Captain America Winter Soldier Concept SDCC
Marvel Studios just unveiled the first footage from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it looked unlike anything else the company has released. We’ve heard that the film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, would be something like a thriller, but this footage really showed off a movie that deeply integrates current interests and fears about how we’re managing national security. In short, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is from a time where political morality seemed pretty black and white, and is now dealing with a modern world in which everything is drawn in shades of grey.

The Russos and Evans were joined on stage by Scarlett Johansson, whose Black Widow plays a very big role in the film, as well as Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Emily Van Camp, Maria Hill, and Sebastian Stan, who plays the Winter Soldier of the title.

We’ll give you some panel highlights and run down the footage after the break. 

Actually, let’s do the footage first.

It begins with a slow build of a scene in which Cap steps into an elevator, followed by Frank Grillo and some other guys. Soon the elevator is full of men, and it’s clear something is about to happen. “Before we do this,” Cap says, “does anyone want to get out?” The fight that breaks out is all hand-to-hand, intense and crunching close combat. Very different from what we saw in the first film or The Avengers. This is Cap fighting in the modern day-to-day, and just taking guys out as quickly as possible.

Cut to Cap taking a meeting with a figure played by Robert Redford, with discussion of the grey zone morality that has taken over politics and security. He’s not OK with it. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear,” he says. Indeed, these scene fragments have a gloomy air of paranoia. Nick Fury warns Cap, “you need to keep your eyes open.”

That unease boils over, and the action begins in earnest. We saw Anthony Mackie’s Falcon unfurling his wings and flying in a couple of great shots. Black Widow takes some guys out with guns, and finally the Helicarrier takes a big hit. The movie looks as big as The Avengers in many ways, and the footage felt very different from the look of the first film. It really does feel like a thriller — not quite ’70s, not quite Bourne. It’s definitely a Marvel movie, but not one we’ve seen before.

But there wasn’t much from the Winter Soldier, until the very end. The kicker shot sees Cap’s shield in the street, as a metal hand reaches down to pick it up. Pan up to the Winter Soldier, visually realized just as he was in the pages of the comics, who straps the shield onto his arm.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said that with respect to the Winter Soldier’s character, the movie is sticking pretty close to the storyline that introduced him, written by Ed Brubaker.

Chris Evans explained how Captain America feels in the modern world:

He’s getting there. It’s not so much about his shock with tech — ooh, internet! It’s more about the societal differences. He’s gone from the ’40s to today; he comes from a world where people were a little more trusting, the threats not as deep. Now, it’s harder to tell who’s right and wrong. Actions you take to protect people from threats could compromise liberties and privacy. That’s tough for Steve to swallow.

We know there’s some tension, then, between Rogers and the bosses at SHIELD. Samuel L. Jackson described Nick Fury’s view of Cap and Black Widow:

They’re co-workers, subordinates in a sense, instruments of justice… tools. They’re people that he cares about. He has a very different relationship with everybody. He and steve have a vocabulary, because they’re both warriors. But Rogers has this black and white thing with respect to enemies. Now, some enemies may be comrades. He doesn’t know how that works. But that’s what SHIELD and Natasha live in. Almost everything that comes out of Nick Fury’s mouth is a lie in some sense. He has to ask, is he even lying to himself, too? He has a very good idea of what’s going on but his paranoia keeps him from believing some of it.

Still, Anthony Mackie had probably the best lines of the panel. “I have wings and guns. That’s all you need, right? When you go to the grocery store, isn’t that what you want? Wings and guns? That’s what I got!”

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