• Movie

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was always going to be an intriguing entry in Marvel’s Phase 2. Whereas the Thor and Iron Man sequels delve deeper into the worlds introduced in the kickoff entry of those sub-franchises, Winter Soldier looks nothing like the original Captain America. Cap’s first movie was set in Joe Johnston’s 1940s, a propaganda-poster retro-world filled with gruff Army colonels and sneering Nazis. Winter Soldier finds Cap entrenched in the modern age — a man out of his own time. As a result, the trailer for Winter Soldier isn’t just a first look at Cap’s new adventure; it’s a peek at how Marvel will handle what essentially amounts to a full-scale reboot: New weapons, new villains, and a whole new situation for the Star-Spangled hero. You can watch the trailer here. Now let’s dive in, shall we?

We find Cap on a mission with his new pals in S.H.I.E.L.D., where Cap exchanges pre-mission pleasantries with comely co-worker Black Widow. In case you were wondering: No, Cap did not do anything fun Saturday night. “All the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead,” he says. If Winter Soldier takes off, expect a Marvel One-Shot film at Comic-Con 2014, where young Steve Rogers sings in a barbershop quartet with his old pals from Brooklyn. (For argument’s sake, let’s say the other members of the quartet are Adam Scott, Joel McHale, and Lance Reddick.)

Black Widow plays Yenta with Cap, strongly suggesting that he ask Kristen from Statistics out on a date. Cap insists he’s too busy. Oh, Kristen from Statistics, will true love ever come your way?

Robert Redford joins the Cap squad as Alexander Pierce, a S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho shown here brooding metaphorically over the Washington skyline in what looks like a scene left over from the Nixon director’s cut. “To build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down,” he says. “And that makes enemies.” Hey, at least in the Marvel Universe, the government is doing something.

Take a look at Cap’s new uniform — technically the fourth he’s worn in three years, counting the goofy outfit he wore on the USO tour. This costume is very modern, almost identical to the mask-free costume Steve Rogers wore in the late 2000s after coming back from the dead for the 12th time.

Roll call! Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, superspy and cameo kingpin.

Anthony Mackie joins the squad as Sam Wilson, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Sam Wilson. His nickname is Falcon, for reasons that will become clear soon.

And here’s Scarlett Johansson, back again as Black Widow, who… wait a second. That hair looks a bit different, doesn’t it? This calls for a fashion flashback!

Back when she played the strong-silent eye candy in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Natasha’s hair was a curly mess. She was going through a phase, and that phase was “the morning.”

Flash-forward to Avengers, and she’s rocking a shorter cut that looks much more classical and also probably less bothersome during elaborate action setpieces.

Now she’s gone straight and — if this close-up is to be believed — is going Full Pepper with her hair color, which is the exact same color as the explosion in the previous shot.

For context, this is what Black Widow looked like in the ’80s and into the early ’90s. It was a different time. Collars were popped. Pop music. Berlin Wall. Iran-Contra. Cocaine.

But this isn’t the ’80s. This is Now. And according to Redford, it’s a violent time, rife with chaos and war. We see shots of what appears to be violent terrorist activity on city streets.

Cap and Ginger Widow are in a hospital — possibly overseeing a friend injured in the attacks? We can’t make out who that is from here: Falcon? Nick Fury? Heimdall? (Probably not Heimdall.)

Nick Fury takes Cap on a tour of a S.H.I.E.L.D. mega-armory. “We have to neutralize a lot of threats before they happen,” says Fury, looking over a large facility that appears to contain several helicarriers. Is this S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret stash of anti-terrorist weapons? Is The Winter Soldier going to be a superhero movie about the military-industrial complex?

We see various ships taking off. So it’s definitely about the military-industrial complex.

“I thought the punishment usually came after the crime,” says Cap, with that homespun old-fashioned All-American wisdom that can only be greeted with a one-eyed glare. “S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not like we’d like it to be,” says Fury.

“This isn’t freedom,” says Cap. “This is fear.” Feel free to layer in whatever themes of post-9/11 anxiety, disaster capitalism, governmental overreach, etc. Give Marvel some credit: They’re living up to Captain America’s long history of tackling contemporary social issues. (Although I severely doubt anything in Winter Soldier will compare to the moment in Captain America #180 when Cap discovers that the mastermind of a global terrorist organization is basically Richard Nixon.)

Cap gets into an elevator on what looks like a typical day at the office. He’s surrounded by lots of other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. They’re best pals! Nothing can go wrong!

Okay, something can go wrong. The whole action scene plays out in an elevator. (When this scene played at Comic-Con, it brought the house down.)

Cap stands over the bodies of his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. There’s just no trust anymore. What would David Simon say?

Cap is seen wandering by a picture of himself in the glory days. He’s wearing a cap, which could mean “incognito” or it could mean “man on the run from his own government hiding in plain sight.”

There’s a brief flashback cut back to Cap’s World War II days. There’s been rumors that Winter Soldier will feature a few such flashbacks — including a reappearance by Cap’s old Brit-superagent lady crush Peggy Carter. She’s not shown here.

Cap is shown carrying someone away from the wreckage. Said person appears to have perfectly straightened hair the color of dragon blood. Clearly, it’s Mary Jane Watson.

As the final action roll begins, we get extensive looks at a new baddie — a long-haired fellow with some nifty gadgets. More spoiler-y things on him later.

Falcon takes flight, jumping off of a helicarrier and being tailed by a jet. Is Cap leading a rebellion from inside of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Could it be that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing? Who watches the watchmen? Can Falcon still talk to birds?

Intriguingly, Cap is shown riding a motorcycle (just like in the old days) and he appears to be wearing his old-timey outfit. He’s shown here playing chicken with a mega-jet. So basically, Winter Soldier is about the America of the past battling the America of the future to save the present. This already looks better than Thor: The Dark World.

Spoiler alert: Explosions!

Now, actual SPOILER ALERT: Cool kids know that the name Winter Soldier is taken from an incredible mid-2000s run on the Captain America comic by Ed Brubaker, who radically revised Cap’s history in all kinds of fascinating and troubling ways. Most specifically, he retroactively declared that Cap’s pal Bucky — historically represented as a plucky Boy Wonder sidekick — was actually an assassin kept alive during the long decades while Cap was on ice, working on pretty much every Cold War mission you can iamgine. That seems to be the rough idea of the character shown here — that is Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky in The First Avenger, rocking long hair and a bad attitude.

In the comics, the Winter Soldier was working for the Russians. In Winter Soldier, could it be that he is a black-ops S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? Towards the end of the trailer, Redford says: “You’ve shaped the century. I need you to do it one more time.” Is he talking to Cap…or to the Winter Soldier? Is The Winter Soldier basically Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, except less fictional? We’ll know in April 2014.

Captain America
  • Movie
  • 97 minutes