Captain America

Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins production today, and along with this pensive behind-the-scenes photo, Marvel Studios has declassified a few new details about the upcoming sequel.

While the 2011 original was set during World War II, the sequel — as expected — takes place largely in the present day following the events of last summer’s The Avengers. And for those unfamiliar with comic book lore, the subtitle refers not to a snowbound Chris Evans, but to a villainous bio-engineered warrior created from a familiar figure we’ve seen before in the hero’s past (more on that later.)

The sequel, due in theaters April 4, 2014, is being directed by brothers Anthony and Joseph Russo, taking a feature-film leap after groundbreaking sitcom work on the TV shows Community and Arrested Development.

Here’s the new intel Marvel released today about the film:

• Marvel loves to throw in brief appearances by other characters, but Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury will not turn up as mere cameos. Instead, today’s start-of-shooting announcement suggests they will have major supporting roles in Winter Soldier. Cap will find himself tangling with top leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D., which suggests Fury will also get some major screen time. Meanwhile, the official logline of the film is: “Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and teams up with Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, D.C.”

• That shadowy enemy would be The Winter Soldier, an assassin created by comics scribe Ed Brubaker in 2005, launching one of the most acclaimed storylines in Cap’s history. It’s not much of a secret, but — SPOILER WARNING — The Winter Soldier is a Soviet experiment that used the body of Rogers’ medically resurrected and enhanced best pal Bucky, last seen plunging off a snowy bridge during the train attack in the first movie. Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky in that film, is back again this time.

• Producer and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has described The Winter Soldier as “a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie,” so the casting of Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men paranoid-thriller icon Robert Redford feels particularly appropriate. Redford has previously revealed he would be playing a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. official, but we now have confirmation he will portray Nick Fury confidante Alexander Pierce, a former agent who had settled into undercover sleeper status before being pulled back in to help run the organization. Redford even looks the part — sort of. (Don’t expect him to sport that skin-tight battle suit.)

• There will be flashbacks: Hayley Atwell, who co-starred in the first movie as Rogers’ 1940s love interest, Peggy Carter, will be back in the sequel — but unless she was also frozen in time and resurrected (don’t count on it) or turning up in old-age makeup (possible, and intriguing.), expect to see her as part of the hero’s history. Toby Jones, who also co-starred in the original as HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola will also be returning as a blast from Cap’s past.

• Cap’s current love interest? That would be Agent 13, played by Revenge star Emily VanCamp. The moniker is a little mysterious, but again fans of the comics will already be familiar with 13’s background. (If you prefer to be surprised, skip to the next paragraph now.) Agent 13’s real identity is Sharon Carter, and that last name is a giveaway — she is related to Cap’s old WWII ladyfriend. Although in the books she has been alternately Peggy Carter’s daughter or niece, the timeline of the movies would require her to be at least one more generation removed — maybe Peggy’s granddaughter? Great-niece? Is it weird to fall for an elderly relative’s unfrozen, super-soldier boyfriend?

• Some other heroes and villains in the sequel, most of them already revealed: Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) will portray Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon — a crimefighter who can not only fly, but also communicates telepathically with birds. Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) will be back as Fury-doubting Agent Maria Hill, while hyper-efficient Agent Jasper Sitwell (Thor and the Marvel One-Shot short Item 47) will be back as The Americans co-star Maximiliano Hernández returns.

On the side of the black hats, Frank Grillo (Zero Dark Thirty) joins the cast as Brock Rumlow, known by the more intimidating moniker Crossbones, a gunslinging mercenary in a skull luchador mask, and Georges St-Pierre (Death Warrior) as Georges Batroc, also known as Batroc the Leaper, a kickboxing French baddie with particularly deadly legs (though his original orange and magenta costume is pretty lethal, too, from a fashion perspective.)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be the third film in Marvel’s Phase 2 series, which starts May 3 with Iron Man 3 and continues Nov. 8 with Thor: The Dark World.

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Captain America
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