Marvel Films continues its ruthless HYDRA-like invasion of your pop culture consciousness as production has officially commenced on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," the sequel to 2011's decent-enough "Captain America: The First Avenger."
Chris Evans returns to reprise his role as Steve Rogers, a scrawny self-described "kid from Brooklyn" whose seething determination to serve his country in World War II led to him being chosen as the top candidate for an experimental serum that transformed him into a muscular hunk with a cool shield. "The Winter Soldier" takes place shortly after the events of "Marvel's The Avengers," with Cap trying to come to terms with life in the modern day world and teaming up with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), to battle a threat against Washington D.C.
The announcement of Black Widow as Steve's partner in his latest battle against evil hints toward a much larger part for Johansson than what was previously assumed; hopefully she'll have more to contribute to the plot this time around than she did as the glorified window dressing of the cluttered and troubled "Iron Man 2." Robert Redford, aka The Man Most Unlikely to Ever Appear in a Comic Book Movie, has also been confirmed for the role of Agent Alexander Pierce, a senior leader within the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization (perhaps Nick Fury's boss?).
Other new cast members are playing characters that Marvel comics fans will find familiar, including Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka the heroic Falcon; Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, aka the villainous Crossbones; and Georges St. Pierre as Georges Batroc, aka the villainous Batroc the Leper. In true Marvel Films style, we doubt those characters will ever be referred to by their "superhero" or "supervillain" names on screen ... though Emily Van Camp is credited only as "Agent 13," the S.H.I.E.L.D. operative otherwise known as Sharon Carter, the niece of Cap's WWII-era love interest, Peggy Carter.
It's actually the returning players who make for some of the biggest casting surprises in the "Captain America" sequel. Hugo Weaving isn't coming back as Red Skull after being blasted into the stratosphere (or something) by the Cosmic Cube, though Toby Jones will be making an appearance as his nebbishy associate, Arnim Zola. Cobie Smulders will be reprising her "Avengers" role as Maria Hill, one of the best-looking S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (besides Phil Coulson, R.I.P.). And, most surprisingly, Hayley Atwell will return as Peggy Carter, which means she'll either be appearing in flashbacks or in extensive age makeup (or maybe Cap will go back in time to the '40s or she'll get zapped to the present day?).
The big villain of "The Winter Soldier" is the Winter Soldier himself, which is a resurrected brainwashed version of Cap's best pal and colleague, Bucky Barnes. Sebastian Stan will be returning to play this new ultra-Bucky, who in the comics is programmed to be a Soviet assassin with an awesome bionic arm.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will shoot in Los Angeles, Cleveland and Washington D.C. and will hit theaters on April 4, 2014.