So I saw Captain America for the first time last night. Before I start with the scene in question, let me say that I found it in on way to be a bad movie. I actually quite liked it, for the most part. Not perfect -- what is? -- but good and enjoyable.
There is a scene, about sixty seconds long, in which all three major characters do something criminally stupid. And I felt the need to vent about it. Oh, and it's not a spoiler. I found it to be a scene of unnecessary resistance, like a single almond in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable eclair.
In this scene, Howard Stark is showing the Captain some new equipment, including a selection of shields, at least three. Before Stark gets even one sentence into describing the first shield, Rogers asks about a smaller, circular shield sitting on a shelf under the table with the other shields. Stark says "No, that's just a prototype" but Rogers presses him on it. Stark explains it's made from vibranium, a metal stronger than steel, but a third of the weight. "It's completely vibration absorbent," Stark explains, but hard to get. "That's the rarest metal on Earth. What you're holding there, that's all we got." At this point, Officer Carter enters asking for the Captain's attention. Rogers, holding the shield, says "What do you think?" at which point Carter grabs an automatic handgun and fires multiple bullets directly into the shield, which of course ping off and fall to the ground.
The entire clip is found here:
It lasts 53 seconds.
Holy crap. Where to start?
A) First and foremost, clearly Steve Rogers is even more of a dick when it comes to the R&D people than James Bond on his worst day. Howard Stark is the best mechanical genius known to America and he doesn't want to hear a single word he has to say about the inventions he intentionally made with the sole purpose of saving Captain America's life. For all he knows, the first shield is made from adamantium, has an IFF chip, and dispenses food and vaccines to homeless children. And, when told the item he picks is "just a prototype" he continues to press for information about it, rather than "oh, I should hear more about the completed models he clearly built personally for me."
B) But Rogers turns out not to be the worst offender. Stark is far worse. Apparently, he has the US's sole supply of vibranium, and has made it into a shield, brought it to this demonstration -- where the US's only shield-using soldier is waiting for new equipment. And he has NO INTENTION of showing this shield to Rogers.
C) And besides this, while I'm 100% willing to accept the sci-fi properties of vibranium in a comic-book movie, and it sounds like a wonderful property for a defensive item, it sounds like the worst possible choice of material for a blunt weapon. Captain America spends the majority of combat in the rest of the movie using the shield as a throwing weapon, as well as beating people with the edge and face of it. Metal has no ability to read context: impact is impact, and the metal of the shield should absorb it. Based on what I can see of the shield, it is AT MOST 30 inches across and a quarter-inch thick. A disc of steel that size would be just over 51 pounds, so the shield he's holding weighs about 17 pounds (and, realistically, is probably thinner and therefore even lighter). Even if the metal is being overstated by Stark and is, let's say, "only" 90% vibration absorbent -- still easily enough to stop 0.45 bullets at point-blank range with no risk of injury to the user -- hitting someone with that would have the inertia of using a 27.2-ounce weapon. I grabbed a 0.45 ACP handgun at random from a sporting goods website, and it was 28 ounces. The Captain would literally have greater effect throwing his SIDEARM at Nazis.
D) As a followup: Stark is a world-class genius at designing weapons and armor. He had even built and brought Captain America's new battle armor to the very same demonstration, while hinting at its possible inadequacy. Exact quote: "Carbon polymer. Should withstand your average German bayonet, although, Hydra's not going to attack you with a pocket knife." So, given vibranium's shortcomings as an offensive weapon, why not use it to make a helmet and/or chestpiece? He does use metal armor under his uniform in the comic, so this isn't asking too much. There seems to be enough. Then you can make the shield out of titanium -- also stronger than steel, but lighter. Or titanium carbide, which is even harder. Yes, it's true, the real Captain America in the comic used a vibranium shield in WWII, but you'd think there'd be a better explaination than this! It's not like the war was over quickly.
E) But as bad as both Rogers and Stark are behaving, they can't match Carter's behavior. She enters the room a full 10 seconds after Stark describes the metal's special powers. Now remember: this is "just a prototype" and he had shown no desire to show it to Rogers, having made other items specifically instead, and therefore, it seems unlikely he would have explained it to Carter either. So when she grabs a pistol --
F) And JUST a second. Who leaves a loaded pistol with a round chambered and the safety off just lying around on a table?
E) -- and she fires it directly into a hard, metal surface. Based on earlier scenes, I have no doubt Carter could easily shoot the shield at that range, but how did she know this would be a good idea? For all she knew, the shield -- clearly lightweight -- was a mockup of aluminium, and the 45-caliber bullets would have ripped through it and killed the clearly unarmored Rogers. Or maybe she trusted Stark would have brought a bulletproof shield, fair enough, but what about the obvious danger of a ricochet? The room is crowded with unarmored, unsuspecting officers and scientists. Stark himself is standing literally four feet away and in FRONT of the shield, at an angle where a bullet could very realistically bounce off the shield and hit him square in the torso. And this is someone that is not only very useful to the war effort in general, but has worked with Carter, specifically, recently, yet she risks his life on a whim. Carter is clearly some kind of sociopath who should never be allowed near weapons, or maybe near people, ever again.
G) And finally, while the bullets do fall harmlessly to the ground -- which vibranium should have done, so full credit there -- they also hit the shield with a *ping* sound audible over the gunshots, with a gong sound afterwards. Sound, as in vibration. Clearly, the material's not living up to its name after all.