Today is the day that Captain America: The Winter Soldier finally makes its way onto Blu-ray and DVD. Part of Marvel Phase Two, this self-described espionage thriller has gone onto become the second biggest release of 2014, resting only behind Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. To help usher the adventure home, directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo have been on a whirlwind tour promoting their work, and they have made various stops around the Internet, dispensing all they know (or rather can say) about Captain America 3 and describing what the process has been like in getting Captain America 2 off the ground.
We serve as one of their final stops before they head back behind closed doors to finalize the screenplay for Captain America 3, only to move forward with prepping and directing that movie. While they remained tight-lipped about any potential future spoilers, they do give us a detailed account of what it is like staying true to their own artistic vision while working under the guidelines of mega-behemoth Marvel Studios and Disney. They do delve a little bit into their future plans, discussing the potential of a African-American Captain America. They also pull back the curtain on their politics, and why the movie serves as a conspiracy enthusiast's favorite entertainment option in 2014.
And, nudging up against their meta-roots established by their work on the NBC sitcom Community, they offer an answer to that age old question: Do Marvel Comics exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? And if so, what kind of ramifications does that have on this alternate universe type world where these movies take place?
Listening to the different directors handling each movie within the Avengers universe, it often sounds like you all don't really know where the next guy is truly going to go. How mapped out do you guys have the entire game plan? Do you know what happens to Captain America in Avengers 2? Or do you write your script for Captain America 3, go see the next sequel, and then head back in for rewrites? As an outsider, that's what it sounds like sometimes when you guys describe writing these movies to the press.
Anthony Russo: It's a little bit of both. Kevin Feige has broad strokes in mind. And he has for a long time. He knows the shape of things, and the movement of things narratively. But there have been big broad strokes, say for example, SHIELD is going to be corrupted. You know what I mean? While we may know that for a target for a story, how we get there is an entirely different question. And so, I think its an interplay between the two. There are these broad ideals that Kevin puts down as ideas that we want to try and hit. And then, writers and directors go out and play with different versions of what that could be. And those versions begin changing the overall plan, even, maybe a little bit. Its a little bit of having a clear plan, but you are also ready to change it as you move forward.
There was this big controversy recently that sprang from Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, because his vision didn't mesh with Marvel's. Then we see the first official picture from Ant-Man. And the colors, tone, everything about it looks exactly like the Marvel movies we've come to know and love. There is a certain aesthetic that is unmistakable in the way these movies look. Yet, each individual movie is its own thing. James Gunn's personality shines through Guardians, but it still feels like a Marvel movie. Same with Winter Soldier. You can feel your artistry in every frame, yet at the same time, it doesn't deviate from the color palate that has already been established. How do you set about pulling that off in balancing both sides?
Joe Russo: Well, look. Basically, you look at it on the most basic level. To speak directly to our situation, we're dealing with a movie where half the characters have already been established in prior films, including our central character. Now, we had a lot of license with the central character in the sense that, in his last standalone movie, it took place during his origins in WWII. So, he had traveled a very far difference from that. Even though he existed in Marvel's The Avengers, it didn't really look at him. He had limited screen time in that film. We had an opportunity to go, 'Okay, here's what happens to Cap in the modern world. Here is how he moves forward.' We had a lot of license and a lot of interpretation, we had a clear picture of who Cap should be in the modern world. I think that was a large part of how we won the job and got the movie. It was very important for us to move the character forward, and we always preferred a more butch version of the character. A little more mature version of the character. The character can sometimes get caught in a simple morality. Which is pretty close to his nature. But you have to handle something like that very carefully. For us, we always analogized him as someone like Rocky Balboa. Someone who had a very simple set of codes. He remains faithful to those codes throughout his arc in the film. How do you cut a character like that? You just find a way to punish that character as hard as you can. And you try to break that character as much as you can. And that's how the character becomes a winner, and stays loyal to the ideal. There were codas like that we could bring to the storytelling and the character. Again, the characters that were reestablished were already established in their costumes. So their costumes are there. We already know what they look like, what they wear, how they talk, who they are. Its a whole elaborate set or precedents that you have to honor. You marry that to where you want to take the story in the future. As storytellers, coming into the Marvel Universe, the value we can bring is...Marvel can make Marvel movies, but what can we bring to the table that surprises them? They'll go, 'We weren't thinking of that, but yeah, we want to do that!' We always looked at that as our role in the process. To bring something to the table where Marvel went, 'Wow, okay, wait a minute...Let's try this.'
Anthony Russo: We felt the franchise had been so successful up until the point where we came in, the only way the franchise would stay vital is if we dimensionalized it, and we kept pushing the new characters. We always use this analogy, 'Everybody loves chocolate ice cream, but if you give it to them every day, they are going to get sick of it sooner or later.' It was important for us to bring a new flavor to the table, as much as we could. While still being faithful to what has come before.
A lot of the storyline seems pulled from the headlines of Infowars and a lot of these conspiracy sites about the government's evil plans for world domination. Are you guys Alex Jones fans? Is Marvel tuned into his radio program?
Joe Russo: Alex Jones? Oh...Yeah, it's interesting...Alex Jones is not the influence on that stuff...But, it may have been touching on a lot of the same issues that he touches on. That was really just a case of...Are you asking where we came up with the political ideas in the movie?
Not so much. It's just a lot of people think Alex Jones is this crazy conspiracy nut, and none of what he has to say is true, but this movie delves into that same idea of a One World Take over and a police state, and how our own government has basically been taken over by HYDRA. Some people believe that is true. Not necessarily HYRDA, but you know what i mean...
Anthony Russo: We're just politically minded guys. We grew up in a family of politicians. We're interested in the world around us. As film fans, or film viewers, when we go into a movie and it impacts us on an immediate and empathetical level, that's just another layer that is exciting to audiences. We felt we could bring an immediacy to this movie, especially since its a political thriller. That it would make the film feel more contemporary. And this is a character that needed updating. So, the more contemporary we could make the film, the better.
Joe Russo: We're living in a world of sleeper cells. The NSA...It's an impression and expression of all that anxiety and all those questions.
Some actors have spoken out about this, and in the community where I live, I see it all around me. Black comic book fans are okay with a white Captain America. For a lot of them, Captain America is there favorite character. And a lot of those fans seemed sort of non-pulsed by the fact that Falcon is taking over the role in the comic books. I don't want to speak for anyone, but from what I see, especially here where I live, black audiences love Chris Evans as Captain America. Is there a benefit to having someone like Anthony Mackie assume the role in a future movie?
Anthony Russo: We love great storytelling, and I have a big huge comic book collection in my closet. That's the fun of comic books. They take place every couple of years from the publishing standpoint, you keep it fresh. You keep looking for new ideas, to invigorate the story lines. Sam Wilson is one of our favorite characters. Anthony Mackie did an amazing job with him in the movie. But, you know, we're in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where we only have a couple of hours to tell stories. So, it becomes much more complicated to try and translate what happens in publishing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because Bucky also became Captain America for a certain amount of time. So, there is a lot of influences for us to draw on. Where do we go with it? And is it going to service the storytelling? That is the key question, really. Will it service the storytelling in the two hour movie that we have? So, its basically the answer...Not everything that happens in publishing can happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though there are ideas you may love.
Is Steve going to pass the baton in Captain America 3?
Joe Russo: There is potential, that may be the case. You know? We're not privy to that information. We're focused squarely on Captain America 3 and we're not sure Marvel...They may or my not have a plan as to how they are going to deal with that yet.
Do Marvel Comics exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe? What are the comics place in the movie? Can Captain America walk into 7-Eleven and buy a Marvel comic?
Joe Russo: No...I don't think Marvel Comics exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Anthony Russo: That's a good point.
There's a scene in Guardians of the Galaxy, where Star-Lord calls that alien a Ninja Turtle. I had just watched the new Ninja Turtles documentary, and its safe to say that, in a parallel universe where Marvel Comics do not exist, neither does the inspiration to create the Ninja Turtles, as Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman were so heavily influenced by the Marvel characters and story lines. Rocket Raccoon pre-dates the Turtles by almost ten years. I would think the world you guy have to direct inside of is completely different from our own reality, because, at least entertainment wise, and in other aspects of life, Marvel has really had a strong impact. Take that away, and what does the landscape turn into?
Joe Russo: Who knows? What's funny is Captain America has that list. Honest Trailers pointed this out, on that list is Star Wars. If Cap got through the entire trilogy, he would have seen Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. So does Samuel L. Jackson exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Samuel L. Jackson? Who happens to look eerily similar to Nick Fury? We wanted to joke about that when we were making the movie, the meta-quality of that. There is that scene when Samuel L. Jackson is under the car, and he pulls out this ultra-intense ground cutter laser tool that he has. In post, we kept joking that we were going to change it into a lightsaber, just to freak people out. But we didn't do that.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is available on Blu-ray and DVD today!