Saturday, August 13, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Just saw Captain America, The First Avenger. It was a solid movie and I enjoyed it. I actually thought it was too short, which is a rarity for a me to think such of a movie. The actors did a good job with their characters. The little differences between the comic and movies, actually worked in the movies favor this time around. For example,I wouldn't mind seeing the origin of the Red Skull as done in the movie makes a lot of sense and makes the Red Skull and Captain America more alike in some ways.

Now I'll be talking about specifics in the movie and how they bounce around the old brain and how I might relate some of that to a role playing game.

In terms of structure, Captain America is a soldier. Prior to that, he is a patriot. He wants to serve his country. One of the reasons I like games that follow some type of military structure, either mercenary or military, is that they provide a fairly clear structure that allows the game to flow in a manner that the GM has a little bit more leeway in controlling. As shown in the film however, not every soldier always does as he's told and even in those situations, they work out to be action filled scenarios that have the soldier 'officially' in the wrong, but doing such a good job of crippling the enemy, that it still works out to every one's advantage and any actual punishments are wink winked away.

For equipment, Captain America uses a specialized mesh for his uniform to protect him from small arms fire as well as from bayonets. His shield however, is a unique weapon of defense that is painted over and over again in the colors of his home country. With his augmented strength and agility, the shield becomes both defensive and offensive weapon. It is also iconic. Few fans of Marvel Comics wouldn't recognize the red, white, and blue of Captain America's shield.

Supporting cast includes fellow officers and agents who are allied with America. Another reason why I enjoy the military structure, there are opportunities to surround the players with interesting people who may not have the same type of plot protection that the players have. Will an explosion kill a friend? Will a sniper take out an important ally?

The nemesis... I've mentioned the Red Skull already. In this version, he too benefits from the super serum that turns a man into a super soldier. It ties him and Captain America together. the actor playing the Red Skull does a great job of bringing a level of arrogance to the Skull that works well. For example, when first introduced, he is warned away from an item of great power by an old guardian who tells him, "It's not meant for normal men to look upon", or something of that nature. The Red Skull agrees with him! Other opportunities for the Red Skull to shine include his first physical encounter with Captain America, which is cut short by the destruction of the building around them.

This destruction is a good method of keeping the final fight from happening. It allows the audience to get a taste of the Red Skull's physical prowess and reveals his madness as he claims to embrace his greater than human nature, by showcase his well, red skull visage.

In many situations where there is a need for a nemesis, having that nemesis have a similar origin to the players can provide insight into the abilities, methods, and motivations of the nemesis. It also serves to set up the nemesis as someone who is just as capable as the players. a good villain needs a good introduction. He needs a good theme.

The Red Skull also benefits in that he has a lot of neat toys. His car for example, is a slick piece of machinery while his soldiers, Hydra, are all armed with high powered energy weapons with their own signature look. These touches work well for the movie in that they allow viewers to quickly identify who the good guys and bad guys are.

Captain America is also packed with high energy. It keeps moving. There are times I wanted it to slow down as it actually uses a montage of Cap taking down various Hydra bases instead of showcasing specific missions.  Keeping things moving is also vital to a role playing game. It helps keep things moving. It provides the players reasons to pay attention, to keep their hands close to the dice.

While many of the ideas are immediately of use to a super hero based campaign, they are also grounds for any campaign that requires the GM to have a military structure with a villain who shares a common point of origin with the players. Good stuff all around.