Captain America, 90’s Style

Joe Johnston, move over. Chris Evans, throw down your shield. The 90’s badass version of Captain America has returned, the red, white and blue invading DVD players for the first time. If you liked this summer’s big budget blockbuster, you’ll love the 1990/1992 version, a superbly written, highly entertaining and expertly crafted action film starring big names like Matt Salinger, Kim Gillingham and Scott Paulin as the Red Skull.

It’s amazing it’s taken so long for this thrilling Captain America to come to DVD.

I’m sorry. I stepped away from the computer and my evil twin started writing lies upon lies. Superbly written? Highly entertaining? Expertly crafted? My doppelganger – I call him Werik, short for Wicked Erik – is a sad, deranged beast. The 1990/1992 version of Captain America is so bad it’s amazing it ever saw the light of the day. Originally intended to be a major theatrical release in 1990, it finally debuted on television in 1992, proving to all those hopeful comic fans out there that the movie was a complete and utter bust.

Red Skull is happyIn this clunky film, Steve Rodgers is quickly turned into the U.S. super soldier Captain America, who, upon his first mission, proves he’s incapable of doing anything spectacular. Instead, Red Skull defeats him easily, straps him to a missile and shoots him away. The missile accidentally crashes into the Arctic or northern Canada and there Captain America remains until modern day.

Adjusting to modern life not unlike Austin Powers, Steve Rodgers discovers that Red Skull is still alive and plotting his destruction. He goes on the run – and in pursuit of Red Skull – to save his friends. Oh, and the President of the United States, who was somehow kidnapped from his hotel room. Shame on you, Secret Service!

The movie is a poorly written, fuzzy looking action film that suffers from an incoherent plot, bland characters and an uninspiring hero. Matt Salinger looks the part but seems lost in the script’s inanity. The other actors appear equally confused.

But as bad as everything is, the real problem is that the movie just looks ridiculously cheap. A major comic book cahracter like Captain America needs a big budget and strong production values to be taken seriously, yet it’s not even clear where the estimated $10 million budget for this title went.

Just for context, in the same year that this dreadful-looking movie was made, Martin Scorsese released Goodfellas, Kevin Costner did Dances with Wolves, the Coen brothers helmed Miller’s Crossing and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall hit the big screen. Other movies include The Hunt for Red October, Jacob’s Ladder, Back to the Future: Part III and Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Those movies all stand up relatively well even against today’s slick special effects.

Captain America looks like it was produced as a student film in the early 1970’s.

There’s not much else to say.

Despite its many flaws, I’ll admit Captain America exceeded expectations – albeit extremely low expectations. While it suffers from some pacing issues, it is generally fast paced and has a fair amount of action in the first and third acts. But it’s just a dreadful, dreadful, dreadful movie. By “dreadful”, I mean bad.

The only reason to watch Captain America is to see by how far the filmmakers missed the mark, or to laugh at it and its cheesy production quality. For that reason, it does have some value. It’s just not the value anyone involved in the movie intended.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Comic Book Movies, DVD Releases, Movie Reviews