As revelations go, this ranks among the least profound, but this past week in the build up to the release of the new trailer for Captain America: Winter Solider I realized something shocking: I cannot wait to see this movie (cue sarcastic slow clap now).
This is quite the personal turnaround for me. Prior to the 2011 release of Captain America: The First Avenger, my only exposure to the character had been via the atrocious live-action 1990 Captain America movie. So, even though Marvel had earned my fandom with the Iron Man films and Thor I could find nothing to embrace in the idea of a Captain America film. The director Joe Johnston hadn’t done anything I’d liked since 1991’s The Rocketeer, the star, Chris Evans, was nothing more than the annoying guy from the equally annoying Fantastic Four movies, and Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Hugo Weaving were nice pieces to have in a supporting cast but not enough to win me over.
I was wrong, though. The screenplay from Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus had an interesting take on WWII propaganda by setting Captain America up initially as a mere puppet to drum up public support for the war effort. Director Johnston brought with him the same old-fashioned, sepia-toned approach that had worked so well in The Rocketeer, and Alan Silvestri’s score was instantly hummable and reverent to the style of film being paid homage. The notable supporting players were as solid as expected, but the true revelations were the admirably restrained Chris Evans in the lead role and the perfectly spunky Haley Atwell as the love interest. It is a testament to their performances and the writing that Rogers’ closing descent into the ocean as he says his anguished but adorably resilient goodbyes to Peggy comes off as so utterly heartbreaking.
Now, Captain America: The Winter Solider comes out next April. They’re adapting one of Captain American’s most famous comic book storylines (the Winter Solider), they have the same screenwriters but a new pair of directors, and the buzz has been building ever since people got their first look at footage at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has promised us not only will Winter Solder be a totally different kind of film than First Avenger but also possess a much larger scale. Plus, by focusing on not just Captain America but also Nick Fury, Black Widow, and SHIELD it will function far more as a direct sequel to The Avengers as any other film in Marvel’s current Phase 2.
Finally, we get to see if it’s all a bunch of hot air now that the first trailer is out:
Here are 6 observations about the trailer:
1. New Directors – Does It Show?
Joe Johnston was the perfect choice for the more old-fashioned First Avenger. However, he has been replaced for the sequel with the surprising choice of The Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony), American TV producers/directors who cut their teeth on Arrested Development and rose to fame among comedy nerds over the past handful of years through their behind the camera work on Community and Happy Endings. Other than the forgettable Owen Wilson comedy You, Me, and Dupree neither has directed a major studio feature film. Through the brilliance of Community, though, they’ve been allowed to display a versatility and ingenuity almost no other sitcom directors could (their directed episodes alternate between homages to spaghetti westerns, Goodfellas, and Star Wars, deconstructions of the mockumentary format, and among the most visually engaging playing of famous board game Dungeons & Dragons ever realized on film). They have proven their immense adaptability, and appear with Winter Soldier to have absolutely nailed the proper tone for a taut political thriller that plays like a Jack Ryan story with a higher action quotient and on a much larger scale.
2. Captain America – More Like Captain Badass
Ever super hero film trailer has to have an ultra cool hero moment, a fist-pump-into-the-air bit of action that lends itself not to any high-minded analysis but instead more immediate cries of, “That was so cool!” Ole Cap has plenty of action hero moments throughout this trailer, but none likely inspire as much reduced-back-to-adolescence-that-was-so-cool gushing as his single-handed takedown of a theater full of bad guys who have encircled him. The added bonus here is that while this is a cool action moment it is also an immensely provocative one, as the men on the receiving end of his smackdown appear to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It points to a storyline in which although the titular Winter Soldier will be the ostensible villain, the real threat will come from within with the primary culpit actually being some portion of SHIELD operating under the direction of Robert Redford’s mysterious new character.
3. Nick Fury Gonna Get Hurt Real Good
This is not a trailer filled to the brim with storyline spoilers, but it does highlight one of them, namely that apparently after battleing the Winter Soldier Nick Fury will suffer a serious injury which will land him in the hospital. This argues that Fury will be sidelined for a portion of the story, thus leaving it up to Black Widow, new character Falcon, and Cap to not only battle the Winter Soldier but also uncover a likely conspiracy from within the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D.
4. Ready for a Captain America-Black Widow Romance?
Various on-set photos and red carpet interview answers over the past year have somewhat spoiled this aspect of Winter Soldier, but a romance or at least the hint of one between Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff appears to be in the mix of storylines for the sequel. As with any comic book characters who have been around for decades (since the 1940s for Cap, the 1960s for Widow), their dating history is long but their list of love interests surprisingly minimal. Roger’s love interests have been Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell in First Avenger), Sharon Carter (believed to be played by Emily VanCamp in Winter Soldier), and Bernie Rosenthal; Romanoff’s primary love interests have been Hawkeye, Daredevil, and the Winter Soldier (and then him again when he replaced Steve Rogers as the new Captain America). In the comics, the Winter Soldier is a former ally of Rogers’ who also helped trained Black Widow when she started out as a villain, the two sharing a brief relationship at that time. It will be interesting to see how Widow’s relationship to the Winter Soldier in the comics is reflected in the film, if at all.
5. The Falcon Looks Better Than Expected
Anthony Mackie is a newcomer to the franchise, playing Sam Wilson/Falcon, a long-time partner of Cap’s from the comics where he became the first African-American superhero of note in comic book history. We don’t see much of him in this trailer, but in interviews Mackie has been effusive with his excitement for the project and potential for more with Marvel. The Marvel films haven’t been completely lily-white in terms of race, as we’ve had Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Idris Elba’s Heimdall from Thor, and Terrance Howard/Don Cheadle’s Iron Patriot. However, it’s still nice seeing Falcon being adapted as well, albeit as a supporting character. However, this entire time I’ve heard about Mackie’s inclusion the only image that came to mind was how Falcon appears in the current animated series Avengers Assemble which is basically that he looks exactly like a cartoon character. Thankfully, Mackie’s Falcon looks believably and at home in the film’s universe.
6. If You Don’t Know the Winter Solider Backstory, This Trailer Thankfully Doesn’t Spoil It
So neither shall I. If you want to read the backstory of The Winter Soldier, check it out here. Right now, the trailer has shown us that this is the type of dude who can stare down Nick Fury’s advancing SUV and easily use an explosive device to escape any harm, is excellent in hand-to-combat and usually wears a partial mask covering the lower half of his face. Plus, he can somehow catch Cap’s shield in mid-air with no difficulty, ala a Green Arrow or Hawkeye villain snatching an arrow from the air before it reaches it’s intended target.
Beyond all of that, Captain America has a new, slightly more impressive suit, S.H.I.E.L.D. appears to be building an armada of hellicarriers, it’s not as strange as it might have otherwise seemed to see Robert Redford in a trailer for a Marvel film, and the action in this film seems to be off the charts.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins rolling out in foreign territories in late March in advance of a scheduled domestic debut on April 4, 2014.
What about you? Any other reactions you’ve had to the trailer? Or are you actually different from me and NOT looking forward to this movie? Let us know in the comments section.