This week, [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973) hits Blu-ray. I got the chance to sit down with directors Joe and Anthony Russo to discuss the movie, as well as what to expect from the sequel and their upcoming episodes of the [Marvel's Agent Carter](series:1119765) TV series.
One of the things I really liked about The Winter Soldier is how it provides even more connective tissue for other Marvel properties while centering us in the Avengers hub, I joked that if the Marvel Cinematic Universe were a mall, Winter Soldier would be the food court, right at the center of everything.
Because you came in at Phase 2, did you feel an added responsibility or pressure to make sure you’re thinking of the grander picture?
A little bit, only in the way that Empire thinks of the bigger picture in the Star Wars trilogy. You are making the second film in, and typically the plans for these things are in threes. You’re setting up the conflict that will pay off in Phase 3. You are thinking of the bigger picture in that respect. The greatest pressure we felt was just trying to make sure we executed Cap in a way that reflected the way we saw him in our heads as kids when we read the books; the things about him that we were most excited about.
With Winter Soldier, we had many of the superhero movie trappings we’ve come to know and love, but what made it stand out were all the spy movie touches, can we expect more of that from the next Cap installment or will it be a complete change in tone?
I don’t think it’s exactly going to be a different tone. We feel like Cap works really well in the world of espionage thriller. I think that’s ultimately where Brubaker ended up going with him, and why his run was so successful, because that tone that he brought to the character was germane to the world that we live in today. It made Cap very relevant. There’s a political nature of the character that you just can’t get away from because he’s draped in the American flag as a uniform. All that stuff will still be there, especially the grounded component. I wouldn’t say that it’s going to be the same tone as Winter Soldier, because we’re dealing with different material, but it’s certainly going to keep the grounded elements that we had in that movie.
Can you give me any hint as to the source material you’ll be drawing from?
It’s impossible for us to tell you. We’d both be struck dead, especially since we’re sitting in the Marvel offices right now. The marketplace has become incredibly crowded, there’s like 97 superhero films coming out in the next year and a half. It’s our job as fans of these movies, and as fans of comic books and Captain America, to try and blow people away with the content. It’s the mission now, especially since the marketplace is so crowded. So we’re hard at work trying to figure out a way to blow minds. We just got a draft in our hands three days ago that was fantastic. We’re very excited the prospects for Cap 3.
I remember thinking when you guys were hired for Winter Soldier, if there is one show that knows how to celebrate and nod reverently toward geek properties, it’s Community. Do you feel working on that show was its own strange preparation for Winter Soldier in any way?
I think so. I think working in the Marvel universe is very similar to working on Community. Community was a brain trust of a bunch of geeks: us, Dan Harmon, Chris McKenna. We were all contributing crazy ideas to the smorgasbord of that show. We’re all pop culture junkies. It’s not dissimilar to the way we work here at Marvel, with Kevin [Feige] or with Nate Moore, our producer who works under Kevin. Or with Louis D’Esposito or Victoria Alonso; sort of a brain trust of people here who all share ideas and try to inspire each other. Part of what’s cool about Marvel is that they are very pop culture relevant and that they use that in their films, Guardians even more so than we did. So yes, you’re accurate that Community was a very good training ground for us.
Going back to the connective tissue thing, you guys are going to be directing multiple episodes of the upcoming Agent Carter series. What can we expect there and how will that tie in to the cinematic universe?
Well the cool thing about the show is that it’s based on a short that Louis D’Esposito shot and [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely are working on the pilot and helping break the season. Markus and McFeely are as dialed into the Marvel universe as anybody right now. Their work has been pervasive on the films in the last few years, equally as prolific as Joss [Whedon] in terms of influence on the material. Just from the stuff that we’ve heard, there are a lot of great Easter eggs that people are going to be excited about and a lot of new characters. Remember it’s a historical show, it’s set in the past, but they will find ways to weave into that show the ideas that currently exist in the Marvel universe. I think people will be really satisfied with the way they deal with those ideas this season.
Bit of a personal aside here, whose idea was it to put the Trouble Man soundtrack in the film? That’s one of my all time favorite soundtracks, but I didn't know anyone else even knew it existed. Seeing it in a superhero film was mind-blowing.
That was Chris Markus, he said he remembered getting that album when he was in college. This is again like the Community process, we had pitched that we wanted [Anthony] Mackie to recommend an album to Cap, something that we could call back later in the movie. I think we had probably ten ideas. We competed a lot of ideas against each other, one of which was Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall.” Markus threw out Trouble Man and we thought it was obscure and brilliant at the same time. That’s why it ended up working. It’s so funny what Falcon says in that moment, “everything you’ve missed in one album.” It’s such an absurd concept. So it just seemed like the more obscure and personal the choice was, the more fun that felt to us.
Maybe you should send all the ideas you didn't use over to James Gunn so he can put them on Awesome Mix Vol 2.
Well played. Hey, if we can be number one on iTunes, we’ll do it.
You mentioned being fans of comics as kids. Has it been surprising to you to watch over the last few years, and no small part of this is due to Marvel, how comics have become such a mainstream thing and have become as much a part of pop culture as film itself?
I don’t know if it’s surprising, because they were so pervasive for me as a kid and so many other friends of mine. We were all collectors, and if you weren’t a serious collector you at least had some comic books. I think it’s our Greek mythology. I think that timing was right because technology has caught up to the place where we can execute these things in a way that seems seamless. I know as a comic book fanatic, we’ve all been very critical over the years of the execution of comic book films, until recently when effects made it possible for us to execute these things in the way we saw them in our minds, and not in a way where we were ultimately disappointed in the outcome. Or where a character was so insanely CGI that it just pulled you out of the whole film. I feel like we hit a nexus point of narrative thirst for comic book films and the ability to execute them properly, and they just exploded. We’ve all been waiting twenty or thirty years to see these things done right.
Prior to Nolan taking over Batman and the Marvel superhero movie revolution in 2008, what was your favorite superhero movie, flawed or not?
I’ll be honest; I’m obsessed with Flash Gordon. I’ve probably seen that film one hundred times. In fact I carry it on my iPad because when I’m bored on a plane, I’ll just pull it out and watch Flash Gordon. It’s like an insane mix of really good filmmaking and some bizarro shit that probably didn’t work. Then the soundtrack is one of the greatest of all time.
[Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973) Blu-ray/DVD hits shelves Tuesday, September 9.