Following Marvel Studios' bombastic Hall H presentation Saturday evening at Comic-Con International in San Diego, cast and creative types from both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy met the press for two separate Q&A sessions.
The Winter Soldier crew was up first, with directors Anthony and Joe Russo, plus stars Chris Evans (Captain America), Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Emily Van Camp (Agent 13) and Frank Grillo (Crossbones) all in attendance.
Joe Russo started the press conference by describing the differences between The Winter Soldier and 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. "The movie is very different in tone from the first film," the director, who along with his brother is best known for his work on TV sitcoms like Arrested Development, Community and Happy Endings told a reporter. "We wanted the movie to be as modern and aggressive and as edgy as it could be. Cap gets put through a lot in this film. It's a very intense movie."
Evans opened up a bit when asked about the challenge inherent with Captain America's wholesome nature, and black-and-white approach to good and evil.
"To be candid, that's kind of the hurdle with Captain America," Evans said. "His nature to put himself last. His nature is to take everyone's conflict, and put it on his back, and it makes it hard to have an interesting film."
Yet in Winter Soldier, Cap will be facing a more vexing moral situation, Evans said. "It's not about just doing the right thing, but 'What is the right thing?' It's not black and white, it's grey."
Evans also pointed out that Winter Soldier's Steve Rogers will be much more acclimated to modern times.
"I think you get a little tired if every joke is, 'What's the Internet?' He gets it," Evans told the dozens of assembled reporters. "The problem is, he doesn't sling jokes. He's not sarcastic. It's hard to find humor, unless the humor is self-deprecating. He's up to speed, he has a cell phone."
Johansson was frank when asked about the female roles in Marvel Studios productions, telling the crowd that, "Most female superhero films are simply not really good. They're just not well made. They fall back on this kind of hair-flipping, pose-y, hand on hips kind of thing. We do a little bit of that, of course. It's important that it looks good."
"I've really had a great opportunity. Joss [Whedon] really set the bar in Avengers to celebrate these female characters that are usually kind of bookends, or ornaments, to sell the sex appeal. He was such a pioneer. It's been a real pleasure for me to play those multilayers, and be able to act, and not just pose. Our characters have some real storylines here. We're not just the romantic interests. And thank god for that."
Asked about the transition from Bucky to Winter Soldier, Stan said, "In a sense, he's very similar to Steve Rogers, in that he's another lost man in this new world. For me, it was, how was I going to tie that to what people had already seen in the first film, and still recognize the same person, in the end."
Another major Captain America supporting character featured in the film is Falcon, and Joe Russo said that while he couldn't say exactly how much the character figures into a film, he stated that Sam Wilson is "very personal" to the Russo brothers, due in part to the role he played in the comic books they read growing up.
"Cap's looking for a friend in the modern world, and Falcon could be that guy, if that gives you any hint," Joe Russo said.
When asked if there's a chance Falcon might join the Avengers down the road (the character is part of the main cast of the current animated series Avengers Assemble, along with the heroes from the 2012 film), Mackie answered, "My brother was a huge comic book person, and he always showed me the comic books with Black Panther and the Falcon. If the Falcon happens to be added to the Avengers world, I'm looking for the opportunity to take down Iron Man."
Vam Camp was also elusive when talking about her role, stating, "I think people have a certain idea of what I'm meant to be playing, but I think they'll be surprised at how we introduce this character."
Moving to the Guardians of the Galaxy side of things, the film was represented by writer-director James Gunn, Chris Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Benicio del Toro (The Collector), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser), Karen Gillan (Nebula, and newly shaved bald for the role), Djimon Hounsou (Korath) and Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige.
The first question to Gunn was one on many reporters' minds: When will there be an announcement on who's voicing fan-favorite characters Rocket Raccoon and Groot? "Soonish," Gunn replied.
The next reporter up asked a considerably more complex question: What's the basic "moral premise/conflict of the film? "Guardians is about a family coming together," Gunn said. "It's about a group of individuals who have acted selfishly throughout their lives, and learning something about themselves that makes them heroes."
Gunn was also asked if Guardians was in a similar "darkly comedic" territory as his past films like Super and Slither.
"I don't think of it as darkly comedic," Gunn said. "I do think of it as me. Their biggest note was 'more James Gunn,' which freaked the hell out of me. I think it's a really unique movie. With every movie I do, I'm speaking to a certain part of myself, and I'm speaking to an audience. [Guardians] really is for a much broader audience."
Pratt, the Parks and Recreation actor at the center of the film, was asked if there was a feeling of "intimidating" in taking on a lesser-known property from within Marvel's roster of characters.
"I don't think the reason all the Marvel movies thus far have been received so well is because they were such famous comic books. I think they were great stories," Pratt said. "Iron Man is Iron Man now to people because of Iron Man the movie. It was a comic, and certainly people knew it, but they love it and went back to it because of great storytelling."
"This is a really cool story," Pratt continued. "Marvel, they know what they're doing. They know how to tell a story, and they know how to make this movie. I really don't feel intimidated."
Saldana, a veteran of genre filmmaking between this, Avatar, The Losers and her role as Uhura in the current Star Trek films, called Guardians, "The antihero hero movie. They're going to be learning very big lessons. The levity will be very abundant. That's what keeps it awesome. My 10-year-old niece and I both walked into one of the sets they had built, and we were both drooling."
Bautista, a former WWE Champion pro wrestler, called the process of making the film — they're about two weeks into shooting right now — "absolutely terrifying," but said he's not afraid to ask questions to the more veteran actors.
"This project is by far the biggest thing I've done in my entire life," Bautista said, adding that the key to staying young is learning new things and pursuing endeavors that you love.
Hounsou, one of the most recently announced additions to the cast, explained that some of his reasoning in taking the role of Korath, in the comic books an ally of Ronan the Accuser, came from a talk with his four-year-old son.
"One day he looked at me and said, 'I want to be light-skinned, so I can be Spider-Man, because Spider-Man is light-skinned,'" Hounsou said. "That was shocking to me. I'm extremely excited to be part of the Marvel Universe," the actor continued, to help provide, "a diverse outlook of superheroes."
At first glance, Guardians of the Galaxy has less overt connection to the other Marvel Studios films than the past entries in the franchise. When asked what connects this movie to the others, Feige replied with Thanos, the powerful cosmic supervillain glimpsed in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers.
"We have Thanos," Feige said, though it's yet to be determined exactly what role the character will have in Guardians, given that it already looks to have plenty of villains including The Collector, Ronan the Accuser and Nebula. "Thanos is the thing that connects us to the Marvel Universe at this point. In the future, we'll see what happens after this. For right now, we're connected to the rest of the Marvel Universe because of three seconds at the end of The Avengers."
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is scheduled for release on April 4, 2014; Guardians of the Galaxy arrives roughly four months later, on Aug. 1.