REVIEW: AVENGERS WALMART EXCLUSIVE 6" CAPTAIN AMERICA
There can be no question that one of the most popular movies of not only the season, but most popular movies PERIOD, is "The Avengers". I've heard it called the best super-hero movie ever, and I am not inclined to argue the point. Certainly the box office numbers have given this assessment a good degree of credibility, with well over a billion dollars brought in worldwide.
The movie brings together Marvel Comics' most popular individual heroes -- Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk -- all of whom have starred in their own respective movies over the past several years, most of which are due for sequels, as they combat the combined threat of Thor's adopted brother Loki, and an alien army that he has gathered to cause no small measure of chaos and conquer the Earth in the process.
As one would expect, there is an action figure line to accompany this movie. Hasbro has been the main Marvel licensee for some years now, and as with many of their action figure lines, including Star Wars and G.I. Joe, most of their Marvel figures have tended to be in the 4" scale, give or take a little depending on the character. Along with the main "Marvel Universe" line, they have produced figures for both of the Iron Man movies, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor movies, and an action figure line for Spider-Man's newest film has started to arrive in the stores as of this writing. All of these lines, except for the first Iron Man movie, have been 4" in scale. It seems to be Hasbro's action figure standard, for the most part.
Now, I don't have a problem with that. Hasbro does excellent action figures in this scale, and I have a generous number of them from all of the various Marvel-related lines, as well as Star Wars and G.I. Joe. Heck, go back a couple of years, and I even have some Indiana Jones figures in this scale. It's a perfectly good size for a wide range of action figures, and you can see my reviews for many of them here on this site.
However -- maybe I've gotten a little spoiled by Mattel's DC Universe Classics or some such, but something in me just likes my super-heroes to be a little larger than that. In fairness, Hasbro does try to accommodate this to a certain degree. When they first got the Marvel license, which had been held by Toy Biz for a great many years, they continued the Marvel Legends line of larger-scaled action figures for some time, and recently brought it back, with some very impressive results. Nevertheless, this larger size is not a priority for Hasbro's Marvel lines.
So when I discovered that there was a 6" scale, Marvel Legends-type line of figures based on the Avengers movie characters, exclusive to Walmart, I was at first surprised that an entirely different SCALE of figures would be a store exclusive, given the expense needed in creating entirely different sets of molds, and distinctly larger ones at that. Then I decided not to question my good fortune and made it a point to round them up.
The Avengers 6" Movie Series line consists of six figures -- Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Loki. Sadly, Black Widow got left out of the mix. The stigma of female action figures strikes again. But -- never mind. I'm immensely pleased with this line as it stands, I'm glad they were made, and this review will take a look at CAPTAIN AMERICA!
First, a little history on the Avengers, and their movie, and the character of Captain America.
The Avengers made their debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics' Justice League of America.
Labeled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", the Avengers originally consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, and the Hulk. The original Captain America was discovered by the team in issue #4, trapped in ice, and he joined the group when they revived him. The rotating roster has become a hallmark of the team, although one theme remains consistent: the Avengers fight "the foes no single superhero can withstand". The team, famous for its battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!", has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.
The first adventure features the Asgardian god Loki seeking revenge against his brother Thor. Using an illusion, Loki tricks the Hulk into destroying a railroad track. He then diverts a radio call by Rick Jones for help to Thor, whom Loki hopes will battle the Hulk. Unknown to Loki, the radio call is also answered by Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. After an initial misunderstanding, the heroes unite and defeat Loki after Thor is lured away by an illusion of the Hulk and suspects Loki when he realizes it is an illusion. Ant-Man states the five work well together and suggests they form a combined team; the Wasp names the group "the Avengers" because it sounded "dramatic".
The roster changes almost immediately; by the beginning of the second issue, Ant-Man has become Giant-Man and, at the end of the issue, the Hulk leaves once he realizes how much the others fear his unstable personality. Feeling responsible, the Avengers try to locate and contain the Hulk, which subsequently leads them into combat with Namor the Sub-Mariner. This would result in the first major milestone in the Avengers' history: the revival and return of Captain America. Captain America joins the team and he is also given "founding member" status in the Hulk's place. The Avengers go on to fight foes such as Captain America's wartime enemy Baron Zemo, who forms the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, and Count Nefaria.
As to the movie, officially known as "Marvel's The Avengers" it was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's brother Loki from enslaving the human race.
Development of The Avengers began after the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, when Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011. With the signing of Johansson in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the screenplay originally written by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in August and New York City in September.
The Avengers premiered on April 11, 2012, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. The film, released everywhere else May 4, has received positive reviews from most film critics and set numerous box office records, including the biggest opening weekend ever in North America.
As to the storyline, and you may consider this your SPOILER WARNING, just in case you've been so negligent as to actually miss the movie: After his fall from Asgard into space at the end of the Thor movie, the Asgardian Loki meets the Other, the leader of a warmongering alien race known as the Chitauri. In exchange for retrieving the tesseract, a powerful energy source of unknown potential, the Other promises Loki a Chitauri army with which he can subjugate the Earth. Nick Fury, director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. Physicist Dr. Erik Selvig is leading a research team experimenting on the tesseract, and Agent Maria Hill explains that the object has begun radiating an unusual form of energy. The tesseract suddenly activates and opens a portal, allowing Loki to reach Earth. Loki takes the tesseract and uses his staff to enslave Selvig and several agents, including Clint Barton (Hawkeye), to aid him in his getaway.
In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the "Avengers Initiative". Agent Natasha Romanoff is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner; agent Phil Coulson visits Tony Stark to have him review Selvig's research; and Fury approaches Steve Rogers with an assignment to retrieve the tesseract. While Barton steals iridium needed to stabilize the tesseract's power, Loki causes a distraction in Stuttgart, Germany, leading to a confrontation with Rogers, Stark, and Romanoff that ends with Loki's surrender. While being escorted back to S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor, Loki's adoptive brother, arrives and frees Loki hoping to convince him to abandon his plan and return him to Asgard. After a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, Thor agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier, and imprison him until the tesseract can be acquired.
The Avengers become divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the tesseract to develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against hostile extra-terrestrials. As the group argues, Barton, and Loki's other possessed agents, attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, and Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage. Romanoff fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes after killing Coulson, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship. Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them publicly to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the tesseract, in conjunction with a device Selvig built, to open a portal above Stark Tower to the Chitauri fleet in space, launching his invasion.
The Avengers rally in defense of New York City, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers, Stark, and Thor evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, eventually beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's staff can be used to close the portal. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the invaders' lead ship, thereby disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power and he falls back through the portal, but the Hulk saves him from crashing to the ground. Romanoff deactivates the portal to prevent further invasion. In the aftermath, Thor returns Loki and the tesseract to Asgard. Fury notes that the Avengers will return when they are needed.
In the first of two post-credits scenes, the Other confers with his master - who turns out to be none other than Thanos - about the attack on Earth.
As for Captain America, he first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 cover-dated March 1941, from Marvel Comics' 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics, and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Steve Rogers was born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City, to Sarah and Joseph Rogers. Joseph Rogers died when Steve was only a child and his mother, Sarah, died of pneumonia while Steve was a teen. By early 1940, before America's entry into World War II, Rogers is a tall but scrawny fine arts student specializing in illustration, and a comic book writer and artist, a career he willingly set aside upon his transformation into Captain America.
Disturbed by the rise of the Third Reich, Rogers attempts to enlist, only to be rejected due to his physically frail body. His resolution however allows him to be noticed by U.S. Army General Chester Phillips and "Project: Rebirth." Rogers is used as a test subject for the Super-Soldier project, receiving a special serum made by "Dr. Josef Reinstein", later retroactively changed to a code name for the scientist Abraham Erskine.
The serum, coupled with the stabilizing "Vita-Rays," is a success, and transforms the frail Steve Rogers into a perfect specimen--a nearly perfect human being with peak strength, agility, stamina, and intelligence. The success of the program leaves Erskine wondering about replicating the experiment on other human beings. The process itself however has been inconsistently detailed: while in the original material Steve Rogers is shown receiving injections of the Super-Serum, when the origin was retold in the sixties, the Comic Code Authority had already put a veto over graphic description of drug intake and abuse, and thus the Super-Serum was retconned into an oral formula. Later accounts hints at a combination of oral and intravenous treatments, culminating in the Vita-Ray exposure and a strenuous training regimen.
Erskine refused to write down every crucial element of the treatment, leaving behind a flawed, imperfect knowledge of the needed steps. Thus, when the Nazi spy Heinz Kruger killed him, Erskine's method of creating new Super-Soldiers died as well. Captain America, in his first act after his transformation, avenges Erskine. In the 1941 origin story and in Tales of Suspense #63, Kruger dies when running into machinery but is not killed by Rogers; in the Captain America #109 and #255 revision, however, Rogers causes the spy's death by punching him into machinery.
Unable to create new Super-Soldiers, and willing to hide the Project Rebirth fiasco, the U.S.A. Government casts the now-powerful Rogers as a patriotic superhero, able to counter the menace of the Red Skull as a counter-intelligence agent. As such, he's supplied with a patriotic uniform (designed by Rogers himself), a bulletproof shield, a personal side arm, and the codename Captain America, while Steve Rogers himself poses as a clumsy infantry private at Camp Lehigh in Virginia. He forms a friendship with the camp's teenage mascot, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes.
Eventually Barnes learns of Rogers' dual identity and offers to keep the secret if he can become Captain America's sidekick, being trained himself to act as the perfect partner. During their adventures, Franklin D. Roosevelt presents Captain America with a new shield, forged from an alloy of steel and vibranium, fused by an unknown catalyst, so effective that it replaces his own firearm. Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fight the Nazi menace both on their own and as members of the superhero team the Invaders (as seen in the 1970s comic of the same name). Captain America also battles a number of criminal menaces on American soil, including a wide variety of costumed villains.
In late April 1945, during the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky try to stop the villainous Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launches the plane with an armed explosive on it, Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. The pair reach the plane just before take off. When Bucky tries to defuse the bomb, it explodes in mid-air. The young man is believed killed. Rogers is hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Neither is found, and both are presumed dead. It is later revealed that neither character actually died.
Years later, the newly-formed superhero team the Avengers discovers Steve Rogers' body in the North Atlantic, the Captain's uniform under his soldier's fatigues and still carrying his shield. After he revives, they piece together that Rogers had been preserved in a block of ice since 1945, surviving in such a state only because of his enhancements from Operation: Rebirth. The block had begun to melt after the Sub-Mariner, enraged that an Arctic Inuit tribe is worshiping the frozen figure, throws it into the ocean. Rogers accepts membership in the Avengers, and although long out of his time, his considerable combat experience makes him a valuable asset to the team. He quickly assumes leadership, and has typically returned to that position throughout the team's history.
In the Captain America movie, in the present day, scientists in the Arctic uncover a circular object with a red, white and blue motif.
In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt, also known as the Red Skull, and his men invade Tønsberg, Norway, to steal a mysterious tesseract -- the movies' name for the Cosmic Cube -- possessing untold powers. Meanwhile, in New York City, Steve Rogers is rejected for World War II military duty because of various health and physical issues. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend Bucky Barnes, Rogers again attempts to enlist. Overhearing Rogers' conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine allows Rogers to enlist. He is recruited as part of a "super-soldier" experiment under Erskine, Colonel Chester Phillips, and British agent Peggy Carter. Phillips is unconvinced by Erskine's claims that Rogers is the right person for the procedure, but relents after seeing Rogers commit an act of self-sacrificing bravery. The night before the treatment, Erskine reveals to Rogers that Schmidt underwent an imperfect version of the procedure and suffered side-effects, resulting in his red, skull-like countenance
Back in Europe, Schmidt and Dr. Arnim Zola successfully harness the energies of the tesseract, intending to use the power to fuel Zola's inventions. Schmidt, having discovered Erskine's location, dispatches an assassin to kill him. In America, Erskine, with help from Howard Stark, subjects Rogers to the super-soldier treatment, injecting him with a special serum and dosing him with "vita-rays". After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and more muscular, one of the attendees kills Erskine, revealing himself to be Schmidt's assassin. Rogers pursues and captures the assassin, but the man commits suicide by cyanide capsule before he can be interrogated.
With Erskine dead and the super-soldier formula lost, U.S. Senator Brandt has Rogers tour the nation in a colorful costume as "Captain America" to promote war bonds. In 1943, while on tour in Italy performing for active servicemen, Rogers learns that Barnes' unit was lost in a battle against Schmidt's forces. Refusing to believe that Barnes is dead, Rogers has Carter and Howard Stark fly him behind enemy lines to mount a solo rescue attempt. Rogers infiltrates the fortress of Schmidt's HYDRA organization, freeing Barnes and the other captured soldiers. Rogers confronts Schmidt, who reveals his face to be a mask, removing it to display the red, skull-like face that earned him the sobriquet "the Red Skull." Schmidt escapes and Rogers returns to base with the freed soldiers.
Rogers recruits Barnes and other former captives to attack the other known HYDRA bases. Stark outfits Rogers with advanced equipment, in particular a circular shield made of vibranium, a rare, nigh-indestructible metal. Rogers and his team successfully sabotage various HYDRA operations. The team later assaults a train carrying Zola. Zola is captured, but Barnes falls from the train to his apparent death. Using information extracted from Zola, the final HYDRA stronghold is located and Rogers leads an attack to stop Schmidt from using weapons of mass destruction on American cities. Rogers clambers aboard Schmidt's aircraft as it takes off. During the subsequent fight, the tesseract's container is damaged. Schmidt physically handles the tesseract, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The tesseract falls to the floor, burning through the plane and falling to Earth. Seeing no way to land the plane without the risk of detonating its weapons, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the tesseract from the ocean floor, but is unable to locate Rogers or the aircraft.
Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing from an anachronistic radio broadcast that something is wrong, he flees outside into what is revealed to be present-day Times Square, where Nick Fury tells him he has been "asleep" for nearly 70 years. This ultimately leads into the Avengers movie.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. There's one thing about Captain America. I doubt that he was all that easy to outfit for the Avengers. In his own movie, he was first seen wearing a somewhat exaggerated version of, let's call it "super-hero spandex". This was what he wore when he was being used strictly for public relations purposes.
Once he had proved himself in combat, his next outfit was more or less a cross between something resembling his traditional costume, and a more typical soldier's uniform. Fine and well -- for the time period.
Here's the thing about Captain America, and the Captain America movie. The movie had to manage a very delicate balance in presenting some things in a high-tech manner, without losing sight of the fact that except for a couple of scenes at the very beginning and very ending of the movie, the film took place almost entirely in the 1940's. There was a limit as to just how advanced the characters, machinery, and such, could look. In this, it succeeded admirably.
But the Avengers movie does not take place in the 1940's. It takes place in the present day. And Captain America has to look like he can stand alongside a guy with a high-tech suit of armor, and another guy who's the personification of a Norse deity, dressed in his Asgardian finest. Let's face it, the only one who's not a clothes-horse is the Hulk. How's someone who is basically a "super-soldier", dressed in the colors of the American flag, supposed to keep up with this?
Fortunately, the movie created a truly excellent costume for the character, which is reflected abundantly well in the figure. Although none of Marvel's heroes are dressing in "just" spandex tights anymore, the modern-day Captain America costume manages to reflect both the advanced technology of the present-day Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as respect Captain America's iconic look..
Although clearly not armored like Iron Man, Captain America's costume is just as clearly designed to be protective. It has a certain multi-layered look to it, especially on the upper torso and arms, and protective padding visible on the legs. The gloves and boots are also clearly designed to protect the wearer in the sort of extreme combat situations that the Avengers find themselves in.
Captain America is wearing a sort of combination mask and helmet. Although the movie shows it to have a certain amount of flexibility, especially around the face, the top clearly resembles a protective helmet, although not as obvious as a military type of helmet. There is a large letter "A" on the front. The distinctive wings on Captain America's headpiece are modified here to a series of curved white swoops sculpted into the side of the helmet.
The helmet-mask merges with the rest of the uniform. The torso is clearly designed to look padded and protective. The stars on the chest and back have distinct sculpted depth to them. The shoulders and part of the sides are a darker blue than the rest of the costume. Cap's usual white upper arms have been reduced to a certain amount of padding on the inside upper arms, but it still looks good with the overall look of the figure. The mid-torso region of alternating red and white stripes is in full effect. There is a sculpted texture to much of this that, while not the apparent chain mail of the classic Cap, is clearly intended to look very protective, well above a basic fabric uniform.
Cap is wearing a blue belt with assorted high-tech equipment pouches on it. This was a separately molded piece attached during assembly. Very nicely made. His trousers are a little less high-tech-looking than the upper part of his uniform, and are a little more loose fitting. But they still look good and work well, and clearly have some protective padding of their own. The high-tech looks resumes with the fancy red boots, which are a good match for the fancy red gloves, and even have some small silver details on them.
On the whole, the figure is extremely impressive, and a superb representation of an extremely agreeable take on Captain America for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All of the paint detailing is very well done. This includes the facial features and the eyes, which have distinct whites, blue irises, and black pupils. Captain America also has some silver detailing at the shoulders which has been very impressively done.
Of course, Captain America comes with his shield. This is a nicely made item, measuring over two inches in diameter, with a slight metallic finish to the red, white, and red stripes, and the blue center with the white star.
The back of the shield is surprisingly complex. Rather than just a couple of properly sized handles to allow the shield to fit over Cap's arm, two fully adjustable straps have been installed here. It's almost overkill, as to get the straps to the point where the shield will stay on the arm, they sort of extend beyond the perimeter of the shield, but I certainly can't argue with the attention to detail and workmanship.
The only other accessory that Captain America comes with is a display base, which all of the figures in this series come with. It's nice, but the figure is also fully capable of standing on his own two feet.
Naturally, Captain America is superbly well articulated. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, glove tops, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The ankles have an extra articulation joint that lets the feet rotate from side to side a bit, as well as move up and down.
So, what's my final word? As I said earlier, I tend to like my super-heroes a little larger than most. There's nothing wrong with the 4" scale, but I am truly delighted that Hasbro and Walmart got together to turn out this excellent 6" scale series of figures based on the Avengers movie, and Captain America is definitely one of the highlights. Certainly any fan of the movie, or of Marvel Comics in general, or Captain America, should track down this figure.
The AVENGERS 6" MOVIE SERIES figure of CAPTAIN AMERICA, exclusive to Walmart, definitely has my highest recommendation!