Frozen in the ice for decades, Captain America is freed to battle against arch-criminal, The Red Skull.
The movie opens in 1936 in Italy. We are watching a private piano recital which no one is enjoying. Then some soldiers (Nazis?) bust in and take the boy playing the piano, they want him for his superior intelligence (their words, not mine). Then they force the boy to watch as they kill his parents right in front of him. I’m sure he is going to want to help them now.
Now we are in a place called Fortress Lorenzo, and Nazis are watching videos of a rat. Then we see the rat has been turned into a terrible red skull lizard. A lady doctor comes in (I don’t mean an OBGYN) and they are going to use their red skull process on this gifted boy of whom they just killed his parents. The lady doctor is against this. She escapes.
Now it is 1943. They are briefing the president on Project Rebirth. They know that the Nazis have the Red Skull, and now they have their first volunteer from California, Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger). Steve is already like 6 feet tall, and saying goodbye to his mother (I guess his father is a dead war hero). Steve definitely isn’t a weakling, he is a normal guy with a limp. Steve also has a lady friend named Bernie, who will wait for him “forever and forever and forever,” which sounds like a long time. Steve leaves his friends and family to be a super soldier.
A week later, they are shooting Steve with a blue light, apparently it is painful. No one will know Steve’s name, his code name is Captain America. Apparently he has polio. Sparks fly, and Steve’s muscles slightly bulge. The man sent from President Roosevelt ( a president who might like to undergo this miracle polio treatment) turns out to be a Nazi, and shoots the lady doctor and others. Steve jumps from his restraints, takes two bullets straight to the chest, and punches the man into some equipment. At this point, if they are going to blame anyone for their inability to reproduce this miracle procedure, it should be Steve, the guy who smashed a ton of equipment right after the doctor was shot. The doctor dies.
The next day?, Captain America is recovered from his gunshot wounds and ready for a mission (to stop a rocket bound for America). Steve’s costume is explained as a special fireproof suit. And he is given a shield, both made by the late doctor, and using a process and materials she took to her grave, along with Project Rebirth. How could they allowed that to happen? Anyways, Steve parachutes into German territory. He comically fights some people, and throws his magic returning shield, then he meets Red Skull.
Red Skull is grotesquely grotesque. I’m still wondering why this guy would work for the Germans after they killed his family right in front of him. And Captain America easily loses a fight to him, and is drugged and knocked unconscious. Steve wakes up strapped to the rocket, he grabs Red Skull as the rocket begins ignition, hoping to pull Red Skull along with him, but Red Skull chops off his own hand to save himself (a la Aquaman and Stick). The rocket launches. Steve is sent with it, and he kicks it until it narrowly misses a kid and the White House. Then, somehow, this rocket travels all the way to Alaska. How the rocket had enough fuel for that is anyone’s guess.
And now, Steve is frozen in the Alaskan tundra, Red Skull is still alive, and I guess we lose World War 2? Or not, somehow we win without Captain America. And are following some kid, Tom Kimball (the one narrowly missed by the rocket), through life, for reasons I don’t know. Amazingly Tom Kimball grows up to be Ronny Cox AND the President of the United States. He had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake, and now it is time to erase that mistake. Also, nervous ear tick Lt. Fleming from 1943 is now a general. Red Skull can now disguise himself as almost human, and was behind every assassination in US history. It is difficult to tell how much he has aged in 50 years, considering how bad he looked before. He also appears to have a functioning right hand again (the one he chopped off).
Captain America is finally discovered in Alaska. For some reason he was encased with his shield, and is no longer attached to the rocket that brought him there. He awakens, and then immediately runs back out into the cold (possibly to freeze again). The President is obsessed with Captain America and somehow a random photo taken from the team that found him is worldwide front page news. Red Skull sees it and sends his daughter to kill Captain America. At his heart, Red Skull is a family man.
Meanwhile, in Canada, they are looking for El Capitan. People on dirt bikes chase him through a dense forest, I guess no one ever told them that is great way to die in a motorcycle crash. Steve knocks a lady off a bike (possibly Red Skull’s daughter), and she shoots him in the arm. I thought his suit was bullet proof, based on previous footage, but I guess not. Then he gets rescued by an old childhood friend of the President, this is Ned Beatty. Based on what I recall, Captain America was basically a super soldier for like 5 days and then frozen in ice, he never got much in the way of training. But he learned enough to be able to boost the reporter’s car, and slum his way back to California.
Back at his hometown. Steve didn’t believe the reporter when he was told it was 50 years later, but he is starting to become suspicious as he ogles bikini clad women on the beach. He goes to Bernie’s home and he is easily laid out by a woman named Sharon (daughter of the girl who said she would wait forever three times over, so much for that promise). Old Woman Bernie sees him, and then takes off her glasses (which I guess are more a fashion statement and less for optical correction). Bernie then justifies her betrayal to him by saying she waited 16 years before marrying and having children.
The reporter figures out where Bernie lives, and also Red Skull’s eaves dropping children? (It isn’t clear if all four of them are his kids) head off to find him. So they all congregate at Bernie’s house within minutes of each other. The reporter and Bernie’s husband are immediately shot (the husband survives, but reporter dies later from his wound). Red Skull’s daughter is a lot prettier than Bernie’s daughter, but Captain America is already making his move on the less attractive one. Bernie is killed by the evil daughter, after refusing to betray Captain America (maybe she felt bad for the first betrayal).
Captain America tries to retrace his steps back to the old lab. He finds it (after terrorizing some women in a bathroom), and then just finds the old doctor’s diary just sitting in a desk drawer. No one thought to look through that or take it when they wanted to try to recreate Project Rebirth? The Italian Nazis (or whatever) also show up. Captain America plays a cat and mouse game with them while Sharon is captured.
This is that part of the movie that takes a very dark turn, not just because Captain America kills a couple of people to avenge Bernie, but because the action is literally unwatchable due to very low lighting. Sharon tries to break free of her captor, only to be knocked unconscious (or killed, hard to know). Meanwhile Captain America eventually takes out enough guys to rescue Sharon and make off with the diary.
“I know Italian because I spent a summer in Venice.” Hidden subtext there, she is also a natural linguist. She reads the diary and now they are going to the town the Red Skull was from, hoping someone remembers him there and knows his real name. And the president has been kidnapped is being drugged so he can turn over the presidency to the Red Skull? That isn’t how presidential succession works, but whatever.
In Rome, Sharon and Steve are driving in the smallest car money can rent. He pulls his old “I’m pretending to be carsick in order to steal this car routine,” and it works for the second time in less than 30 minutes of film. Sharon calls for a taxi, in what was seconds ago an empty street. Somehow Steve finds the house Red Skull’s parents were killed in and Sharon immediately shows up to help him with his language barrier. They get find an old tape recording of when Red Skull was a simple pianist, and hear the death of his parents. Sharon makes a copy, because she is a weirdo like that.
They stop at a cafe, and Red Skull’s minions find them, and then a horrible “car chasing people on foot” scene takes place. Somehow this Porsche is not able to overtake regular human Sharon, and definitely not faster than a dirt bike Steve. Then she rides on the handle bars of a bicycle, and they crash into the water. The killers give up their chase at this point, because? Reasons! Sharon goes back to the cafe and gets Red Skull’s daughter’s bag, which contains her passport. Perhaps this whole adventure was about fulfilling Sharon’s dreams of identity theft. I will say a third of this movie revolved around the goal of them finding out the Red Skull’s real name, which they never do. They say stuff like “if we can find out his real name, we can stop him.” I suppose it is like learning the real name of a wizard, it gives you power over them.
They climb back into that tiny car and head for Red Skull’s lair (birthplace of the daughter). And we get to see the minions invested heavily in classic 1980s cell phones. The Porsche finds them, and somehow their stupid whatever car outruns the Porsche. Sharon decides to ditch Steve, maybe because she finally realized this time-displaced man from the past has a very poor socioeconomic outlook for the future. She is immediately caught and taken to Fortress Lorenzo.
I guess General Fleming is working with Red Skull. I didn’t realize this until right now, maybe he helped kidnap the President. Maybe he staged the Nazi guy killing the genius doctor who invented the project (he led that person in). Whatever the case is, ultimately he is just a sideline in this story. The resourceful president escapes his cell ten minutes before the “special serum which will hand Red Skull the presidency” takes effect. He gets cornered and nobly jumps off the building, only to have Captain America cheapen his sacrifice and catch him. The President is then star stuck at meeting his “not even sure he is real” hero from his youth.
The President insists on helping Steve. Everyone in this movie thinks they are just as good as Captain America, and perhaps they are right, because other than taking two bullets to the torso and then healing quickly, Captain America hasn’t done anything remotely ‘super’ this entire movie.
The final confrontation consists of Sharon vs Red Skull’s daughter, the President vs some random henchman, and Steve versus Red Skull, who despite being 50 years older than him, is still kicking Steve’s trash all over the playground. The President beats up rando, and tosses Steve his shield, and gets a thumbs up from Captain America. I guess he can die happy now. Red Skull shows his age after becoming winded running up a single flight of stairs while he flees from Steve Rogers.
Sharon fails to get the daughter, but during their scuffle the tape recorder is dropped. Steve plays “the death of your parents” for Red Skull, who then goes into a kind of trance. Steve knocks him off the ledge with his shield, and you see a man-sized puppet fall and bounce all the way down to the water from a long shot. He also knocks the daughter out. All is right in the universe.
The movie ends with a bizarre closeup on Captain America’s face with the mask on, showing just how bad that mask looks.