Promoted as Marvel’s answer to “Batman” and set for release to coincide with the character’s 50th anniversary, this cinematic embarrassment was quickly shelved in 1990. It eventually received a quiet release on home video and cable television two years later, a deserving fate for a very mediocre effort. An amateurish low budget effort, it succeeds in only making Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” look like an Oscar contender.
The film introduces us to Steve Rogers, a patriotic soul trapped in a frail body who yearns to fight for his country in World War II. He’s given the chance when he is chosen to participate in a secret government experiment to create physically enhanced soldiers. The experiment is a success, and Rogers becomes Captain America, a fighting symbol of his country. His first mission is to parachute into Germany in order to prevent a rocket from being launched at the White House. But waiting for him is his German counterpart, the Red Skull.
The two battle, and Captain America is defeated and strapped to the rocket bound for Washington D.C. He manages to knock the missile off course and crashes into Antarctica, where he is frozen for 50 years. He awakens in the 1990s, and soon discovers that the Red Skull is still very much alive and active. Now operating under the guise of a wealthy businessman, the villain controls a vast criminal empire and is responsible for the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. When the Red Skull kidnaps the American president and plans to implant a mind control device, Captain America returns to stop his old enemy once and for all.
To say this film is a disaster is like saying the Titanic was a minor sea mishap. The film is sluggishly directed by Albert Pyun (“Ticker”), with uneventful action sequences and poor cinematography. The cast gives a fair effort, but frequently looks resigned to their fate of acting in a terrible film and just wants to get it over with.
A major mistake was hiring writer Stephen Tolkin (“12:01”), who has voiced his distain for comic books in several interviews since the film wrapped production. His screenplay has Rogers as Captain America briefly in the film’s beginning and again at the conclusion, but for the rest of the film Rogers wanders around looking dazed at his situation. The costume is nothing to get excited over either; it resembles a rubbery Halloween leftover. The film’s only saving grace is Scott Paulin’s turn as the Red Skull, an excellent performance in a dismal production.
It’s a wonder that Columbia Pictures ever thought this cheap looking film could ever compete with a stylish hit like “Batman”. Fans of comic book films and aficionados of cinematic oddities might find some reason to see this film, and may even appreciate whatever effort went into it. But anyone looking for an entertaining and action packed film can certainly look elsewhere.
Albert Pyun (director)
CAST: Matt Salinger …. Capt. America/Steve Rogers
Ronny Cox …. President Kimball