the films during the post-credit sequence of Thor.

0:08:30 – Chris Evans as Steve Rogers
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Chris Evans just might be Mr. Comic Book Movie. He previously played Johnny Storm in the “Fantastic Four” films as well as co-starring in The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

0:09:58 – Garbage can shield
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The garbage can lid could be considered the Captain’s very first shield. He later uses a car door in a similar fashion.

0:10:38 – Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan Barnes
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James Buchanan Barnes also made his first appearance in Captain America Comics #1. He was the orphaned son of a soldier killed while training at Camp Lehigh and became the teenage sidekick of Captain America. This flagrant violation of child endangerment laws was justified as a way to rally the American youth for the war effort. It was later revealed that Bucky displayed uncanny combat skills for someone of his age. He took on missions that were deemed to unseemly for the virtuous Cap, such as infiltration and assassination.

Actor Sebastian Stan was in Black Swan with Jane Foster herself, Natalie Portman.

0:11:38 – The Human Torch
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The World’s Fair is the inspiration for the Stark Expo, which is revived by Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. In addition to Tell-O-Vision, the Modern Marvels Pavilion also features Dr. Phineas Horton’s Synthetic Man. This is a reference to the original Human Torch (1st appearance, Marvel Comics #1), an android built by Horton, who could burst into flame. He founded the Invaders with Captain America and Namor. In Marvel continuity, the Torch is responsible for killing Hitler and burning the corpse. A copy of the Torch’s body was used as the basis for the android Avenger, the Vision.

Jenna Louise Coleman
jenna_capFor Doctor Who fans, Bucky’s date is Jenna Louise Coleman, who plays Clara Oswald, the Doctor’s current companion.

0:12:02 – Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
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Dominic Cooper is the third actor to assume the role of Howard Stark. Gerard Sanders played the character, only seen in a slideshow, in Iron Man. In Iron Man 2, John Slattery played the middle-aged Howard in a vintage film reel. Here, the young Howard Stark is clearly modeled after Howard Hughes, who served as an inspiration for Stan Lee in the creation of Iron Man. Father and son share an affinity for making presentations with pretty showgirls.

Howard Stark’s Gravitic Reversion Technology is an early version of the Stark Proprietary Repulsor Technology used in the Jericho missiles as well as Iron Man’s flight stabilizers. In the comics, SHIELD agents have been known to use flying cars for transport. In the MCU, only Agent Coulson utilizes one, a red ’62 Corvette he has dubbed ‘Lola.’

0:13:47 – Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
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Dr. Abraham Erskine was originally named Josef Reinstein in the first issue of Captain America Comics. This was later retconned as an alias he assumed after escaping to the U.S. The name, “Reinstein,” appears on the label for a batch of super-soldier serum used by Gen. Thunderbolt Ross in The Incredible Hulk. Erskine and the project are a part of the Strategic Science Reserve, the precursor to SHIELD.

Stanley Tucci also played notorious Chicago gangster Frank Nitti in Road to Perdition, which was based on a graphic novel published by DC Comics.

0:17:32 – Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola
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Arnim Zola (1st appearance, Captain America #208) was a Nazi geneticist, who worked closely with Baron von Strucker, Baron Zemo, the Red Skull, and even Hitler himself. In fact, Zola created a clone of Hitler that fought the Fantastic Four under a hood as the Hate-Monger. Zola’s greatest success was inventing a process that allowed him to transfer his mind into a robotic body. He has escaped death countless times because of this. The bodies feature a large holographic screen in the chest that projected Zola’s face. His distorted appearance in the monitor is a reference to this odd design.

Toby Jones took on the small role of pickpocket Aristides Silk in Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson’s The Adventures of Tintin, based on the comic strip by Hergé.

0:17:48 – The nine realms
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Schmidt is doing his homework on Norse mythology. The texts and photos he’s studying are artistic interpretations of the nine realms and the Tesseract.

0:19:50 – Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
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Margaret “Peggy” Carter (1st appearance, Tales of Suspense #77) was an American, who met and fell in love with Captain America when she was a member of the French Resistance during WWII.

0:20:15 – Lex Shrapnel as Gilmore Hodge
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Gilmore Hodge appeared only in Adventures of Captain America #1, a detailed retelling of the Captain’s origins, published in 1991. Just like in the film, Hodge is rejected as a candidate due to his bullying personality. That comic also introduced Lt. Cynthia Glass, an aide to General Phillips, who was revealed to be a double agent for the Nazis. Some attributes of that character were added to the film’s version of Peggy Carter.

0:20:46 – Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips
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In the comics, Chester Phillips was a general and he was the one who handpicked Steve Rogers for the super-soldier project.

Tommy Lee Jones also played Two-Face in Batman Forever and Agent K in Men in Black, which was based on a little-known title published by Malibu Comics, which was purchased by Marvel in 1994. Avengers artist Mike Deodato Jr. has also used Jones as the model for Norman Osborn.

0:26:38 – Bad becomes worse
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As Dr. Erskine explained to Steve Rogers, good becomes great and bad becomes worse. Both Johann Schmidt and Emil Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk were turned into even more deadly villains after their dose of the serum.

0:34:54 – The Super Soldier Serum
vlcsnap-17138The blue serum being injected into Steve Rogers resembles the knockoff shot into Emil Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk.

0:36:49 – The Vita-Ray Machine
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The creation of Captain America is a two-step process involving the injection of the super-soldier serum and a treatment of vita-rays. Dr. Erskine took the secrets of both to his grave after being murdered by Heinz Kruger. Not realizing his newfound strength, Steve Rogers hurled Kruger into the only vita-ray machine and accidentally destroying it. In the film, Kruger commits suicide via cyanide pill. Thus, the vita-ray machine still exists.

Failed attempts to recreate the serum have resulted in test subjects becoming physically and mentally unstable. The prime example was William Burnside, who admired the original Captain America so much that he had plastic surgery to look exactly like Steve Rogers. The injections eventually turned him into a fascist megalomaniac calling himself the Grand Director.

0:48:27 – Cap costume, “The Star Spangled Man”
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The Captain America costume is actually a rather faithful version of the comic book costume though it looks intentionally goofy. The triangular shield was changed to a circular design by the second issue after complaints from MLJ Magazines (now known as Archie Comics) that it was too similar to the emblem of their own patriotic hero, the Shield, who predated Captain America by several months. His later costumes and the updated one in The Avengers are based on the Ultimate Marvel incarnation.

The song, “The Star-Spangled Man,” was written by Alan Menken, the Oscar-winning composer for many Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.

Laura Haddock
UntitledThe enthusiastic autograph seeker is Laura Haddock, who also played Peter Quill’s mother in Guardians of the Galaxy.

0:50:04 – Captain America #1
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Things get really meta when the comic book character becomes a comic book character within his movie. A copy of the first issue can be seen amongst Howard Stark’s belongings in Iron Man 2.

0:52:00 – Cap as artist
vlcsnap-20941In his civilian identity, Captain America earned a living as an illustrator and graphic designer.

1:03:37 – Arnim Zola’s Blueprints
zolasuitDr. Zola gathers up some important documents, including the blueprints for his robotic body.

1:04:07 – Torture of Bucky
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Whatever experiments Bucky was subjected to paved the way for his resurrection as The Winter Soldier.

1:12:20 – Stan Lee
vlcsnap-23725“I thought he’d be taller.” Apparently, Stan Lee hasn’t aged since WWII. He also can’t be stopped by the Hulk’s gamma irradiated blood.

1:13:24 – The formation of the Howling Commandos
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Steve Rogers assembles an all-star team from the prisoners he rescued. The team was originally a WWII unit under the command of Nick Fury and named for their trademark war cry, which was heard earlier during their escape from the prison camp. The team consists of:

Dum-Dum Dugan, who is instantly recognized by his mustache and bowler hat, Dugan has been Nick Fury’s right-hand man throughout their careers in the military and SHIELD. He is played by Neal McDonough, who did the voice of Bruce Banner on UPN’s Incredible Hulk animated series.

The British member is James Montgomery Falsworth though he seems to be a slight composite of Falsworth and Pvt. Percival “Pinky” Pinkerton. Pinkerton was an original member of the Commandos, who wore a red beret and carried an umbrella into battle. Personality-wise, he was based on David Niven. Falsworth saw action during WWI and WWII as the costumed hero, Union Jack. He was never a member of the Commandos, but fought alongside Cap, Namor, and the Human Torch as the Invaders. He later passed on the name and costume to Joseph Chapman. A British driver named Chapman is listed in the line-up at the Monaco Grand Prix in Iron Man 2. Pinkerton himself would make his MCU debut, sans umbrella, in the Agent Carter episode, “The Iron Ceiling.”

Jacques Dernier was a member of the French Resistance and aided the Commandos whenever their missions carried them into France.

Gabe Jones was a distinguished member of the Commandos and went on to become one of Fury’s top agents with SHIELD. The printing company actually re-colored Gabe white in the first issue of Howling Commandos believing a mistake had been made in making him black. In the MCU, his grandson, Antoine “Trip” Triplett, was a member of Agent Coulson’s elite SHIELD team on Agents of SHIELD.

Jim Morita was American-born Japanese and served in the Army Rangers. He was recruited into the Commandos after Fury witnessed his skills with judo and karate.

As a side note, the Army wasn’t racially integrated until 1948, which shows the Marvel Universe was a little more progressive.

1:15:42 – Stark’s early experiments with the Cube
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Howard Stark’s early experiments with the Tesseract reverberate into Iron Man 2. Howard’s talk about an energy race that would dwarf the arms race was rooted in cracking the mystery of the device. Tony was able to use his father’s research to synthesize a new element to power his chest piece. Stark mentions that the energy is “alpha and beta ray neutral.” That’s because it emits gamma rays, which leads SHIELD to recruit Bruce Banner in locating the Tesseract in The Avengers.

Natalie Dormer
dormer_capNatalie Dormer from Game of Thrones cameos as Private Lorraine.

1:18:50 – Vibranium
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Captain America’s new shield is made of vibranium, a rare meteoric ore. Large amounts of vibranium are only found in two areas and come in two distinct forms. Vibranium from the African country of Wakanda can absorb vibrations. Wakanda is marked off on the SHIELD Global Alert Map seen at the end of Iron Man 2, but doesn’t make its first MCU appearance until Avengers: Age of Ultron. Vibranium from the Savage Land in Antarctica emits vibrations that can disrupt the atomic structure of other metals. A map of Antarctica was amongst Howard Stark’s belongings that were also seen in Iron Man 2.

In the comics, Cap’s shield was actually made by a scientist named Dr. Myron MacLain, who also created another rare and powerful metal, adamantium, which was bonded to the skeleton of Wolverine as a part of the Weapon Plus super-soldier program. Wolverine actually fought side-by-side with Captain America during WWII.

1:25:08 – The Winter Soldier
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In the comics, Bucky was believed to have died while attempting to stop an experimental UAV launched by Baron Zemo. While Cap plummeted into the ocean, Bucky’s arm was caught and was killed in the explosion.

One of the unwritten laws of comic books is that only Bucky stayed dead. That was until writer Ed Brubaker began his run on Captain America. Bucky actually survived the explosion and was found by the Russians, who brainwashed him into becoming an assassin known as the Winter Soldier. He was so called because the Russians would wipe his memories and place him in suspended animation after each mission. Cap eventually used a Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s mind.

1:44:46 – Asgardian teleportation
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The Tesseract accesses the branches of Yggdrasil and activates the same teleportation effect seen in Thor. So the Red Skull wasn’t vaporized, but transported somewhere within the nine realms.

1:51:45 – Amanda Righetti
vlcsnap-27932Amanda Righetti from CBS’s The Mentalist is listed in the credits as simply SHIELD Agent. She does have a slight comic book connection as she appeared in the third season of Entourage, which revolved around a fictional feature film based on Aquaman.

2:02:53 – The Avengers
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The post-credit sequence for Captain America was the first trailer for The Avengers. It’s mostly quick glimpses with our first look at Cobie Smulders as SHIELD Agent Maria Hill.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer
funnythingIncluded on the Blu-ray for Captain America is this Marvel One-Shot following Agent Coulson on his road trip to New Mexico. Along the way, Coulson stops to fill up at a Roxxon gas station and foils an attempted robbery of the convenience store.

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