Captain America: The First Avenger

I recently had the pleasure of watching this, one of the more recent entries in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble series of films. While on the face of it, this film – about a man who’s heroic beyond his diminutive appearance – is not an obviously raypunk one, I found it shared many of the values of the genre, and a passing similarity to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I wouldn’t dare to review the film in the proper, critical manner, but I thought I might explore those parts where raypunk ideals and technology seemed to come to the fore.

Things start in earnest at an echo of the 1938 World’s Fair in New York:

This exposition gives Steve Rogers his chance to enter the war he so longs to stand for, but it also exposes the world to a dazzling array of scientific endeavours and ideals, punctuated by a futuristic monorail. We even have a glimpse of flying cars, courtesy of Howard Stark – father of Tony Stark, later Iron Man. I recently included some further visual examples from this show over on Raypunk Wonders, the sister-blog to this ‘site.

The U.S. Army’s contribution to this fair is essentially a recruitment tent, but it allows Rogers to join an initiative which boldly embraces unfamiliar technology, in an effort to combat evil and to further human development. The fight may be in Europe rather than in space, but where dials, Vita-Rays and strange alchemy are concerned, I’d say we’re still pretty firmly in raypunk territory.

Contrasted with this are the efforts of the Red Skull, Johann Schmidt, who’s taken to bolstering the efforts of his Hydra army using found, alien devices. In typical raypunk style, we are never told what a Tasseract (formerly known as a cosmic cube, in the comics) is or how it works – only that it produces boundless amounts of energy. It’s capable of powering vast aircraft and sleek submarines, but is also rife for weaponising, in the form of potent disintegration rays. Schmidt boldly claims that he has unlocked the science behind myth, and it is soon up to Captain America to put a stop to his schemes.

Ultimately what we have in this film is a hero brave enough to go up against science itself, pushing human ideals in the face of a would-be dictator, who stands as head of a vast war machine. The aesthetic is familiar, with a focus on art deco and streamline, gilded in neon blue. The action is well-grounded, too; fists and a sturdy shield are all this hero has, and all he needs to go up against a devastating armoury of death rays and aircraft. Admittedly it is not often that an organisation as powerful as the U.S. Army is painted as the “-punk” protagonists, but in that, I believe Captain America is essentially the infantry version of Col. Dan Dare, ace pilot and explorer.

I recommend the film heartily, on its own merits and as one of the more gripping chapters in this lead up to Avengers Assemble. It also makes fun viewing from an aesthetic viewpoint, for the reasons I’ve already laid out, and its music – composed by Alan Silvestri – stands as a bold soundtrack, reminiscent of Edward Shearmur’s work on the aforementioned Sky Captain.

For more visuals from the film (which are worth far more than my wittering), be sure to check out Raypunk Wonders, whose queue has a decidedly ‘Marvel-esque’ theme to it for the next few days. If you have any recommendations for raypunk films, or reviews of your own which you’d like to submit as guest blogs, please do get in touch!

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