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In Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, straight-shooting ‘40s-era hero Steve Rogers aka Captain America has to confront all kinds of conundrums to save a world where everything’s upside down. Thrust from a simpler past into a 21st century zeitgeist where bad guys pose as good, good guys spy and lie, and nobody’s sure who to trust, Rogers has one hell of a mess to sort. For starters? The espionage agency where he works has been infiltrated by yet-to-be-exposed evil forces. His boss brands him a criminal fugitive. His most reliable ally is a female spy with a questionable moral compass. And he has to dodge the bullets of a brainwashed hitman who used to be his best friend. Things just get more complicated from there.

Directed by the Russo Brothers, the film’s character-driven plot of intrigue and espionage makes it more of a 70s conspiracy thriller than the typical super-hero movie. We wanted our main-on-end title sequence to reflect that.

To get there, we distilled the complexity of the story themes and characters down to their most basic elements. Working in a simple style with bold graphics and strong, legible typography, we created iconographic vignettes representing the actors and themes. Combined with our use of positive and negative space, the finished sequence has a Russian constructivist feel that pushes the principals of gestalt to their fullest potential.
There are stars and there are stripes, shifting gears and winding tentacles, swirling shields and shattering panels, as heroes and villains battle in a shifting sequence of white on black on red. Everything moves with the tense, throbbing musical score from Henry Jackman that builds along with our story.
We created all of this with a respectful bow to title-sequence master, Saul Bass. But we were also inspired by the graphic stylings of Marvel Comics’ collaborator and artist, Jim Steranko, “His bold illustration style really spoke to us when it came time to illustrate the characters,” says executive creative director Erin Sarofsky. And with so many acronyms and fictional organizations in the film (S.H.I.E.L.D espionage agency; S.T.R.I.K.E. tactical unit, and Hydra-- the evil society of villains) there was a plethora of those symbols to play with as well.
Taking such a minimalist approach with this main-on-end sequence proved to be the perfect resolution for the film. Boldly contrasting heroes and villains, good and evil, the sequence reinforced the films themes simply and clearly.
Defining the sequence progression, Erin collaborated on storyboards with talented comic book illustrator David Mack. Once we moved into production, the illustrations were rebuilt characters in 3D ensuring each had the right uniform, thematic cues, and physical likeness. To keep our pipeline consistent we used After Effects, Nuke, Softimage and Cinema 4D for all of the production work.

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