Marvel movies: 1979's 'Captain America II' can't die soon enough
Before Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios gave the world a live-action Captain America who fights for what’s right and hates cuss words, the character didn’t exactly get a fair shake in Hollywood. Case in point, the 1979 made-for-TV movie starring football player-turned-actor Reb Brown, whose version of Cap is more interested in cruising California in his van than he is punching bad guys.
Nothing about this Captain America merits a follow-up, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from making a sequel that somehow premiered on CBS later that very same year. Captain America II: Death Too Soon is somehow even worse than the original, missing the point of this iconic superhero entirely and, worse, wasting the talents of one of the greatest character actors of all time: Christopher Lee.
Why did I torture myself by watching this made-for-TV sequel? In short: While the first movie was a clunky mess, I thought maybe there was some small hope the sequel could be better. After all, the whole Captain America origin story is out of the way, so that should make time for more action and adventure, right?
The movie opens with Steve Rogers still living out of his van as a traveling artist. Despite getting juiced up with super-steroids in the first movie, Steve is living his best ‘70s hippie life, even as he embraces his new superpowers.
Currently, he’s looking into a gang that’s been stealing cashed pension money from the elderly. This sounds like a pretty low-rent job for Captain America. If there’s this major of a crime wave going on, wouldn’t it have made the newspapers? And shouldn’t the police respond by increasing their presence to protect the elderly?
Anyway, here’s Captain America sketching an elderly woman as he asks her about this criminal activity.
Steve encourages the old lady to cash her check, slyly setting her up as bait. Then, he lies in wait, all Captain America-d out until the gang shows up to rob another senior citizen. Okay, it’s time for the first action scene. This is what’s going to set up our expectations for the rest of the movie.
Cap throws his patriotic shield at the crook… and misses. Sure, the shield comes boomeranging back again after ten seconds, during which the bad guy politely stays in the exact same spot without moving so the shield can bop him in the head.
This sends the bad guy sprawling to the ground in shock and pain like he’s been punched in the head by the Hulk. Don’t get me wrong, the actor playing the crook puts on a good show, but it’s obvious that he’s only been slightly bumped by the bubble plastic this shield is clearly made of. As this guy gets trounced by a synthetic shield, my hopes for this movie are likewise pummeled into oblivion.
Now, let’s meet our villain of the movie. Who will be the adversary to combat Captain America? You probably guessed it: It’s Christopher Lee.
Like in the first one, we don’t get a well-known supervillain. Instead, it’s yet another generic bad guy. But this time, it’s a very recognizable face. How the hell did Count Dooku end up in this movie? This guy was Count Dracula! And Saruman in Lord of the Rings! I don’t know what happened, but he must have accidentally signed an airtight contract or had a lot of unpaid parking tickets.
Here, Lee is playing a terrorist named Miguel (no last name). It’s confirmed by other characters that Miguel is supposedly a General, but no one knows where he’s really from or if Miguel is even his real name. For all we know, his military accreditations are in the form of gold star stickers and a cardboard Cap’n Crunch hat.
I’m not going to talk much about how Christopher Lee is borderline brown-face because, at this point in his career, Lee had done almost every other face out there.
No further comment.
Miguel’s evil scheme involves kidnaping a scientist working on an anti-aging formula and forcing them to redevelop it to accelerate aging. This is going to be used as a bio-weapon that will induce rapid widespread aging. Miguel plans to hold the city of Portland hostage and threaten to age everyone to death unless the U.S. government pays him billions. In the meantime, he and his men are comfortably holed up in a federal penitentiary (where he’s pretending to be the new warden) with a fully equipped chemical lab, well-assured that no one will find them there. I’m not sure who’s dumber here, the terrorists or the feds.
After getting word of the scientist’s kidnapping and Miguel’s involvement, Steve is off to investigate. His trail leads him to a farming town where everyone acts super squirrelly and ready to run him out of town. He immediately grasps that this place is ripe with terrorist activity. Steve stays in a boarding house run by a single mother, and he develops a weird relationship with his landlady’s son that involves at least one friendly pat on the rear. In case you’re worried, there’s also a sort-of romance with the mom.
Even Captain America’s final showdown with Miguel is lame. Mostly we just see Cap on his motorcycle chasing after Miguel’s getaway station wagon.
When they finally come face-to-face, Miguel throws the aging formula at Steve, who deflects it with his shield. The contents end up spilling over Miguel. In a particularly embarrassing moment, Miguel almost chokes Cap to death before the aging effect takes over and turns him into old Dracula before he dies.
This movie had to have been planned and scheduled before the first one was ever released because it clearly did not learn anything from the original Reb Brown Captain America film. It’s slow and boring without any engaging action scenes to keep it interesting. It still looks cheap — you can even see the plastic shield flapping in the wind.
We actually see far more of Steve Rogers than we ever see of Captain America, though we do get the mandated image of Reb Brown’s muscles in a strategically ripped polo shirt, though. Pretty sure that was in his contract.
Honestly, when watching Captain America: Death Too Soon, death felt like it couldn’t come soon enough. I’m just thankful they didn’t make a third one.