The promotional build-up to the release of Iron Man 3 has left a lot of clues about Marvel’s “Phase 2” slate of movies, giving us a better idea about the state of our favorite Avengers leading up to the 2015 release of Avengers 2. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has already leaked plans about what happens in “Phase 3” after 2015, and this week a new casting development and an interview with Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely inadvertently revealed what Captain America 2 will focus on.
First off, it’s just been announced that The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker has been cast in Guardians of the Galaxy as a character who wasn’t originally listed as part of the team. For those unfamiliar with the comic book itself (i.e. everyone), the recent Guardians of the Galaxy team is entirely different from the characters that starred in the initial 1990 ongoing comic. Rooker has been cast as Yondu, a “blue-skinned ‘noble savage’ [sic] from the planet Centauri IV” whose race has been devastated by the Badoon. (Merge 300 and Avatar into one movie and Yondu would basically be the main character.)
The addition of this character to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy film suggests two interesting things:
- The Guardians of the Galaxy movie might set up the notion that the Guardians are more of an ideal than a team comprised of specific members. The presence of a “former” Guardian implies that the forming of Guardians teams is somewhat generational and reactive. This theme could be instrumental in paving the way for a larger Avengers movie universe by getting new viewers used to the notion of the Avengers having a rotating cast, as it does in the comics.
- Yondu’s sworn enemies, the Badoon, are a violent alien race in the Marvel comics universe. If you replace them with the Chitauri from the Avengers movie, though, suddenly you have an easy way to provide Avengers 2-related backstory about the looming threat of them and their leader Thanos.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely talked the upcoming movie and their writing process in a recent junket for Pain & Gain. The pair, who are also script-doctoring Thor: The Dark World, had a lot to say about the direction of the title character in Captain America 2.
[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.
Coming after the first movie and coming after The Avengers, there’s now stuff we don’t have to do in terms of, “Let’s give you the idea of who this guy is and he wears this outfit.” Everybody knows now, so you can hit the ground running much more quickly than we did in the first one when we had to spend 40 minutes introducing the skinny guy. I think it allows for a much faster pace and a tenser movie.
Marvel Studios has stated before that the second Captain America movie will deal with how Cap acclimates to the modern world, and that we’ll get the story of what SHIELD is up to predominantly from this movie. In addition, Robert Redford was recently cast as a maybe/sorta leader within SHIELD, and the reveal of the title of the movie last year immediately confirmed that Cap will find his World War 2 buddy Bucky Barnes returned as the enigmatic (and partially psychotic) Winter Soldier.
These elements, combined with Black Widow’s major role, are a lot to juggle, but in my mind they all play in to one overarching theme for Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
Captain America will lose his faith in the concept of America.
Captain America and The Avengers dealt with Cap learning to become a hero and a leader, and so far we’ve seen that shunting Cap to the present day has left him isolated and nostalgic. For the next movie to continue that emotional journey, Steve Rogers really has to grapple with the question of whether he feels worthy of representing American ideals as they are depicted in the present day. The concept of right and wrong must seem very grey to someone accustomed to the reality of World War 2.
But Cap still needs that extra push to discover what he feels is right, hence all the disparate elements of The Winter Soldier. I think Bucky/Winter Soldier will appear in the present day as a superpowered terrorist, Cap will stop him, discover who he is, then discover that SHIELD experimented on Bucky after Steve disappeared as a way of recreating “Captain America.”
We’ve already seen the horrific results of people trying to recreate the super-soldier serum, and Cap knows how far SHIELD will go to ensure that its weapons are better than everyone else’s. It’s a good bet that Bucky’s a little crazy, a little mangled, and harboring one hell of a grudge, possibly against Robert Redford’s character, who could be playing one of the founding generals of SHIELD and, ultimately, the man responsible for giving the go-ahead to the experimentation on Bucky.
Cap will be conflicted. He’ll want Redford to be punished for his crimes, but he’ll need to stop Bucky from hurting/killing him. He’ll have to be a good soldier. The perfect soldier. But for a cause that he won’t believe in at all.
You know who else is in that position? Black Widow. The screenwriters acknowledge freely that her moral center changes with the situation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up advising Captain America on how to do the same in order to deal with the moral complexities of the “modern world.” Cap may end up taking this advice, or his rejection of it may result in a firmer internal resolve.
However it plays out, these three characters will all play a part in forming Captain America’s identity as he adjusts to the 21st century. The end of Winter Soldier will most likely see a new Cap striding forward, one more mentally equipped to represent the best ideals of America.
But first he has to see the worst of them.
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and wasn’t interested in Captain America as a character at all until the first movie did such a great job making him entertaining.