There’s a new trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming (the newest attempt at a franchise, this time starring Tom “Boss Baby” Holland) and we get plenty of cool moments—Iron Man being charming, Michael Keaton fulfilling the terms of his “I only play birds now” contract, Spider-Man totally ruining a party by splashing pool water onto a bunch of people holding drink—but one moment sticks out:
Captain America’s Fitness Challenge.
Peter Parker, presumably a student in 2016 or 2017, is gathered into his high school assembly to watch an old-school video starring old-school American hero, Captain America. The video has the feel of those cheesy educational tapes from the 1980’s, with a flickering screen like a VHS tape and a vibe that says Captain America is about to tell you that marijuana is the devil’s oregano. It’s supposed to be fun and retro, mostly a chance for Peter Parker to get to brag to his friend about how he once stole Steve Roger’s shield.
But like all good art, upon closer examination, Captain America’s Fitness Challenge gives us more questions than answers.
Even though the quality and style of the video clip we see make it look like a VHS, that’s impossible for a few reasons. First, the TV they’re watching it on only has a DVD player attached.
But even if there’s an external VHS player underneath the TV, or if it was originally a VHS converted to a DVD, there’s another problem: Captain America’s suit is from after his unfreezing in 2011. They weren’t making goddam VHS tapes in 2011.
Take a look at Captain America from The First Avenger, in the suit he used to punch nazis, side by side with his Avengers suit from when he wakes up in 2011, the one Agent Coulson helped to design:
From the folding across the top, the white stripes on the shoulder, and the red center stripe down the middle of his stomach, it’s obvious that the Captain America Fitness Challenge was filmed sometime after he woke up from his ice-nap. The question is: when?
It can’t be immediately after he woke up—that Steve Rogers was confused and lonely and standing in the middle of Time Square (where, I guess S.H.I.E.L.D. had a secret medical facility, Manhattan real-estate prices be damned). Cap doesn’t even get the Coulson-designed suit he’s wearing in the video until after Samuel L. Jackson comes to the warehouse where he’s punching things and asks him to join the Avengers. And the last time Cap wears that suit is the battle in New York at the end of the first Avengers movie: after that, he switches to the navy “stealth suit” to reflect his appropriate brooding.
The Time Square wake-up scene was in Captain America: The First Avenger, which was released in 2011. The Avengers was released in 2012.
And so, Captain America, whose major character challenge in his first film was making the decision to go from government dancing monkey to real soldier, was somehow persuaded, within the first year of waking up, to take a few hours away from being a S.H.I.E.L.D agent, put on his suit, go to a locker room set, and film a shoddy-ass video telling high school kids to do push-ups and stuff.
Was this before or after he reconciled the death of nearly everyone he loved? Before or after he ate Thai food, or listened to The Beatles? Who asked him to do this? Why did he agree, yet again, to be a stooge for the American government? How much was he paid? Did S.H.I.E.L.D. spend their limited financial resources and the time of one of their most valuable agents just so he could teach high school kids how to do a sit-up? (I won’t even get into the discussion of how hypocritical it is that Captain America is encouraging people to get fit when he got abs from a magical potion.)
But there is one final, important question—is there a chance this workout actually get you results?
Marvel, you paid Chris Evans and went through the trouble of shooting a video just for a mini-Homecoming cameo. Please make the full Captain America’s Fitness Challenge available to the public so there’s a chance we can all look this good in a maroon quarter-sleeve shirt.