In a previous episode of Murphy’s Law, Charles and I talked about our pitches for Captain America 4. The only thing we agreed upon was the setting: WW II. We never talked about them again until we recorded the podcast and, as it turned out, while wildly different, they would work out as companion pieces in a WW II Cap trilogy. For me, the pitch comes from one line in Captain America: The First Avenger (and the Fuher digs for trinkets in the desert) and the Nazis very real fascination with Atlantis. So while this movie takes place during the same time period as TFA, we see a completely different side of the Nazi effort to rule the world. Here it is-Captain America: The Serpent Crown.
September 19, 2015-Berlin, Germany
At a small pub in Berlin, Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson enjoy a few beers while going over their findings from a recent raid of an old Hydra facility. Rogers tells Wilson that he’s been impressed with how he’s handling himself in the field against what enemies that are becoming increasingly well-armed and well-prepared. As Rogers flips through a tablet containing their dossier and inventory of the items confiscated during the raid, Wilson replies, “Yeah, coming along great, Cap, but guns or no guns, these are just regular guys. You thawed out after 80 years and jumped right in against aliens and gods with a green monster at your back and never flinched. I don’t know how you did it, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that.” Rogers turns the page, pauses and says, “Well, it wasn’t my first time, Sam.” Before cutting to the title screen, the page in the dossier reveals a picture of the Serpent Crown.
The Southern Ocean Near Antarctica-July 1939
An expedition led by Nazi Heimlich Himmler and supported by submarines and several war ships carves out a sweeping path of destruction in the ocean. Depth charges are deployed and as the water settles and as night begins to fall, hundreds of blue bodies begin to bob at the surface. The next morning, Himmler leaves his ship and boards the Hydra submarine the Leviathan and, accompanied by several other similar submarines, begins to descend into the depths of the Southern Ocean. More of the blue-skinned creatures begin to appear and attack the submarines but are quickly killed. Following the destruction of the warriors sent out to stop them, the Nazi submarines deploy several small pods of divers. Himmler smiles. He’s found it. He’s found Atlantis.
The Pacific Ocean Near the Coast of Washington-July 1939
Word of the Nazi attack on Atlantis reaches the Royal Family who had relocated from Antarctica roughly 20 years earlier. For the first time, we see the full wonder of Atlantis. Emperor Thakorr and his daughter Fen discuss appropriate retaliation against the Nazis. Thakorr is hesitant to bring the full might of the empire to bear; he points out that the humans, who are so hateful of one another, will happily destroy themselves if given time. He fears that an attack on any humans would give them a reason to unite and destroy Atlantis, which has remained hidden for generations until Himmler’s attack. Their meeting is interrupted by an intrusion by Fen’s brash son, Namor. The pink-skinned prince has worked his way through several members of the Royal Guard and blown through the heavy doors to Thakorr’s war room. Though they are clearly disturbed by his behavior, Fen and her father know they cannot hope to keep him away any longer. The Avenging Son demands revenge on the Nazis but is denied by his grandfather. Namor leaves, the anger burning in his eyes, knowing not even the wrath of the Emperor will stop him.
Himmler, who has long believed the Aryan race to be descendants of Atlantis (this is not fictional, look it up) has returned from the lost city to a warehouse in Berlin where the spoils of his invasion are laid out before him. Surrounded by countless artifacts from the before the recorded history of man, Himmler finds himself drawn to one item in particular: the Serpent Crown. The crown speaks to Himmler and when he touches it, time becomes irrelevant. He finds himself in the past, present and future as his brain floods with visions of Serpent Men, ancient Lemuria, Nazi Germany and Nazi Earth. The crown promises him a totalitarian empire and dominion over the Earth. Though intrigued by the visions, Himmler releases the Crown as a reaction to the searing migraine it’s inflicted on him. It’s clear to him he has the ultimate weapon in the Nazi’s efforts to conquer the world: one that can win the war without firing a single shot; however, they need to find someone who can wield it. Returning to his Ahnenerbe headquarters, Himmler pushes the envelope on locating individuals they believe to possess latent psychic powers.
New York City-1943
The World Exposition of Tomorrow has concluded it’s incredible run. Howard Stark and Phineas Horton are meeting to discuss Horton’s Synthetic Man, one of the great wonders of the show. Horton’s description of how he came to create the Synthetic Man, which he calls Jim Hammond, fascinates Stark. During his presentation, Horton indicated he had higher hopes for what he’d be able to share at the Expo, but that Hammond wasn’t complete yet and apologized to the crowd, promising a better display of his creation at the next Expo; his conversation with Stark went a bit differently. As Stark inspects the android from outside the chamber, Horton eagerly adjusts a couple of dials, allowing a small amount of oxygen into his android’s vacuum chamber. To Stark’s amazement, the android’s head and hands burst into flame! Horton, happy with demonstration, removes the oxygen extinguishing the flames. Horton explains that Hammond is an android and while he has a human-like appearance and gives the illusion of having a personality, he can only handle simple programming which can be swapped out. A second, more permanent internal drive allows him to record data (have memories) though he seems unable to learn from them which is something Horton hopes to fix. As the two continue to talk about Horton’s work, a crew carefully loads the vacuum chamber into a large cargo truck which Hammond believes is headed to his Brooklyn lab. After a couple of wrong turns, the truck arrives at the docks and loads the crate containing Hammond onto a ship headed for Nazi Germany (I absolutely imagine this scene playing out like so many have in the Indiana Jones films like when Indy boards the plane in Temple of Doom then the audience finds out whose plane he is on).
Berlin, Germany-March 16, 1944
Inside a Nazi command room, officers discuss the destruction of what they believed to be a secret missile base in the Pacific. As we circle the room, we see Himmler growing in anger as the reports indicate that the base was destroyed by Atlanteans led by Namor. As Himmler leaves the room with his two assistants, he reminds them that a year prior, Hitler had ordered the destruction of the underwater kingdom and, if not for Namor, it would have been so. In that time, Namor’s legend, as well as his rage, have grown. His grandfather, Thakkor, was nearly killed in the attack and has been in a coma; during that time, Fen named Namor his temporary successor, meaning nobody stood in the way of Namor’s path of destruction. The trio arrive in Himmler’s lab, a room full of occult relics and writings and the empty vacuum chamber of Jim Hammond. Himmler grabs a file and moves through the compound to another room where we meet Paul Destine. Destine was living in France in June of 1940 when the Nazis invaded the country. A Nazi collaborator, Destine claimed to have had visions of the world that would be and chose to do everything he could to make that world a reality. When Himmler became aware of his “visions”, he began experimenting on him and soon realized that Destine had latent but weak telepathic powers. In the years that have passed, Destine has been trained by the Nazi psuedoscientists and gained control of his powers. For the past few weeks, Himmler has been preparing Destine to become the Nazis’ ultimate weapon as the man who wields the Serpent Crown. Destine puts the crown on and demonstrates his ability to control the minds of several concentration camp prisoners, forcing them to bend to his will. When Himmler has seen enough, he gives the order. From the prisoners’ perspective, we see what first begins as a glow, then the camera pans to Jim Hammond as we hear the screams of the prisoners. Phineas Horton’s Synthetic Man has been reprogrammed as a terrible weapon for the Nazis. As we cut back to Himmler, he leaves the room and heads toward a deeply secluded bunker room. Here he reports to Hitler that he is ready to win the war.
*NOTE* Keep in mind that originally, Hammond was a “monstrosity” of science fiction…sort of a warning of what happens when man goes too far. This is probably a little darker place than Marvel Studios would ever take the character, but in the comics he’s done some terrible things as well and had to “live” with them.
Several days later, Steve, Bucky and the Howling Commandos come upon a small village in France that has been completely incinerated. As they move through the village, Steve stops. As he looks more closely, he notices a pair of victims who he first believed to have died in an embrace actually died strangling one another. As he informs the team and they move through the carnage, other similarly strange instances become apparent. These people were killing each other before they were burnt to death. That night, he and Bucky sit apart from the team and talk about the horrors of war. The relationship between these two men before Bucky fell from the train could use some development and this is a great place for it. We know they raided a lot of buildings and beat up a lot of bad guys, but the horrors they witnessed together deepened their bond.
The following morning, Steve and the crew meet up with the Free French resistance. The resistance shares intel on the flying torch that destroyed the city and on the strange. cloaked man who accompanied Himmler to the village. As Steve and Bucky formulate a plan to catch up with the Nazis, the resistance shares on last piece of intel with them: they’re not the only ones chasing Himmler and his Torch. The Free French have an ally from the sea. A man of incredible strength and anger. A man who not only lives in the sea but also flies and has helped liberate small villages like the one Cap and Bucky saw burnt to the ground. They never know when he’ll appear, but they know the Nazis fear him and they know he will stop at nothing to destroy what he can in the time he has on land before returning to the water.
Two days later, Steve, Bucky and the Howling Commandos along with some Allied troops catch up Himmler’s squad thanks to the French intelligence. Himmler, Destine and Hammond are deep in the village where Destine continues to learn to command the Serpent Crown. As the battle grows, Himmler believes it’s time to unleash his ultimate weapon on the allies and sends Destine out to end battle. Through Bucky’s sniper scope, we see the Allied soldiers begin turning on each other as Destine works his way into their minds. Though he’s grown powerful, he finds himself unable to bend the will of Cap. As Cap makes his way through the crowd, Destine steps into the light for the first time. The Crown twists and deforms the man as he struggles with everything he has to slow Cap. Just as he finally makes a dent in the iron will of Rogers, he finds himself on the receiving end of Cap’s shield. However, before he can be taken off the board, a German tank falls from the sky and explodes: Namor has arrived! Wild with rage, Namor dispatches with the Nazi troops with extreme prejudice before catching a glimpse of Himmler. Namor, believing his revenge will be complete when he has Himmler’s head, flies off in pursuit of the Nazi as we hear, for the first time, his famous battle cry!
Namor crashes through the roof of the building into which he saw Himmler run. Several Nazis fire on the Avenging Son to no avail and Namor happily snaps their necks for their efforts. Himmler is cornered. Namor will have his revenge. He grabs Himmler by the throat, lifts him from the ground and as he closes his hand around his neck, we see a flaming hand grab the arm of the Sub-Mariner. Namor drops Himmler as the flame spreads and we see fear on the Atlanteans face as he turns to see the Torch in his full, flaming glory. Namor flies off aflame while Himmler and the Torch head to end the battle raging outside. From his perch, Bucky sees the flaming man take out a half dozen men but he also sees, Himmler, the target that would help end the war, running in the other direction towards Destine. Bucky aims and squeezes the trigger…the bullet ricochets off the android’s head as Himmler, Destine and the Serpent Crown get away. We see the android turn his head to Bucky’s location just before we see it separated from his shoulders by Cap’s shield. The Torch is down, but the real threat has escaped.
As Cap, Bucky and the Howlers regroup at one of the Free French compounds, James Montgomery and Gabe Jones insect the fascinating body of the android. As the duo pokes and prods at the marvel in front of them, a familiar voice chimes in from the background: Howard Stark is on the scene, accompanied by Phineas Horton. The professor is haunted by the horrors his life’s work has wrought. As he and Stark work on the android, Cap and Bucky walk the coastline. Cap explains what he felt as Destine worked to take over his mind: visions of him leading SS troops, wearing a green and gold suit and working as the Hand of Hydra.
As the two continue their walk, Bucky recognizes they are not alone, turns and throws a knife. Though its aim is true, the knife bounces off of Namor’s chest and the Prince of Atlantis continues on. Fill in a lot of pompous, pretentious Namor stuff here as he insults Steve and Bucky, including some typical backhanded compliments given to Steve. The trio returns to camp where we find that while the android Jim Hammond has been reprogrammed, his memories remain intact and expresses, for the first time, a desire: to make up for the horrors he has done. Charles de Gaulle of the Free French resistance delivers new intel from an intercepted message: Himmler and Destine are in Budapest and Himmler feels Destine has achieved his final from and is ready to end the war. Captain America, Bucky, Namor and the Torch rally the troops for what may be their last stand: the Invaders are born.
Budapest, Hungary-April 3, 1944
As Allied bombers conduct runs over the city, we find ourselves following a bomb as it approaches the ground. Just as it appears to be headed for a group of Allied soldiers, Namor flies in and redirects its course. We see an incredible and unrecorded battle take shape on the ground as the Invaders work towards the Nazi stronghold. As the battle turns in favor of the Allies, Destine makes his entrance. Noticeably changed physically, Destine no longer relies on turning the soldiers on one another; he’s grown so strong that he can now simply shut down the minds of those he targets and he can apparently do so to hundreds of soldiers at a time. As the battle rages on, we see Destine shut down Bucky and the Howlers, leaving Cap, Namor and the Torch on their own. As they approach the compound, the Torch’s memories begin to come back to him as he passes by the charred remains of soldiers…he glitches, taking him out of the battle. Cap and Namor charge Destine. Both men of steel reserve, they fight the control of the Serpent Crown before falling victim to Destine’s enormous powers. With no more heroes in his way, Himmler emerges from the compound, standing with Destine. Himmler notices the blood of the Atlantean flowing from his nose and, as a scientist, collects it carefully. As they overlook the carnage and the Nazis take the remaining soldiers prisoner, Jim Hammond approaches his former master. Himmler laughs as the machine he used as a weapon approaches him and he mocks the android. As he continues forward, Destine, glowing from his victory, attempts break into the mind of the android and shut him down. From the cameras perspective, the glow grows and as it pulls away, we see Hammond in full flame as Destine comes to the realization that he cannot control the mind of this android. While Himmler fully realizes the gravity of the situation and runs, Destine’s concentration is broken. Cap, Namor and Bucky find themselves coming to just in time to see Hammond rise into the sky and unleash his full flame on Destine. Destine, fully engulfed in flame, runs for the Danube River but, as he reaches its banks, he succumbs to them, falling dead just as he reaches the water. As he dies, the Serpent Crown falls into the river from his head (the Danube empties into the Black Sea which ultimately connects to the ocean).
As we close we find that while almost everyone has fully recovered, Namor has not. To their best guess, the Allied forces believe that Namor’s unique physiology made him more susceptible to lasting effects of the crown. Namor appears to not only have no recollection of the battle but also no memory of his past at all, including no ability to use any of the incredible powers he demonstrated: his battle with the Serpent Crown has stripped from him all that he was. Steve and Bucky receive a memo directly from the President: they are wanted to help plan Operation Overlord, tentatively planned for May 1.
Berlin, Germany-September 19, 2015
Sam speaks to Cap who is clearly lost in thought, clearly somewhere else. Cap comes back to the moment and finishes his beer. “Sam, this crown in these files…it wasn’t at the base. It’s in these documents, but it wasn’t there. They had it at some point since then, but it’s gone now. Sam, if this crown is out there, nothing good will come of it. We have to find it.” Sam replies, “I’ll put in on the list.”
If you’ve read Secret Avengers, you know that we could, from here, tell a pretty interesting story about the Serpent Crown reappearing in the modern world! We’ll leave that for another time, perhaps between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
Post Credit Scene: Auschwitz-May 6, 1944
While listening to a record of Franz Schuber, Nathaniel Essex works in his lab studying the blood of Namor while Himmler waits for his results. Having been obsessed with the Theory of Evolution for the last 85 years, Essex knows he has found the next step in that ladder: the first mutant.
Post Credit Scene: Sokovia-May 6, 2015
A bearded, amnesiac Namor runs through the streets of what remains of Sokovia. Terrified as objects fall from the sky, he seems to instinctively head for the sea. As he reaches the shores, a car falling from a bridge above crashes down on him sending him plunging into the sea. As his eyes reopen, we see the Sub-Mariner reemerge and as he flies up out of the water, towards the destruction, he sees shield of Captain America returning to Steve Rogers hand. Confused by the returning rush of memories, Namor flies off to the ocean, unseen by the Avengers.