|Top to Bottom: Forever Young; Captain America; Matter of Life and Death|
In this way there's also an echoes in both of Powell and Pressburger's A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946). bombadier David Niven isn't deep-frozen in that one, but he does hang suspended between life and death after he has to jump from his burning plane without a parachute. He falls in love with June (Kim Hunter), a radio operator, trying to guide him in through the fog from Bomber Command. Their chemistry in their scene is terrific. They aren't really in the same scene at all, or even the same altitude. But they fall in love just the same. In wartime there is no room for waffling and being coy. When love strikes, the victims act, in great spasms of each-breath-may-be-your-last intensity. The thought of having to die and not be with June is too much for Niven to bear, though his angelic summons bearer consoles him he may get to meet her again... when she's 97.
In1992, meanwhile, Mel Gibson lives the geriatric-romantic fantasia. He comes out of the freeze and races to find his old bitty. What was romantic in the early 90s becomes in 2011 not even worth asking about --a mere regret. Captain A. notes to Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D (though Fury too, presumably was frozen since he fought WW2 as Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos and so here looks relatively young... and suddenly black), "I had a date." According to the Comicvine, Peggy Carter is "residing at the Larkmoore Clinic due to old age and possibly Alzheimer's disease."
You think Mel would have let that stop him?
Luckily for Mel's lovelorn pilot he starts to rapidly age soon after he's thawed from his (co-invented with George Wendt) cryogenic prototype. Thawing him, by accident, is a plucky young boy (Elijah Wood) and his pal who help Mel reach his eighties right as he reunites with his lost love, who just happens to have a landing strip-sized front lawn. For Captain A., however, there can be no such strip and no such Wood. Seventy years is just too damned long to pick up the pieces. And so it is on this past Thanksgiving I celebrated via CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER a country built on the urge to escape... from religious oppression, from time, from the ice (or into it) and, most importantly, from girls my own age.
But as Americans we don't stop there. Even in our new safe escaped-to haven we know that to be free and safe and cozy we must go deeper still, into the tinsel-and-celluloid palm trees, into the pulp novel and comics, into 3-D and Cinemascope, ever searching for a new and novel way to chill ourselves out, to get away from prying parents, screeching spouses, needy, nagging children, loud neighbors, or lack of air conditioning. The theater is where we escape on those horrid summer days when our AC gives out. Is it not so? Freezing ourselves, as Americans, in film, becomes the new sky-diving, the new crack, the new coke, better than a quart of bourbon and a W.C. Fields tape. You go to bed, and when you wake up technology and changing tastes and inflation have altered the landscape so fast that in a mere half a century you may as well be on Mars.... and you skip the hangover.
In all three of the films it's hard to scrape together even one bad guy, for time itself is the real enemy. Hugo Weaving's Red Skull works towards RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK meets WILD WILD WEST/JONAH HEX-style world archeological domination. Skull is real only in the need of his creators to outdo the Nazis, to take evil one better, in insignia and in style. Captain America was always a throw-back to the dawn of comic books, the 40s, when nearly every superhero tangled regularly with the Axis, including Captain Marvel, Captain Midnight, Captain Blackhawk, and so forth, and the colors of their uniforms needed to be bright and distinct from the backgrounds for the crude 4-color newsprint process. These early comics were cozily satisfying, but their idiotic use of sidekicks (Bucky Dent is here at least an adult) and refusal to embrace ambiguous character development made them easily outgrow-able. I don't even know where mine are!
And seriously, does anyone really love Captain America? No. He seems like he was created by some drab civics committee to deflect flak about juvenile delinquency. Comic book fans in the 1980s loved, as I did, the Fantastic Four when drawn by Kirby or John Byrne. We loved the X-Men as written by Chris Clarendon. We loved Frank Miller's stint with Daredevil, but Captain America (I presume since I never read the CA comics even though I had a complete run of The Invaders) could never get too dark; he stood for something, and thus seemed wooden, like a support rod for a tomato plant --and here the baroque steampunk version of WW2 is, in retrospect, vaguely disrespectful. In the 1940s comics it was okay to give Nazis superpowers and gigantic death rays, but it seems now to diminish the true heroism of the men and women who fought and/or died in that war. And when I see villains wasting time staring at glowing green or blue power sources I begin to think of RED SONJA (1985). Man, I really wanted that movie to be good. But it wasn't. Each bad scene and haircut stretched time to tedium where freezing oneself to get to the credits faster seemed to be already happening, but in a botched version where we're conscious the whole time. Red Skull fares only moderately better in that regard. Red does not mean hot in these cases. Like Captain America, Red Sonja even as a comic character seemed exist soley to indulge some base instinct (patriotism as the last refuge of the sexually frustrated).
Freeze me, then, Big Red Sonja Skull, so I can miss Christmas and airport anxiety and just magically get to the time when that AVENGERS movie is finally released... as an eye drop of digitally encoded biotechnology that lets me dream it in 4-D. Freeze me, December, and let me remember a time when I, too, felt human... and 22.
When I was 22, I had a very good year.
Prepare the ray and let's pull this spinning planet to a stop. And so it goes.... but.... wait... Lois Lane crawls through the bushes looking for her Indiana Jones blue pill but there is no blue pill. That's what no one told Neo - the blue pill was a sugar placebo. There never was a choice of not burning in blushing idiot reject hell. Every decade spent hiding in the cold, reading comics while we slowly froze our sperm before the AC vent just postponed our initiation, and now the girl we wanted to ask to the prom is now too old to dance, long since crumbled to dust, or worse, become a mom. Freeze me so I can keep trying!