The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.
“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include “Jurassic Park III“ and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”
None of that is surprising, of course — Christopher Nolan pared away significant parts of the Batman mythology (such as Robin the Boy Wonder and any super-powered villains) that didn’t fit his grim take on Gotham City, while Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. manufactured a version of Iron Man that is hard-wired for far more humor than the old-school Marvel Comics character.
Still, Captain America, with his name and history, is a sensitive case. A red-white-and-blue character that dates back to the Franklin Roosevelt era stirs up plenty of civic emotion — just take a look at the dust-up over the recent change to Wonder Woman’s costume. “Wonder Woman” comics are hardly a publishing-world sensation these days but still, for a day or two, the whole world seemed to notice that she put on some pants.
Johnston has been hard at work on the London set of the film but Saturday he’ll be making a whirlwind visit to Comic-Con International in San Diego to promote the film. He’ll be joined by cast members too, including his charismatic, young title star, Chris Evans, who has shown a sly, wiseguy wit in many of his previous roles. Does that make him an odd fit to play the earnest and somewhat square superhero with the Betsy Ross fashion sensibility? Johnston answered that in his film — which is set in World War II — the character will fight the enemies of America but he won’t be a stiff, slogan-spouting guy.
Those sort of geopolitical vagaries and fan projections will take on much higher stakes with a $150-million-to-$200-million film. Marvel Studios put itself on the map with two “Iron Man” films that racked up a combined $1.19 billion in box office and almost half of that business ($571 million) was beyond the U.S. and Canada. For Johnston, the imperative is an artistic one, not a commercial one. He wants a character that’s more complicated than a flag, and a movie that entertains without borders.
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