Jon Hamm as Captain America (thanks to Screen Rant reader "stpau1y")
I really should re-title this post "Who CAN Play Captain America?" Because let's face it - we here at Screen Rant have been running these speculative pieces for awhile now, fantasy casting our favorite upcoming comic book movies (See: Lobo, Batman 3 or Fantastic Four). And while it's all in good fun to pretend that we have control over the movie universe, so far most of these castings have primarily been about picking actors we think best correspond to our particular mental images of our favorite heroes.
That is until we arrived at this point, trying to cast the titan, the legend, an American icon and symbol: Captain America, star of Marvel's upcoming film The First Avenger which will serve as the lead-in to Marvel's 2011 superhero team event, The Avengers.
Suddenly the issue has become bigger than the actors or what's been inked into the comic book pages over the years - casting Captain America is like trying to cast someone to play (and represent) the American Flag itself. Taken like that, the decision process requires a whole new set of criteria - and (unfortunately), comes with the burden of a whole lot of politics.
So who is up to the task of playing Cap?
REAL AMERICAN HERO
Captain America cannot go the G.I. Joe route. There will be no scrubbing the word "America" from the title of this film like it's some dirty word; the Captain will stay American, if for no other reason than the name "Captain World" or "Captain Continents" just sounds silly. While there have been early rumors that the WWII storyline for The First Avenger will feature an international band of heroes who cross paths with Cap (for obvious reasons of international appeal), it has been confirmed that the Star-Spangled Avenger himself will be portrayed just as we remember him on the page.
But who is Cap, really?
Captain America is indisputably a superhero who has transcended the page on which he was created - like Superman, like Batman. But unlike those other two heroes, Cap has achieved iconic status over the last half-Century largely without the aid of the mass media machine (no top-grossing toy lines, feature films, TV shows or video games). Even Cap's ongoing comic book series was something of a dinosaur by the time I became a fanboy in the late 80s-90s.
No, Captain America has endured in a way that is all but extinct in this modern age where everything is YouTube archived: In people's hearts and minds, as a symbol, more than a hero - as an ideal, more than a character. Americans who are reading this, I don't have to tell you just how politically divided our nation has become in The New Millennium; that political civil war has raged so long and violently that at height of the upheaval (2007 leading into the 2008 election) Marvel decided to kill-off Captain America, arguably as a metaphorical declaration that American idealism (everything Cap was and stood for) was dead and gone. Of course soon after that - as is the standard in the comic book biz (and/or a sickly ironic example of the power of Hollywood) - Marvel brought Cap back (see video below). After all, who would want to see blockbuster film about a dead hero? (No disrespect to you, Deadman.)
Now, we could sit here and argue all day about the narrative tricks Marvel pulled to bring Cap back (the gun that assassinated him actually "froze him in time???"); we could debate over whether or not Cap was brought back as a symbolic gesture (Marvel Comics declaring that America has "found its way back to its "lost idealism"), or simply as a fi$cal-minded move, designed to help build The First Avenger upon the strongest foundation possible.
But this ain't a forum for political left-right-middle argument, my friend - this is where we geek-out over comic book stuff! Now that Cap IS back from the dead and the movie is in the pipeline, the question turns to which actor can possibly take on the monumental task of not only elevating Captain America above and beyond the wide divide of modern politics, but which leading man can make Cap a hero (and a star) to movie goers all over the world, while never losing that quintessential quality of being first and foremost one of the great American originals?