Most superheroes are only as good as their villains are bad. In this summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans plays a scrawny, sickly wannabe soldier during World War II who gets an injection that turns him into a super-warrior. A similar experiment was also established by the Nazis, but turned their test subject — the weapons developer Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) — into the ghastly Red Skull … The premise of the movie, out July 22, is that the serum only brings out the subject’s inner strength. Good guys, like Steve Rogers, remain good guys — only much tougher. Bad guys, like Schmidt, turn into living horrors.I have to say … I’m very impressed with the way Red Skull turned out for this film. It’s not always easy to bring comic book characters to life. Marvel failed to do a good enough job with The Hulk in their first movie so they had to try again for their second movie … and, IMHO, they still haven’t gotten the character right. Thus far, based on what we’ve seen in the first Captain America movie trailer and now this promo photo, Red Skull looks great. Along with this photo, EW brings us an interview with director Joe Johnson where he talks all things Captain America. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The strength of heroes is often found in their weaknesses. What vulnerabilities does Captain America have that make him interesting and relatable?
JOE JOHNSTON: What I like is he’s not a superhero in the true sense of the word. He becomes a superhero but doesn’t have any super powers. He is just the best possible, human specimen. Imagine the fastest, strongest Olympian athlete. Add 30 percent. That’s Steve Rogers.
The movie is set during World War II, when there was great pressure on men to fight, but Steve is physically frail at the beginning and the military doesn’t even want him.
The thing that appeals to me is he is everyman. He’s a 98-pound weakling. All he really wants to do is the right thing and serve his country and [at first] nobody wants him because he’s too weak. He’s been picked on all his life. But he’s a guy who never gives up. That’s his trademark.
After he gets the super-soldier injection, that’s when he becomes the only hope of stopping the Nazis’ Red Skull. Is part of what makes him a hero that he remembers what it was like to be pushed around?
Yeah, for Steve Rogers it’s a very personal thing. At one point he says, “I don’t like bullies, I don’t care where they’re from.” He makes a complete physical transformation to a perfect human specimen. But inside he doesn’t change at all. It must be tempting to go back and say “I’m going to get that guy who beat me up in high school.” He does get revenge in the film, but on the Nazis — not on people who maybe picked on him. Before he gets the injection, the doctor tells him: “Whatever happens, stay who you are.”
The first issue of Captain America in the Marvel Comics featured him punching Hitler in the jaw. That was March 1941, well before the U.S. even entered the war. Is there still a political side to Cap?
He was created as propaganda tool, but he soon became much more than that. There are all these incarnations over the decades, but the film is not a flag waver. It’s about a guy who wants to do the right thing, and that transcends all nationalities and borders. He’s going to do the right thing no matter what flag is on his chest.
How do you feel about the title being changed to The First Avenger for release internationally?
There was some concern [the name] Captain America will not play in certain countries. If it were up to me I wouldn’t thread the needle so carefully. I’d call it Captain America, since that’s what it is.
Did you have to think much about the upcoming Avengers movie when working on Captain America?This year is going to be a big year for superhero movies. I’m cautiously optimistic that the films will turn out well … but you just never know with these things. Captain America: The First Avenger looks like it’s gonna be a good one … but it’s far too early to know for sure. Of the little sneak peeks at things we’ve been getting in the past few months, I’d say the movie looks like it’ll be a’ight. So far, so good.
I really didn’t. Because this was a period film, because this was the origin story, I didn’t have to worry about the Avengers which was a present day story. We have present-day bookends and bring Cap back at the end and then I basically hand him off. And The Avengers is its own thing.
How do you relate to someone who can fly, and is bulletproof, and can throw tanks around?
Movies like that are a lot harder to do, because how you make someone like that vulnerable? Someone like Superman. I don’t know if that’s the best example, but it’s certainly the one that comes to mind. How do you make a guy who is invincible seem real? Kryptonite, that is his one weakness, but I don’t know. It’s much easier with a guy like Steve Rogers who has all kinds of built in weaknesses, because of who he was and how he grew up.