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Wednesday, July 21, 2010 

Signs may not be good for Capt. America movie

When the news was first told about how Steve Rogers would be characterized in the planned movie for next year a few months ago, it sounded like there could be a winner in the wings after all, to match Iron Man's own translation to film.

Unfortunately, as Big Hollywood's editor John Nolte now finds out, this may not be so great after all. The LA Times' Hero Complex blog reports that director Joe Johnston is blowing it, suggesting that all is not well:
“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 reinterpretating sort of what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.” [...]

“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.”
Now let's see if I can figure out what Johnston's weird logic is here: if Steve is a proud American who wishes to serve the better interests of his country, he's not a good person?!? Oh good grief.
For Johnston, the imperative is artistic one, not a commercial one. He wants a character that’s more complicated than a flag and a movie that entertains without borders.

“Yeah and it’s also the idea that this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing,” the director said. “It’s an international cast and an international story. It’s about what makes America great and what make the rest of the world great too.”
That's pretty ambiguous when he refers to the "rest of the world", and more so by making it "international", and it suggests moral equivalence. I also doubt the planned storyboard isn't being done for "commercial" reasons. More likely that the superstition now frequent - if not the norm - in Hollywood, that a pro-American movie literally won't sell with anyone overseas, may have overtaken the producers, and they've unfortunately turned the script into a mess for the sake of internationalization.

If Steve Rogers is a guy with an impressive upbringing in how to tell the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, that's good to emphasize. But Johnston should have avoided polarizing issues like whether Steve should be a flag-waver, and that was really stupid of him to use the word "jingoism". Just when we thought this could be a workable project, now they're taking the risk of leading fandom to cast doubt on whether this'll be a worthy movie.

Update: more about this subject at Douglas Ernst, Daily Plunge, Hot Air (extra topic here).

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So, a Cap who isn't a patriot?

Yeah, apparently someone needs to show Johnston the box office for GI Joe so he can see how well that angle plays...

There are many, MANY things wrong with GI Joe besides the fact that there wasn't "AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!" all over the place.

Anyway, I don't see anything wrong with this statement. Steve Rogers wants to serve his country, because he believes in the things it stands for, but he's not a blind flag-waver. He's fought against America back in Civil War because of his own beliefs.

My take on this is here.

These directors do not seem to be able to grasp the idea that one reason why super-heroes once appealed to a mass audience is because they were embodied the notion of American exceptionalism. They seem to be more interested in chasing ticket sales overseas than making something most Americans might actually want to see.

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