We all have favorite fictional characters. They can be inspirational, sagacious, heroic… or they can be relentless villains who are just so damn charismatic. In this feature I celebrate fictional characters who make their worlds much fuller.
All due respect to Iron Man and Thor, but I’m a Captain America guy. Some people consider the character bland or old-fashioned. Chris Evans himself felt reluctant about picking up the shield and representing an original American icon. I’m sure glad he took the role, though. Evans’s version of Cap is humble, empathetic, tough as nails, and a leader through and through. The other Avengers are cool and all, but Cap is the one guy I’d want backing me up in a fight.
Before beefing up with the super soldier serum, Steve Rogers felt the call of duty. He tried his best to sneak into the military during WWII despite his status as a “90 pound asthmatic.” In basic training Rogers showed his intelligence (why climb a slick flag pole when you can just unbolt it?) and an undeniable mettle. Most recruits leapt away from what they thought was a live grenade. Rogers covered the grenade with his small body and warned everyone away. Rogers has an innate desire to protect others, and he’s willing to sacrifice himself to do so. He’s special with or without a serum.
It says a lot about Cap that his weapon of choice is a shield. He’s a defender, and he stands up for what’s right even when it creates powerful enemies (including half the Avengers and the US Government). It’s easy to start a fight against someone you know you can beat. It’s much more difficult to take on an opponent who could beat you into oblivion. But I get the sense Captain America prefers to fight those out of his weight class. He spent most of his life being outmatched, so that’s where he’s most comfortable. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Cap is his moral compass. Power has a corrupting effect on humans; that’s beyond debate. But Cap never abuses the power of the serum. He has the same good heart he always did – the serum just gives him better odds in a brawl.
There are so many awesome Captain America moments to gush over. He broke up a fight between a metal man and demigod using only his shield. He went hand-to-hand against the Winter Soldier in a superbly choreographed battle straight out of a Bourne movie. He perplexed Thanos by holding back the fabled Infinity Gauntlet, if only for a moment. Then there’s the big one. Captain America saving Thor and becoming a thunder god is an unforgettable cinema moment, right up there with the emergence of the T-rex in Jurassic Park. I watched The Avengers: Endgame with a smaller theater audience, but when Cap proved his worthiness and picked up Mojiner, the room erupted with cheers and applause. We all knew we’d witnessed something special. Captain America called down the lightning and paid off decades of comic book history while simultaneously making movie history.
Captain America creates the perfect bridge between grounded hand-to-hand combat and galactic throw downs. And at the end of the day he’s just a kid from Brooklyn doing his best (and saving the universe). He may be old fashioned, but pushing back against bullies is never out of style. That sounds like a lame PSA, doesn’t it? That’s alright; I think Cap would appreciate it.