In less than a month, Marvel Studios will offer up its latest serving of superhero goodness in the form of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." But this isn't your grandfather's superhero movie — indeed, it's about as far away from the World War II-set "Captain America: The First Avenger" as one can get while still telling the story of a star-spangled super-soldier.
Find out more about Marvel's plans for the new "Captain America" movie, based on MTV News' visit to the "Winter Soldier" set.
"Captain America 2" Is More Like "Captain America 3"
And that's because "The Avengers" did a lot of the heavy lifting. Steve Rogers wakes up in the modern world at the end of "The First Avenger," and deals with that immediate readjustment period over the course of "The Avengers." Now, some time has passed since the events of Joss Whedon's record-breaking superhero film, and Rogers is more acclimated to the present day.
As a result of that groundwork, Marvel president Kevin Feige says that now is the perfect time to revisit some old ghosts from Rogers' past, like Bucky Barnes, an old friend now operating as the brainwashed assassin called the Winter Soldier.
"Now was absolutely the right time to deal with how he can come to terms with a past that is long gone and is seemingly never coming back," he said. "Just as he's finding a niche for himself, his past comes back and lands like a ton of bricks in the form of the Winter Soldier."
Earth's Mightiest Leftovers
After "The Avengers," characters like Tony Stark and Thor had worlds of their own to rejoin. Not so for Steve Rogers, who left his life in the past. As a result, Marvel decided to keep Steve with some of the leftover "Avengers" characters, like Nick Fury and Black Widow, working alongside them and other operatives as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
"We always wanted, as you've seen in 'Iron Man 3' now, for Tony to go back to his world in Malibu and Stark Industries, for Thor to go back to Asgard. We weren't going to send Cap back in time," said Feige. "He had nowhere else to go, and that's part of his story. That's part of how we meet him at the beginning of the movie. And it just made sense that he was the one that stayed with what remains of the Avengers at the end of the film."
The Fist Avenger
Unlike the living lightning rod otherwise known as Thor, Captain America's power-set is a grounded one. He doesn't command thunder, he doesn't turn into a giant green rage monster. He's just very strong. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo leaned into that aspect of the character by turning Cap into a lean, mean, fist-fighting machine.
"This takes place a year after 'The Avengers,' so we've progressed his fighting style; it's very modern," said Joe Russo. "We wanted to ground it in this concept of a present day soldier. If he were the greatest black ops soldier in the world, he would be trained like the greatest black ops soldier in the world. He would know how to deal with people and how to disarm them in a very compressed area."
Stars And Stealth
Cap's new role as a black ops soldier is reflected in his darker-blue uniform — a far cry from the bright hues of the character's iconic red, white and blue suit.
"It plays into the concept of stealth and real world application of him as a special operative," said Joe Russo. "When you have to go out into a night scenario and take out a bunch of bad guys, you can't really do it, glowing in the dark with a target on your chest, you know? For us, we wanted the mentality where we grounded things as much as we could. And there's a thematic relevancy, a track through the movie, that has to do with that outfit and similar outfits in the movie and what that means to where the character is, where his psychology is at certain points in the movie."
The Thriller Throwback
If it sounds like "Winter Soldier" is a more cerebral movie than any that Marvel's made before, that's because it is, very intentionally so. Where "First Avenger" was something of a nostalgic World War II period piece, "Winter Soldier" is a throwback to the thriller films of the 1970s.
"We make a lot of superhero movies here at Marvel and I believe the key is to make them all different and to make them all unique and make them all stand apart while connecting together," said Feige. "And that's what the comics do. You can find Captain America stories that are as two-dimensional as red, white and blue, as you would think from the costume. And then you've got great stories in the '70s and '80s. And then you have the amazing Ed Brubaker run which is a hundred percent in the Marvel Universe, but with this notion of conspiracy and 'authority isn't what it seems to be,' coinciding with Cap's return in the early '60s. That's interesting stuff to me."
One way the Russo brothers have grounded "Captain America" is through the film's many characters, like Robert Redford's S.H.I.E.L.D. higher-up Alexander Pierce, Frank Grillo's mercenary Brock Rumlo — and even (believe it or not) Anthony Mackie as Sam "The Falcon" Wilson, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who flies around wearing mechanical wings.
"You have characters like me, like Frank Grillo and Robert Redford's characters, that we as normal people can relate to," said Mackie. "A lot of the superhero movies that Marvel does not do, it's hard to get into, because it's just a bunch of superheroes running around doing superhero sh--. But I feel like with this movie, you can look at certain characters and identify with those characters. It pulls you into the movie. The way it's written is just a very grounded, kind of realistic story — even if it's just a dude in a blue suit ruining around with a shield!"
Flight And Stripes
On the subject of Mackie's character, what can fans expect from the relationship between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson? The two heroes are close friends in the comic books, having appeared in numerous titles together. Can viewers bank on a similar camaraderie in the new movie?
"[Sam] is really a military, tactical-driven force," said Mackie. "He works with Cap now, not so much out of self-preservation, but out of respect and honor. They're both military guys and they share a common bond within the military. He's a standup guy that can fight, really."
Soaring With Evans
Mackie has another interesting perspective, coming into "Captain America." Outside of the film, he's friends with Chris Evans; their off-screen relationship mirrors their on-screen partnership, in a way. To hear Mackie tell it, palling around with Evans and watching the man work are two very different, very meaningful experiences.
"He's a very smart guy," said Mackie. "He's someone who understands rigging, camera work, directing, as well as acting. I had never seen that side of him before. He's just a really smart and intelligent guy and he knows how to talk about film in depth. It's cool when you see your friend and he's good at something and you didn't know that so it's been fun to watch him in his element, and to see him transform and work to make this character come to life in a different way."
The Winds of "Winter"
The new "Captain America" movie is set to change the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, more so than the recent "Iron Man" and "Thor" sequels. Feige said that fans will feel that after burn as soon as "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," the weekly television series starring Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.
"I was just in a meeting with those guys, to hear the overall picture and to hear their ideas of how they'll deal with the events of 'Winter Soldier,'" he said. But it's not just the small-screen Marvel Universe that will be impacted by "The Winter Soldier."
"The ramifications at the end of this film go directly to 'Avengers 2,' much more so than the other films," he teased.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" arrives on April 4.