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Film / Captain America (1979)

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Before Matt Salinger or Chris Evans donned their patriotic spandex, Reb Brown starred in the first Captain America movie. This movie was made to serve as a pilot for a television series that was never made. The film had a sequel, Captain America II: Death Too Soon.

The first film's plot follows Steve Rogers, a former Marine. Dr. Simon Mills wants Steve to inject himself with some FLAG (Full Latent Ability Gain) serum because the serum kills anyone who uses it because of tissue rejection. He thinks Steve could use it because the serum came from his father's DNA, but Steve refuses, wanting a normal life. Meanwhile, Lou Backett is trying to assemble a Neutron Bomb and needs a microfilm so his scientist can finish it. This scientist is Jeff Haden, lifelong friend of Steve. Steve is caught in the crossfire and critically wounded by Backett's men, and Mills injected him with the FLAG serum to save his live. Now endowed with superior physical abilities, Steve decides to derail Backett's plans.

In the second film, Steve must face off against notorious international terrorist Miguel (Christopher Lee), who has kidnapped a leading research scientist. Said scientist was working on counteracting the effects of aging, and created a formula that induces Rapid Aging to that end; Miguel uses the formula to ransom a major city for millions of dollars.

Captain America contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Appropriated Appellation: The original Captain America, Steve's father, got the name when his Rogues Gallery started calling him that in a mocking tone, and he just accepted the name in smart-ass tribute.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lou Brackett is the owner of the Andreas Oil Company and uses his company to help his criminal schemes.
  • Dead Man's Switch: Lou hooked himself to one. If his heart stopped beating, the bomb would detonate.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness: As seems to be the standard for live-action adaptations of the character in that Steve is now a contemporary man with his father having been a 1940's government agent nicknamed "Captain America" due to a very patriotic attitude, making him both an example of Decomposite Character and Legacy Character. He also makes use of a van, from which launches a modified motorcycle with a multitude of functions and its windshield being non-other than Captain America's iconic shield, which is made of "Jet Age plastics", with the "white" portion simply being transparent. And then there is the costume, which has him wearing a motorcycle helmet instead of his famous cowl.
  • Film Adaptation (Live-Action): The first movie adaptation, this origin story has Steve Rogers as a former marine who is injected with the serum FLAG, (Full Latent Ability Gain) created by his father, a scientist.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Used to pad out the film.
  • Legacy Hero: Steve's father was the original Captain America.
  • Made of Iron: Steve, even before becoming a Super-Soldier. The van he is driving falls off a cliff and is wrecked but he comes off with only a few bruises. Later he falls off another cliff on a motorcycle, but survives long enough to be dosed with the Super Serum.
  • Neutron Bomb: The villains want to assemble one so they can use it to kill everyone guarding a reserve of gold.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The villains, assuming Steve knows about the microfilm, repeatedly attack him. This results in Steve being wounded forcing Simon to inject him with the FLAG serum to save his life.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: For some bizarre reason, Captain America is turned into an Evel Knievel expy who wears a motorcycle helmet instead of Captain America's traditional mask, and rides around on a jet-powered motorcycle. Admittedly it's not supposed to be the same character as the comic version, and said counterpart was known to use motorcycles on occasion, but it still seems like an odd alteration. The sequel, thankfully, changes his costume into something far more similar to the comic book version.
  • Oil Slick: The villain try to use this to kill Steve early on in the film.
  • Psycho Serum: The FLAG serum gives the user super strength, durability and senses, but ultimately kills them due to tissue rejection. Simon believes that Steve will be immune since the serum is based on his father's DNA.
  • Refusal of the Call: Steve spends the majority of the film refusing to become a superhero.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Jeff is revealed to be this. He help develop the technology for the Neutron Bomb because the villains kidnapped his wife.
  • Science Hero: Steve's dad created the FLAG serum from his own cells and injected himself with the serum. This caused his dad to gain superpowers, which he used to become a superhero.
  • Setting Update: This movie changes the setting from World War II to then present-day.
  • Stealth Sequel: It's implied, though never stated outright, that Steve's father was the original Captain America from the comics. Presumably the World War II setting would have been too expensive to realise on a TV budget, though it does make the casual mention of Steve Sr.'s death feel like a Dropped a Bridge on Him moment.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The villains' plan is to kill everyone in the city of Phoenix with a neutron bomb in order to commit what effectively amounts to a bank robbery.

Captain America II: Death Too Soon contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actionized Sequel: Whereas the first film was more a detective story with the occasional action scene thrown in, this one has much more of an emphasis on action.
  • Girl of the Week: Helen, following the standard trend in television from The '70s and The '80s.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: General Miguel, despite being a notorious terrorist, manages to disguise himself as the governor of a prison, supposedly because no-one would ever think to question the identity of anyone in that position.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Miguel ends up being aged to death via the rapid ageing compound that he intended to hold the country to ransom with.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • While an overdose of the rapid ageing formula kills people very quickly, it apparently gives dogs super strength. This is never really explained nor bought up again. Apparently there was a deleted line that explained that an overdose of the formula would temporarily make the victim extremely strong but cause their body to rapidly give out, but this was deleted due to it contradicting the ending whereby Miguel gets overdosed with the formula, and just ages to death and dies within a few seconds.
    • Steve's bike gets a dose of this; at the climax it suddenly sports a hang glider, with absolutely no forshadowing.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: During the climax, Miguel claims that he and Steve are this, though there's no real evidence as to why he thinks this is the case.
  • Rapid Aging: The formula that Miguel poisons Portland with causes a person to age at the rate of 36 days per hour, though a larger dose can cause someone to age to death in a matter of seconds.
  • Refusal of the Call: When he's been informed a top scientist has been kidnapped, Steve Rogers suggests the FBI should handle it.
    Spoony: "This looks like a job for... the Proper Authorities!" (walks off-screen)
  • Sequel Escalation: While the film actually has the same basic premise as the first one — a villain threatens to kill everyone in a major city for financial gain — this one has a somewhat more expansive scope, and seemingly a bigger budget as well.
  • Truer to the Text: The film's costume is revised to look more like the comic version.

Alternative Title(s): Captain America II Death Too Soon