Part 2

Part 2 in the Captain America series begins at the end, after the action, when certainty has replaced questions and conundrums and the struggle to find the right path.

It began at Comic Con in 2011 when my best friend and I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger. I loved Cap. She did not. We spent months discussing why (most of which is part 1 but we’re not there yet) until we reached a rather nice equilibrium. Then we saw Man of Steel in 2013 and started all over again. This time, we absolutely agreed on one thing.

The audience has to go on the journey with the character in order to make a story fantastically interesting.

Seems obvious, right? Like, how could you talk for 2 years about something so simple? Character arc is storytelling 101. But you’ve seen The First Avenger, right? You had fun? You liked Cap? What’s Steve Rogers character arc in that film?

He changes physically.

His circumstances change around him.

He takes action and does things and stops bad guys.

Captain America: The First Avenger / Disney

But how does his character change? Where does he find the courage to face Red Skeleton? How does he learn to be the leader of the Howling Commandos?

More importantly, how does his physical transformation alter him internally? Though that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? That Steve already has a strong character and is given the physical ability to match his courage.

He is already a good guy when the movie begins – will put himself in danger to save someone else – will stand up to the bully even if he knows he’s going to lose – doesn’t have to question what the right thing to do is, doesn’t hesitate to do it.

Superman is kind of like that. He is a good guy, both kind and fearless; knows that he is stronger than everyone around him so he knows when strength is not hitting someone. Man of Steel (for all its other faults and there are plenty) shows us an adult Clark who already knows these things.

And it uses flashbacks to show us how he became who he is. We see the mistakes he makes, the emotions he wrestles with, the choices that shape him into Superman. Whether you like the flashbacks or not (and plenty of people didn’t) they give resonance to the story and his choices.

Man of Steel / Warner Bros.

Those moments, the wrestling and the deciding and learning how to be a good man, are what we’re missing from The First Avenger.

And they are the greatest weakness of Civil War too. He begins the movie already understanding his responsibility in the fights they engage in; aware of consequences in the midst of danger. He bears the weight of loss but isn’t consumed by it (unlike Tony Stark) because he understands the things he can control and the things he can’t. It’s the premise of the entire movie and instead of wrestling with his limitations, our title hero has already reached a place where he accepts them.

And his circumstances change around him.

He takes action and does things and stops bad guys.

But nothing about him changes. Once again, he has no character arc. (In The Winter Soldier he has one choice to make. It isn’t even so much of a choice for him as it is finding the wherewithal to follow through on what he knows he needs to do.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Captain America and I mostly really like the movies. But I see potential to take the character deeper; to make a very Modern hero more dimensional. But that’s part 1…


Part 3

Part 1

Posted in: Character, Story Courses ~ ,


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