Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnson will not be helming Chris Evans’ second adventure in red, white, and blue spandex (or, technically, third counting The Avengers), but he has nothing to be ashamed of. Johnson was exactly the right choice to bring the World War II adventures of Cap to the big screen, as all of his best movies — October Sky, The Rocketeer, and now First Avenger — are period pieces from around that time in the United States’ history. There’s something about the rah-rah American culture of that era that he just gets, without getting too saccharrine or over-the-top with jingoism. But, considering his track record with movies set in the modern age — Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Pagemaster, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III — he would be the absolute worst choice to direct a sequel set after the events of Joss Whedon’s billion dollar extravaganza. And, really, you don’t get much more contemporary than executive producers and episode directors of “Arrested Development,” “Happy Endings,” and, of course, “Community.”
The Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) were rumored to be in the running to direct Captain America 2 (if that is the movie’s real name), and it looks like Marvel Studios finally decided on the duo over either F. Gary Gray or George Nolfi. On paper, the latter two directors would appear to be better choices, especially when one finds out the Russos also directed an Owen Wilson post-sell-out crapfest, You, Me, and Dupree. But anyone who has ever seen an episode of “Community” knows that the brothers can handle whatever genre and whatever scale is required of them, and not sacrifice substance over style. Or vice versa. If you’re an uber-geek like me and have repeatedly watched the season one DVD commentaries, then you know that the Russos, and Joe in particular, might just have been the series’ secret weapon in bringing show creator Dan Harmon’s vision to wonderful life.
So, as someone who unabashedly loved the first Captain America movie more than any of the other Marvel offerings (yes, including Avengers), this is amazing news. And I have no doubts that the directors will be able to transfer their talents from the comparatively small-scale production of network television to the grandiosity of summer blockbuster films. Remember, Whedon didn’t actually become a great director until “Firefly.” These guys might not be as famous or beloved as he is, by virtue of being talented guns for hire rather than auteur creators, but they’ve been directing more consistently and for much longer. I can’t wait to see how they tell the next chapter in Steve Rogers’ story.
Of course, as someone who unabashedly loved the first three seasons of “Community” more than any other television show ever (yes, including “Arrested Development”), this is terrible news. But, then, I no longer have any expectations for that show’s future, anyway. That’s the funny thing about life, she gives and she takes away in equal measure.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his wares can be purchased here and here (if you’re into that sort of thing). He admits to having soft spots for both Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Jumanji, but they really don’t stand the test of time — except for Rick Moranis, but he never gets old.