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“Captain America: The First Avenger”: Five things that were missing from the superhero movie

“Captain America: The First Avenger”: Five things that were missing from the superhero movie (photo)

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Last week, I reviewed “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Marvel’s final solo-superhero film before next year’s massive team-up extravaganza, “The Avengers.” In my review, I indicated some of the elements — good and bad — that made it stick out from the rest of the Marvel movie-verse offerings so far.

While the film was filled with nods to the comic book source material, there was quite a bit of material comics fans were likely expecting to see that never quite made the cut. Here are some of the things I was surprised not to see in The First Avenger’s big debut.


Steve Rogers, The Artist

While we received a pair of slight indications of Rogers’ artistic talents (when he sketches a picture of a trained monkey to represent his role, and then when he redesigns his suit), it’s unfortunate that there couldn’t have been a more obvious nod to his interests before becoming America’s super-soldier. In Marvel Comics lore, Rogers was a fine arts student specializing in illustration — and the creator of a comic book or two of his own, in fact. In the film, we find out little of Rogers’ past, only that he desperately wants to join the military.


What Did You Say That Thing’s Made Out Of?

Much like the material that makes up Wolverine’s claws, adamantium, Captain America‘s shield is made of a fictional metal called “vibranium.” In the comics world, vibranium is only found in the African nation of Wakanda, where the Cap’s Avengers teammate Black Panther hails from. While there’s a mention in the movie of Cap’s shield being made of vibranium, there’s little explanation given for why this mystery metal has such unique properties. At first, I was surprised more people weren’t wondering about this, but then I remembered the use of “unobtanium” in “Avatar” and decided to blame the whole thing on James Cameron.


Bucky: Armed or De-Armed

While “The First Avenger” does include the perceived demise of Captain America’s famous partner, James “Bucky” Barnes, things take a bit of a different turn in the film than they did in the comics universe. In Marvels’ Captain America comics, Bucky attempts to disarm a rocket and is presumed dead when his arm is caught in a control panel and the whole thing explodes. Modern readers know that Bucky survived the incident, however, and later returned with a cybernetic arm and a grudge against his former partner. In the film, we see Bucky disappear, but it happens in a far less explosive manner, and with no clear nod to him losing his arm.


Nick Fury, Howling Commando

In the comics, Nick Fury was the original leader of the Howling Commandoes, the elite military squad that Captain America teams up with in the film. While we get a look at Nicky Fury in the modern era later in the film, it was interesting to note Marvel’s decision not to include him in the World War II setting. Sure, some will argue that the timeline wouldn’t make sense in Marvel’s real-world environment, but remember that Fury told Tony Stark in “Iron Man” that he’d been around for very long time.


Wherefore Art Thou, Invaders?

Possibly the most egregious omission from “The First Avenger” is Captain America’s famous fighting team, The Invaders. Made up of Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch, and other popular WWII-era superheroes, The Invaders wreaked havoc on the Nazis during comics’ Golden Age. There’s a brief nod to The Invaders early in the movie, when the camera passes over an “Artificial Man” exhibit at the World’s Fair. The red, humanoid figure is said to be a reference to the Golden Age version of the Human Torch. Still, it would have been nice to have more evidence of The Invaders’ role in Marvel’s WWII history.


What were you hoping to see but didn’t in “Captain America”? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review

“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review (photo)

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Captain America may be the first Avenger, but he’s also the penultimate test of a cinematic experiment that culminates in next year’s superhero ensemble film, “The Avengers.” Thus far, Marvel Studios’ plan has been a success, with Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor all managing to establish themselves with mainstream audiences individually, then transforming that success into anticipation for their return in “Avengers.”

However, after watching “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it makes sense that the studio would position star-spangled superhero Steve Rogers as the last character to make his solo debut before the big “Avengers” reunion. In many ways, the film feels more like a preamble to something bigger than a self-contained story – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

At a time when every film is envisioned as one chapter of a 12-part franchise, it’s not always a deal-breaker to lean on what’s come before and what the audience knows will follow. The recently concluded “Harry Potter” franchise was proof of that, and “Captain America” taps into a similar self-awareness of its role in a larger story arc that will be appreciated by comic book fans without alienating mainstream audiences.

Read our 101 guide to Captain America and his supporting cast

Still, that’s not to say that “Captain America” is devoid of problems. Despite some ambitious use of effects, the scrawny, pre-superhero Steve Rogers created by digitally grafting star Chris Evans’ head onto another actor’s body never seems quite human, and the addition of Evans’ voice to the final product makes the entire character seem like an overdubbed mess. This is especially unfortunate, because it’s clear the screenwriters did a good job of showing you why he was a hero long before he gained all of that extra muscle. Sadly, the weird, mismatched visual distracts from their work and makes it difficult to connect with the character.

On the flip side, “Captain America” overcomes the obstacle everyone saw in its path: finding a way to realistically portray a muscle-bound supersoldier in bright red, white, and blue spandex hurling his color-coordinated shield at a crimson, skull-faced villain. To its credit, the film explains why its soldier-turned-superhero’s uniform makes perfect sense in the context of his adventures, and the Red Skull – while a bit more cartoonish than necessary – manages to seem right at home in the tale’s WWII setting.

What also came as a surprise in “The First Avenger” was how similar the film felt to director Joe Johnston’s first comic book movie, 1991’s “The Rocketeer.” The two comics-influenced period pieces share a similar tone, presenting their characters’ adventures through a more innocent, Disney-fied version of reality and tapping into the nostalgic fun of comics’ Silver Age heroes.

But even though the Walt Disney Company now owns Marvel, it’s worth noting that “Captain America” definitely isn’t just another “Rocketeer.” This Marvel film is a darker, more violent adventure than Johnston’s first foray into the comic book world (there’s one scene in particular that echoes Indiana Jones’ messy tarmac brawl in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), and it harkens back to the character’s original, gun-toting adventures that often left more than a few enemy soldiers dead in his wake.

Viewed as the explosion-a-minute, simple action film that it’s intended to be, “Captain America” delivers on what it needs to do: introduce the character to mainstream audiences while not offending longtime fans, and prime the public for “The Avengers.” Unlike prior Marvel movies, however, the film falls short in its effort to develop a character you’ll gladly see more of without his superhero teammates.

Fortunately for Steve Rogers, that won’t be an issue, as he’ll get another chance to win audiences over next year when “Avengers” finally bows on the big screen. When that time comes around, though, he’ll have to wrest the spotlight away from Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

It’s no small feat, but then again, he is “The First Avenger.”

What did you think of the “Captain America” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

“Captain America” 101 – A brief guide to the WWII superhero and his supporting cast

“Captain America” 101 – A brief guide to the WWII superhero and his supporting cast (photo)

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“Captain America: The First Avenger” arrives in theaters this week, putting the story of Marvel’s soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers in front of mainstream movie audiences. And while Captain America isn’t exactly a b-list character, there’s a good chance that some people buying tickets this weekend might not be all that familiar with the star-spangled hero and his supporting cast of allies and enemies.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a quick primer on the major players in the Captain America universe. Think of it as your very own comic book boot camp – just with fewer push-ups and more super-powers.


Captain America (Chris Evans)
Your classic 98-pound weakling, Brooklyn-born Steve Rogers tried to enlist during World War II but was turned down to his sickly stature. His refusal to give up caught the attention of military scientists, and he was given the chance to undergo an experimental treatment intended to give him utmost peak of human abilities. The experiment was successful, and along with helping the Allied Forces win the war, he went on to become the leader of one of Marvel’s most powerful superhero teams, The Avengers.


Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)
One of Captain America’s greatest enemies, Johann Schmidt served as Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man in the Nazi regime and underwent a similar experiment as Steve Rogers. In the Marvel Comics universe, there have been several versions of Red Skull over the years, but Schmidt was by far the most dangerous of the bunch. Along with supervising the development of powerful Nazi weaponry and leading the terrorist organization HYDRA, he’ll stop at nothing to secure any powerful items – whether scientific or magical – that will bring him closer to world domination.


James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan)
In the Marvel Comics universe, Bucky was Captain America’s sidekick throughout much of the war. In the upcoming film, the pair are significantly closer in age, with Bucky and Steve having known each other for years before the latter undergoes the super-soldier treatment. Nevertheless, Bucky remains Cap’s closest friend and ally during the war.


Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)
One of Steve Rogers’ first loves, Peggy Carter is a capable soldier who shows Captain America that war isn’t just a job for men. In the upcoming film, the character is a British freedom fighter who fights alongside Cap and the Allied Forces.


The Howling Commandoes
An elite special unit of U.S. Army Rangers, the Howling Commandoes were a force to be reckoned with during World War II. Their ranks included former circus strongman “Dum Dum” Dugan (Neal McDonough) and a host of other characters, and in the Marvel Comics universe, they were led by Nick Fury. While Fury’s role in the film is likely to be a little different, the Howling Commandoes appear to play a big role in supporting Captain America’s efforts.


Which character are you most looking forward to seeing? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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