While doing the press rounds for his newest film "The Wolfman," which opens in theaters this Friday, director Joe Johnston obviously knew he was going to be bombarded with questions regarding his next film.
A guy with Johnston's impressive resume, which includes directing "Jurassic Park III" and "Jumanji" and doing visual effects work on the original "Star Wars" trilogy and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," knows you don't sign on to helm a movie like "Captain America" without the expectation of being asked about it at every possible opportunity. It's a pretty safe bet the nuggets of information released during his batch of interviews were carefully screened and selected tidbits meant to whet the appetite of anxious fanboys. An amuse-bouche, if you will.
What little is known about "The First Avenger: Captain America" is that it will be set in World War II, around the time of Pearl Harbor. Johnston told Newsarama that he is well aware of the potential risk in shooting a big-budget comic book period piece, but believes it's a story the fans will appreciate seeing unfold onscreen.
"You couldn't do a modern-day Captain America," Johnston said, "and then go back and tell the World War II origin story."
The film will be bookended with scenes set in the present day that presumably will set the stage for "The Avengers" movie.
"That's the way this story ends. [Cap] is...at the end of this film, he's been brought back and been unfrozen, revived and he is definitely a fish out of water. He's a 1942 guy in 2012...it's going to be a lot of fun."
Johnston said the plot of "Captain America" will focus on young, frail Steve Rogers, and the journey he undertakes when he volunteers for the top-secret super-soldier project.
"The cool thing about him is what happens...to a guy who starts as a 98-pound weakling and then, five minutes later, is the perfect human specimen? What does that do to his psyche? That's the cool sort of subplot to the whole thing."
The director also told that the character's distinctive costume will come about because Captain America will be part of the USO. There will be other tweaks to Cap's mythology done, "Batman Begins" style, to make the story as feasible as possible.
Johnston points out that Cap's lack of superpowers are part of what makes him such a compelling character.
"He can die, he can be injured, you know, he can't see through walls and fly and do any of that stuff," he said. "We have some great action sequences that stay within the laws of physics...but he's not Superman."
Johnston, who prefers Ed Brubaker's current run on the series to the Cap stories of the 1960s and 70s, admits he wasn't a huge fan of the character or of comic books in general. But he believes that will serve him well on this project.
"I don't think you necessarily want the world's biggest Captain America fan to be directing this film," he said.
Johnston mentioned that one reason he wanted to do the origin story first was because the sequels would take place in the present day. That would indicate that the 'fish out of water' story element mentioned earlier (and which was a key subplot of 1960s Captain America stories) will play a prominent role.
Also, while discussing sequels about a movie that hasn't even cast its title star, let alone shot two frames of film, may appear somewhat presumptive, who are we kidding?
Clunky title notwithstanding, "The First Avenger: Captain America" is the pivotal piece in the entire Marvel movie puzzle. For an "Avengers" movie to succeed, Cap has to be a multiplex hero. Which is why it's not surprising to hear Johnston say the movie will feature links to the rest of what will become the Marvel Universe's most renowned super-team.
"We have stuff in our movie that relates to "Thor," and we have stuff that relates to "Iron Man" and the fun is integrating it into the story. If you're a fan, you'll get it and you'll recognize it. If you're not a fan, it just becomes part of the story. We're sort of integrating 3-4 things that are links to the rest of the Marvel Universe. It’s not really difficult. The challenge is to make it seamless, and so it doesn't feel out of context."
"The First Avenger: Captain America" arrives in theaters summer of 2011.