It is a sign of the generational changes in this nation the way this character has seen a shift in interpretation. At conception this super hero was a direct response to the Nazi hordes, possibly stopping just short of becoming agitprop. Over the years the Good Captain has become an iconic image, if a slightly cartoonish one in the eyes of many. Personally I have no problem backing the hyper-American hero. Even with a goofy phalanx of USO girls trotted out for the ComicCon premiere, I still pull for the home team.
The global release of the next member of Marvel’s Avengers team found many wondering about both the appropriateness of the character, and how it may sell abroad. Concerns of jingoism and of offending the sensibilities of foreign audiences led many to speculate on widespread title changes; however Paramount and Marvel mostly saw fit to leave the name in place. Only in three foreign territories has the movie been redubbed as The First Avenger. In Russia and the Ukraine it was believed that The Cold War prevented the character from being well known, and thus he is not an established character. Only in South Korea – where tensions over the presence of the U.S. military have been high – is the name change believed to be an ideological move.
Stateside saw the movie being prevented from a natural fit: the July 4th holiday weekend. As ideal as that appeared, the Transformers juggernaut had already staked that claim on the calendar. Moves were made nonetheless to entrench the title in Americana on that date. Captain America was heavily pumped during the baseball All-Star Game, but first the used the Nation’s birthday as a promotional point. At ten baseball stadiums on July 4th the film sponsored fireworks shows following the games, as well as distributing posters and shirts touting the film. Boston catcher Jason Varitek even sported themed catcher’s gear for the game, which was later auctioned for charity.
With a bulk of the movie being set decades back there is difficulty in coming up with time-specific product placement. One able participant is the venerable Harley Davidson. When production photos were revealed months ago there were select cycle-heads in the Bar-and-Shield universe who complained the bike used on screen was too contemporary for the era, highlighting mechanical details not available when the story was set. I always tire of these nitpickers declaring arcane anachronisms as ruinous of a film’s quality. They proclaim that a movie is spoiled when a style of footwear, for instance, is shown on camera that is not era-specific. Their ability to suspend disbelief in a movie with people who can fly becomes compromised by a shoe brand. For their part Harley not only provided bikes for the production, they have a sweepstakes where two winners will be able to build their own custom bike.
One interesting component in all the promotions is the absence of the expected fast food tie-in. Normally Marvel has an agreement with Burger King to have in-store promos and kids meals (as they did earlier this year with Thor.) However those rights for this title instead were sitting with Dunkin Donuts. In what is possibly overcompensation for the Rachael Ray Muslim scarf controversy the donut chain has gone full out red-white-and-blue for the film. They have even gone the way of fellow donut purveyor, Krispy Kreme, and created a special pastry for their promo, the chain’s first ever star-shaped donut. And unlike their competition (which created special edition cakes for The Green Lantern, and Hop, but only overseas) these are found here in the good ole U.S.
Also created is a special edition of their patented Coolata ice drinks. This one comes in a 3-chambered graphic cup to hold the patriotic flavors of cherry, raspberry, and vanilla.
Sister company Baskin-Robbins also has a line of heroic frozen confections. Ice cream cakes abound, themed sundaes, and then there’s the flavor-of-the month — Super Soldier Swirl. This is vanilla ice cream with cherry swirls, and blue chocolate chips. At this point you may be feeling a brain-freeze on par with Steve Rodgers while encased in ice.
One of Marvel’s promo partners which did follow along was the Dr.Pepper/7-Up Company. With Thor still seen on bottles of the flagship brand the remaining soft drink labels were made available for the next member of the Avengers crew. While this does make sense mostly, I think they could have paused from using all of the sodas however. Something just feels wrong when you see Captain America on Canada Dry.
Kellogg’s once again offers up a collection of fruit snacks with our Hero on the label, but the company got fairly lazy with the effort. They printed up new boxes for this release, but the six die-cut, drop-forged shapes of fruit they offer up here are identical to those the previously gave us with Thor a few months back.
The gum manufacturer Wrigley is a key sponsor. They have set up a film partner website where you can enter codes found on their packages of gum for a chance at winning prizes. Their gums have graphics from the film on a variety of the packages, but like Dr. Pepper they could have stopped short from using all of them. The Captain, decked out in the Stars-and-Stripes loses some of his impact when shown on a pink bottle of Orbit.
Toys of course are a huge player. Hasbro was the maker of the wide line of Captain America playthings. They brought out both actors from the Marvel films this year – Chris Evens was joined by Thor Chris Hemsworth — to the annual Toy Fair to pump the launch of the toy lines.
The expected assortment of figures and gadgets are found, while not all of them seem resonant of the movie. I have to question the accuracy of The First Avenger shown astride a contemporary all-terrain vehicle, although this is not the complete misfire as seen years ago. While odd, it certainly is not as bad as when The Fantastic Four debuted and kids were sold The Human Torch riding an ATV.
One last item – a personal bank — is probably just fine for the kids, but I could not help but pause once I spotted it. The bust of the Captain looks pretty good here, and his shield on the back only makes it better. However adults may actually wince slightly when viewing it in another perspective.
With the country mired in a protracted recession, and politicians in Washington D.C. wrestling over a budget crisis this comes off as a bad totem. It seems tough to hear all the talk about this nation’s deficits and prospects of the country going broke, only to then encounter Captain America featured as an empty bank. Ouch.