Now that Captain America: The Winter Soldier has entered production, the details are starting to trickle in. The first set photo of a somber Cap has been released, a UFC legend has been cast as a villain, and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are assembled to help usher the world's first super-soldier into a new century. A task made all the more important due to events that are fast approaching.
How can a modern world of highly-trained military operatives fit in a world of mystical energy and alien threats? The scriptwriters behind Captain America 2, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, explain that striking a balance means including themes, not scenes, that will work towards the future of Marvel's movie universe.
Not only is the writing duo credited with The Winter Soldier's script, but they've also put time in on the screenplay for Thor: The Dark World. Confessing that there is little overlap between a super-soldier frozen in time and a Norse god, Markus and McFeely do approach each from the same angle; heroes tend to get into trouble, and must get themselves out. That is one drive that both heroes share, but given the shift in genre and mythology seen for both of the Avengers' sequels, we wouldn't count on substantial cameos anytime soon.
With far more of their own writing being seen in Captain America 2, Markus and McFeely aren't treading unfamiliar ground. Having provided the screenplay for Captain America: The First Avenger, fans might assume that the same sense of fantasy and adventure witnessed in Cap's first outing would be preserved. But in an interview with /Film, McFeely clarifies that Cap now inhabits a whole new world; meaning a whole new story is required:
"It’ll feel like a different genre, we can say that. We’re very proud of the first one because it was our love letter, and Joe Johnson’s love letter, to Indiana Jones, so it had that Forties vibe to it. This is much more of a modern conspiracy political thriller. So it’s a fast ride. The action will fell commensurate. You’ll see Cap fight in a way that you have never seen before, or at least not for him. The DNA is the same, but the animal is different."
'Similar, but different' seems to be a term that could describe several aspects of The Winter Soldier at this point. With a brand new costume for the sequel that seems more at home on a battlefield, and a brand new partner capable of flight, Cap's second film is going to have to strike a balance between realism and fantasy.
Despite Steve Rogers' less-than-realistic origin story - and the chance for some wackier villains in the sequel - Markus maintains that "Cap is much more about realism." Given that assessment, and their promise of "a different genre," Kevin Feige's past claims of Captain America 2 being more of a "political thriller" than superhero story make sense. But what could that mean for the more cosmic expectations for The Avengers 2?
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier teaming Rogers with Black Widow, Nick Fury, more agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even Robert Redford as the organization's head, there's no mistaking that the film will be the most direct sequel to The Avengers. And with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) set to play a larger role in the film than some had assumed, the chance to build on that relationship is something McFeely and Markus make the most of. As they explained to Collider:
Markus: [Black Widow is] a great—both in attitude and in profession—a great contrast to Steve Rogers. She’s incredibly modern, not very reverent, and just very straightforward whereas Steve is, you know a man from the 40s. He’s not a boy scout, but he is reserved and has a moral center, whereas her moral center moves.
Given Cap's role as the leader of the super team and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s nature as the intelligence branch of the Marvel universe, it's been assumed that The Winter Soldier would be setting the stage for The Avengers 2 in more than a few ways.
After all, the next time audiences see the government agents will be in the Avengers 2, so how do Markus and McFeely handle that kind of responsibility? As it turns out, Captain America will have little to do with the rest of the heroes in his standalone film; but even though this is Steve Rogers' story, the 'political intrigue' will have ramifications going forward:
McFeely: Kevin is the dungeon master, so if there’s something we really need to know, he’ll tell us, but he doesn’t steer us. With rare exceptions does he say “We can’t do that because of this next movie.” More often than not he’ll say “Let’s get this movie right and whatever falls out after that,we’ll address in the next movie. We’ll make sure that we don’t steer that movie in the wrong direction.”
Markus: And more often than not, when you’re thinking of the movies as a whole, it’s “What do you want the state of the world to be when Avengers 2 kicks off?” It’s never like, Cap has to put down a briefcase so the Hulk can pick it up. It’s never that specific. It’s sort of like, “Where do you want loyalties to lie when that movie opens?”
All it takes is one look at Marvel's concept artwork for 'Phase Two' to see how the action - and characters - will be getting bigger, badder, and more outrageous. Even if political intrigue or backroom dealings aren't as thrilling for many as hammer-throwing or shield-bashing, the work put into the more relatable heroes of the Marvel universe is more than necessary.
Audiences may not concern themselves with how Captain America and Nick Fury get along, or where Black Widow fits into the mix once the bullets start flying, but it will provide a way into a cosmic adventure with an increasing number of alien characters - the same reason Guardians of the Galaxy put Chris Pratt at its heart. And with actors like Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson in the cast, the more scenes putting them face to face, the better.
Exactly where the loyalties lie when The Avengers 2 kicks off will likely require more than one film to establish, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be a major player in that department. What conflicts or allegiances do you hope to see established? Think friendly characters may prove to be less than helpful when they're needed most? Leave your predictions in the comments.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier releases on April 4, 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.