Marvel's Phase Two: 'Thor: The Dark World,' 'Cap 2: Winter Soldier,' 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'Avengers 2' -- EXCLUSIVE

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Image Credit: Ryan Meinerding/Marvel

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

(due April 4, 2014)

While the first Captain America was a World War II action-adventure, the new one is conceived as a 1970s-style conspiracy thriller—in tone, if not time period.

“We weren’t going back to World War II,” says Feige, especially since Chris Evans’ hero was introduced to modern times in Avengers. “Cap cannot travel in time. So while Tony can go home to Malibu and Thor goes up to Asgard and Hulk can sort of ride the rails, Cap was stuck.”

At the end of the 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger, supersoldier Steve Rogers woke up to find he was a man out of time. Now he finds he’s also a man without a place. “So Cap does stay with S.H.I.E.L.D. because he has nowhere else to go,” Feige says. “But he’s not necessarily comfortable there. As you might imagine, somebody who’s spent 70 years in ice, frozen, wakes up and has to fight a bunch of aliens with a bunch of weirdos—he is trying to figure out what his life is.”

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are taking over the franchise from filmmaker Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer). They’re unusual choices for the project, since they’re best known for directing TV comedies Community and Arrested Development. But Marvel doesn’t hand off its characters to just anyone, and the shows the brothers have done — while a different genre — are still among the most critically acclaimed on TV.

“Winter Soldier” refers to an assassin (pictured in concept art above) who is the resurrected and brainwashed version of Captain America’s best friend Bucky (played by Sebastian Stan), who was last seen plunging off an icy train in the first movie. The bio-engineered killer was created by comics scribe Ed Brubaker in 2005, and in short order became a favorite part of Cap lore.

“Just as he’s given permission to let go of the past and to focus on the modern world… a ghost comes up,” Feige says.

Captain-America

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jackson’s Nick Fury return for major roles in this installment, with Anthony Mackie joining the superhero squad as the high-flying hero Falcon, and Robert Redford playing S.H.I.E.L.D veteran Alexander Pierce.

His participation was part of paying homage to the ‘70s thriller vibe. “I had my first meeting with Robert Redford, and he had read the script and he goes, ‘You know I did a movie once called Three Days of Condor, and it really felt …’ And I was like [widens eyes ], ‘Uh-huh …’” Feige says with a laugh.

But all is not well between noble Cap and his S.H.I.E.L.D colleagues. “With the greatest generation in World War II, there’s a tendency to reflect on that period and say. ‘Things were black and white back then, and now it’s hard to know who the bad guys are,’” Feige says. “We wanted to play on that a little with Cap being uncomfortable with the way S.H.I.E.L.D., and in particular Nick Fury, operates.”

Just because a character has traditionally been a hero doesn’t mean Marvel won’t push the boundaries into anti-hero territory. “Fury certainly rides a line, sort of rides the shadows,” Feige says. “He has, I think, lied to every character in every movie, though always for seemingly for the good.”

NEXT PAGE: Guardians of the Galaxy

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