NOTE: The following contains spoilers for about 60+ years of Marvel Comics stories and thus may also contain indirect spoilers for this and other upcoming Marvel movies.
Finally, Captain America: The First Avenger has a trailer. Quick memo to all the lovely, not-at-all-mentally-unsound folks who still won’t shut up about the vapid Battle: LA – this is what patriotic action/sci fi looks like.
As we have done so often before, here we go with the frame-by-frame. Might wanna pull up the trailer itself if you wanna play along:
00:00 – 00:07 Period costumes, 40s-style lighting. It’s World War II. Incidentally, director Joe Johnston previously helmed The Rocketeer.
00:08 – 00:17 “Rogers, Steven,” wants to join the Army … but he’s too small. Our first glimpse of the impressive (if unfinished) effects being used to turn hunky Chris Evans into the diminutive pre-super-soldier STEVE ROGERS. It’s a jarring effect – he doesn’t just look weak, he looks sickly.
I’m unclear as to what the current continuity says, but over the years the comics have gone back and forth over just what Rogers’ disqualifying condition (re: his extraordinary frailness) was supposed to be. Because of the era and just how sickly he was sometimes depicted, a lot of people have speculated that he could’ve been a polio survivor, which is definitely what Evans looks like here.
00:22 – 00:25 Tommy Lee Jones, barking orders. Y’know what I love about this? If you don’t know who “Steve Rogers” is, you might have no idea that this isn’t just some other normal WWII movie.
Jones is playing COL. CHESTER PHILIPS. In the comics (“ITC” from here on out), Philips is the man who hand-picked Rogers – despite his 4F status – to join “Operation Rebirth” and ultimately become Captain America.
00:26 – 00:32 Lil’ Stevie in a back-alley tussle, (probably in Queens – like 90% of the Marvel Universe, Cap calls New York home) grabs a trashcan lid to defend himself. Corniest, most “Old Tyme Hollywood” on-the-nose foreshadowing possible. I love it.
Hard to tell from this clip, but Cap’s frenemy here may or may not be Bucky Barnes. Either way, more on him in just a sec.
00:33 – 00:36 Judging from the period and the décor (re: spotlights, readymade structures), despondent Steve is attending some kind of big public exhibition.Okay, serious blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stuff here, but try freezing around 00:34 and zooming waaaay in: The building in the background has a lighted sign reading “MODERN MARVELS” (heh.) So this is a science/technology expo, in the vein of the World’s Fair.
SPECULATION: This is an early (the first?) “Stark Expo,” as in Howard Stark – Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s dad. It’s been heavily hinted that Stark Sr. was involved with Captain America during the war, and this would seem to hint at that.
00:37 – 00:41 Sebastian Stan as JAMES BUCHANAN “BUCKY” BARNES, saying goodbye to buddy Steve as he departs for the war. Okay, this is gonna need its own bit of space …
ITC (the original WWII ones) Bucky Barnes was Cap’s teenaged sidekick. I won’t mince words: He was a Robin clone, basically. When Marvel revived Cap in the 60s, part of the retcon (retroactive continuity change) used to invalidate the short-lived 50s “Commie-Smasher” version of the characters was to have Bucky killed in the same act of self-sacrifice that got Cap frozen in suspended-animation towards the end of the war.
The idea was to give Cap a guilt complex, so that he could have a heroic flaw to go with all the other terminally-insecure Silver Age heroes, but later Marvel writers would give it an even deeper significance: The widely-known tragedy of a teenaged superhero sidekick being brutally killed in action is often cited as a reason why Marvel heroes generally don’t have teenaged sidekicks.
The idea of Bucky and Rogers being buddies of the same relative age is a good change, I think – but Bucky (apparently) being the bigger one pre-Cap is a great one. The interesting character dynamic practically writes itself.
00:44 Stanley Tucci as DR. ABRAHAM ERSKINE, (sometimes also called “Reinstein,”) the scientist who masterminds the project that will ultimately create Captain America. Is the name(s) familiar? It was written on that canister of chemical-injections that turned Emil Blonsky into The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk. So now we know what that abandoned “Super Soldier Project” William Hurt’s General Ross was talking about.
I just need to take a moment and wallow in the fact that what I’m describing actually happened onscreen in legitimate movies, and that I have a job that requires me to explain it to you. This is my happyface.
00:45 – 00:50 Col. Philips says it out loud: SUPER SOLDIER. Quick glimpses of science stuff and shootouts follow.
00:52 Freeze it! Three guys firing rifles. Okay, stick with me here:
Appearing in an as-yet undefined capacity in the film will be an elite squad of soldiers comprised of members from two Marvel Comics WWII-era teams; the Howling Commandos (ITC led by one Sgt. Nick Fury, but probably not here) and The Invaders (superheroes representing various Allied Nations). No word on whether they’ll use either of those names. These are three of them.
The chap in the derby and mustache at the center is Neil McDonough as DUM-DUM DUGAN. To his left, in what looks like a British SAS beret: JJ Field as MONTGOMERY FALSWORTH – ITC, he’s known as “Union Jack,” a UK-based superhero. Too much pyro going off to identify #3.
00:55 – 01:03 Oldschool mad scientist’s lab stuff. Mana from nerd heaven. “A weak man knows the value of strength.” Good line.
01:09 Hayley Atwell as PEGGY CARTER, secret agent and Cap’s love interest.
01:14 “Now, Mr. Stark!” HAH! Called it! HOWARD STARK helped make Captain America. Now we know why Tony Stark has Cap’s shield in his junk drawer. Young Howard looks kinda like Walt Disney, which ties in nicely with his early-60s look we saw in Iron Man 2.
01:15 – 01:20 “…and I will personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell!” Line-readings like that are why you hire Tommy Lee Jones.
01:21 – 01:28 Movie Science 101: When all the lights go out, that means The Science worked.
01:29 – 01:38 Chris Evans, ladies and gentlemen, in what is – rather incredibly – his actual state. He got seriously ripped for this part. Between this, Thor and Green Lantern, 2011 is a good summer for fans of superheroes who can rock the shirtless look.
Just for the record: Captain America doesn’t actually have “powers” – the Super Soldier Serum essentially turns him into The Perfect Man. He has the highest levels of speed, strength and reflex possible for an otherwise normal human.
01:41- 01:45 Steve Rogers chases down a high-tech one-man submarine, punches its cockpit out and interrogates the Nazi at the wheel.
Setting aside the cool factor (he beat up a SUBMARINE!) I bet I know what we’re looking at here: ITC, Rogers was supposed to be a test subject, the first of a whole army of Super Soldiers. But a Nazi spy breaks into the lab, ruins the equipment, murders Erskine and otherwise renders the experiment unrepeatable, leaving Captain America one of a kind. I imagine this is said spy, getting pinched just after carrying out his mission.
01:46 – 01:49 Tommy guns, explosions. Nazi agents active in the U.S.?
01:50 – 01:55 “Your enemy is not what you expect.” Translation: This is something beyond even the Nazis. Meet HYDRA – it’s best to think of them as an (occasionally) Nazi-affiliated version of COBRA. Bringing HYDRA into this makes for some fun universe building (a contemporary resurgence of them would make great canon fodder for other Marvel films) but also serves a practical purpose: Marvel can now merchandise Cap’s “Nazi-esque” enemies without having to sell toys with Swastikas on them.
ALSO: Our first glimpse of Hugo Weaving as HYDRA’s bossman, Johann Schmidtt – aka “THE RED SKULL.” If you blink, you’ll miss why they call him that (at least in this initial trailer). Red Skull is the Captain America villain, and one of the Big Bads of the Marvel Universe in general – a figure so evil even guys like Doctor Doom and Magneto usually want nothing to do with him (he is, after-all, a literal Nazi).
01:56 – 02:01 Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Dum-Dum Dugan and (I believe) Union Jack kick down a door, guns blazing. Holy crap, do the Cap costume and shield look fantastic. Smart move by Marvel putting what’ll be among the most controversial elements of this in the first trailer so the debate can get out of the way: Cap is using a gun.
ITC, WWII-era Cap (and Bucky) used lethal weapons frequently, but the modern day Cap from the 60s to the 90s only fought hand-to-hand – the usual “only bad heroes like Punisher use guns” business, typically hand-waved by the excuse that Cap was so good a fighter he didn’t need one. The current new Captain America (a resurrected Bucky Barnes, looooong story) carries a sidearm, as does “Ultimate” Cap, but Steve Rogers still generally didn’t.
Some people are going to hate this – but I think it’s okay. It makes sense, adds variety to the action, reaffirms that he’s a soldier as opposed to a do-gooder vigilante and (assuming he continues to use guns in the future) it gives him another element to differentiate himself from the other Avengers.
02:04 Retro-style stealth fighter? I guess the idea is HYDRA has super-advanced tech at their disposal. (Okay, actually… I ALREADY know what HYDRA is “up to” in this, but I’m not spoiling.)
Y’know what this trailer doesn’t have? The obligatory “putting on the costume” montage. In fact, they’re not really emphasizing that he’s wearing it – just matter of fact “this is his gear” shots. Good choice, but also probably a practical necessity. Supposedly Cap will wear multiple variations on the suit throughout the film, and may not get the “final” one seen here until later in the story.
02:07 HYDRA armored troops with arm-mounted flamethrowers. That’ll work.
02:10 Cap on a motorcycle, shield mounted on the front – shout out to the Cap TV Movies of the 70s?
02:11 Big kiss during car chase. Very Indiana Jones.
02:13 Captain America sends a Nazi goon airborne with one shield hit. Worth waiting 30 years to finally see? Oh, yeah. But y’know what’d be even better? Well…
02:16 SHIELD THROW!
02:25 – END Shield-testing. Nice ending comedy beat, and establishes some much-needed personality for Peggy.
NOT SEEN, BUT (SUPPOSEDLY) IN THE MOVIE:
Kenneth Choi as JIM MORITA, Japanese-American member of the Howling Commandos.
Derek Luke as GABRIEL JONES, African-American member of the Howling Commandos. “HC” comics were set in WWII, but actually written in the 60s, and purposefully imagined Fury’s unit to be a uniquely (for WWII) desegregated unit.
Toby Jones (AWESOME casting!!) as ARNIM ZOLA, an associate of the Red Skull. ITC, he’s a Swedish mad scientist who pioneered genetic engineering and is responsible for a lot of the Marvel Universe’s recurring monster problems. Supposedly killed many times, he eventually wound up with his soul trapped in the body of a humanoid robot – it has a camera for a head, while an image of Zola’s face is projected from a screen on its chest (long story).
“Captain America: The First Avenger” opens in the U.S. July 22nd, 2011.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.