Everybody Wants to Punch Hitler in the Face
Watching Inglourious Basterds (and yes, there will be spoilers, but seriously, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before – it involves the treatment of Hitler in the movie, if that gives you any indication), two things struck me:
1) This may be Quentin Tarantino’s best movie since Pulp Fiction.
2) God, I hope the people putting together the Captain America movie are paying attention.
Basterds decides there’s no good reason to be faithful to history if it’s just a movie. Now, most movies take liberties with history for the sake of drama (coughPearlHarborcoughretchgag), but Tarantino takes it a step further, by ignoring pesky facts like “Hitler didn’t get shot in the face by a squad of vengeful Jews in a burning movie theater.”
Because this isn’t a damn documentary, and if it makes the movie better to brutally, BRUTALLY murder Hitler – and, search your hearts here: what movie WOULDN’T be better with a brutal Hitler-murder scene? – then, well, why not?
The wonder here is that otherwise, Tarantino is uncharacteristically restrained in his storytelling for the most part, instead trusting (even empowering) classic notions of Hitchcockian suspense. As Roger Ebert explains,
“Hitchcock … used a famous example to explain the difference between surprise and suspense. If people are seated at a table and a bomb explodes, that is surprise. If they are seated at a table, and you know there’s a bomb under the table attached to a ticking clock, but they continue to play cards – that’s suspense.”
The vast majority of the movie is letting the audience sweat it out, waiting for the bomb to go off. Sometimes this is metaphorical, but it’s often literal. Except sometimes it isn’t a bomb, but a lot of gunfire. But the waiting, as Hitchcock knew, is the hardest part.
So considering the restraint Tarantino shows for most of the film, the ending burst of catastrophic violence – about 75% of which is directed at Hitler’s prone body – is…well, pretty rewarding, both for the characters and the audience.
Anyway, here’s what made me think about the forthcoming Captain America movie. Now, only two things are really known about it so far: the director is Joe Johnston, who directed The Rocketeer (a personal favorite) and was a visual effects director on Raiders of the Lost Ark (a personal favorite of AMERICA ITSELF). The other is, it will be set in World War II.
Early talk was for the movie to take on a Saving Private Ryan vibe, pumping up the sense of danger by depicting war in all its cacophonous hell. And sure – that would be a very exciting movie. But it would be the wrong Captain America movie. Want to know why?
That is why.
Captain America should not be a movie about a super-soldier in World War II. Because that would be silly. He’s a guy in a flag-colored costume whose chief weapon is the exact opposite of a rifle. I don’t care how awesome he is, if he’s stuck in a Saving Private Ryan-style realistic-WWII, he will get shot in the head in the first five minutes.
However, if he is in an Inglourious Basterds WWII, well, then…Captain America can punch Hitler square in his stupid fucking face.
Which, as far as I can tell, would make the movie an instant success. Because as Tarantino has proved: historical accuracy, shmishtorical shmaccuracy. Everyone wants to see Hitler take serious damage to his stupid fucking face.