Marvel moviegoers may remember the key scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier in which Cap and Black Widow stumble upon the phalanx of ancient computer hardware that made up the preserved "brain" of the villainous Arnim Zola. However, in some newly-surfaced storyboard animatics chronicling an alternate take, things go down quite differently than the scene we saw.
Animation artist James Rothwell, who as of late has been posting a number of alternate scene recreations from The Winter Soldier, also recently introduced this intriguing take on the computerized Arnim Zola, played by Toby Jones in his HYDRA exposition scene. Cobbling the scene together based on storyboards, Rothwell depicts a sequence that not only renders Cap more wistfully fixated on his past, but a version of the digitized Zola whose existential motivations are radically different.
In a notable divergence, we see Zola actually taking time to negotiate with Cap to ensure his own survival. In the actual film, Zola’s elaborate exposition contained the hidden motivation to distract the duo of Cap and Black Widow long enough for some incoming air support to arrive and wipe them out, also presumably ending what was left of Zola. He seems resigned to that fate, even saying "admit it, it’s better this way." Yet, in this version, he's not quite in the sacrificial mood. Rather than accepting his apparent end when the incoming winged bunker busters arrive to make ashes of New Jersey’s Camp Leigh, this scene shows a version of Zola who lives to fight another day.
The scene stands in stark contrast to the actual film’s fatalistic moment when Zola tells Cap, just before the bombers hit, "We are, both of us, out of time." In this depiction, in exchange for hitting a rudimentary, goofy-looking switch that would allow Zola to upload his consciousness onto the Internet, he offers Cap the full story on the algorithmic-based genocidal plan known as "Project Insight." Keeping his word after Zola’s disclosure, Cap does, indeed, hit the switch.
The other notable aspect of the scene is that Zola reveals that Baron Wolfgang von Strucker is leading HYDRA from the shadows. This was something we learned in the film’s mid-credit scenes in which Strucker declared the age of miracles, unveiling the twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. However, the film only focused on HYDRA leadership in the form of Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, and it could very well be the case that the idea of keeping Strucker under wraps until the credits scene was designed to avoid mitigating Pierce’s importance.
Yet, when it comes to the idea of planting the seeds for Zola’s survival, it’s difficult to discern why such an idea would have been cut from the film. Of course, with Zola existing in digital form, the idea of his survival by way of a secret cloud upload is very feasible. In fact, it’s so feasible that it might be the case that to even set it up in the obvious way the alternate scene would have done could have saddled the film with unnecessary weight.
Such a scene might be viewed as a tacit promise that we’d see the comic-inspired moment in which Cap battles Zola in his robot body, which was even hinted in blueprints seen in Zola’s lab in The First Avenger. However, Cap will have bigger fish to fry, namely his own friends, like Iron Man, when Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6, 2016.