On May 6, 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will tear itself apart. No, Thanos isn’t making an early appearance with his complete set of
mancala beads Infinity Stones; rather, the two most prominent members of the Avengers will come to blows with one another, and they’re dragging the entire MCU down with them in Captain America: Civil War.
Based on the popular 2006 comic book arc of the same name, Captain America and Tony Stark find themselves on opposite sides of an argument with wide-reaching, life-changing consequences for anyone in their chosen profession: costumed vigilante. While Cap thinks that government regulation is the equivalent of trading freedom for security, Tony Stark thinks that a little additional supervision is exactly what he and his comrades need. Unfortunately, these two hot-headed heroes can only use their words for so long before divvying up the Avengers into two opposing teams that do righteous battle across the MCU.
Yesterday, we revealed a whole slew of details about Team Cap and what they’re up to in Marvel’s forthcoming Captain America: Civil War. Today, however, we’re taking a stroll across the proverbial battle lines to talk about Team Iron Man and what we can expect from the likes of Tony Stark, Black Panther, and many more. While on the set of Civil War in Atlanta, Georgia last June, we caught up with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, producer Nate Moore, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo. You can also take a peek at brand new Team Iron Man character posters, as well as yesterday’s Team Cap posters in our gallery below.
Now, here’s what we learned about the men and women who will be throwing down with Captain America and his anti-registration forces.
Tony Stark has come a long way since making his cinematic debut in 2008’s Iron Man. The genius billionaire playboy philanthropist has grown up quite a bit over the past 12 entries in the MCU, evolving from reckless and feckless weapons dealer to one of the world’s leading security experts who concerns himself with creating a safer Earth for all to inhabit. Sure, his best intentions sometimes lead to rogue A.I. murdering hundreds of people and attempting to use a city as a bullet with which to assassinate the Earth, but haven’t we all been there?
“I thinks it’s just a function of age,” Robert Downey Jr. said of Tony’s evolution as a character. “I mean, I know some reckless 60-year-olds and some very practical 30-year-olds, but generally speaking to me it seemed like the most viable arc.”
Now, Tony is growing up again in Civil War by acting as a proponent for the Sokovia Accordis, a new piece of legislation that would force all costumed individuals and/or vigilante crime fighters to register with and work for the government. Unfortunately, Tony’s hardline stance puts him in direct opposition with one of his greatest friends and allies: Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America. Now, Tony’s arc has always seemingly been about trying to regain a semblance of control in his life, whether in terms of the shrapnel moving ever closer to his heart or his own emotional well-being after launching a nuclear weapon through a portal and destroying countless Chitauri. But does Downey Jr. agree?
“I mean, conversely, I think what’s interesting is not so much that he’s looking for more control but that he’s saying that as a group of individuals we all require a little bit more supervision than we might imagine,” he said. Hmmm, no wonder people are joining Team Iron Man…
Yet Downey Jr. understands that, to many, Tony Stark is the antagonist in this story, especially in the comic book iteration.
“It’s difficult for me to think of Tony in those terms, but when you read the comic it’s like, ‘Man, Tony, you’re blowing it dude!'” he said with a laugh.
Granted, it’s not that cut and dry, especially in the film adaptation, as screenwriter Christopher Markus revealed:
“Part of the challenge in not making Tony clearly wrong as he seems to me to be in the comic book, where [he] built an inter-dimensional prison… is to give him his own personal reason, the same [way] we’ve given Steve a personal [reason], so that he’s coming from a place where you understand why he would make this decision.”
The central conflict in this film is going to have a big ripple effect in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to co-director Joe Russo:
“There’s an intensity in this film. We dug deep to find motivations that were extremely personal and very emotional to the characters. It’s not for all characters because, like any fight, people take sides and some people have stronger motivations than others, and as the fight gets worse people drop out because they don’t have the stomach for it. We have a couple characters that go to the end and they go to the end pretty hard and pretty ugly.”
While Civil War is a fan favorite arc from the comic books, the filmmakers and the stars were apprehensive about making the film too steeped in the underlying politics. After all, with Cap and Iron Man’s intensely stratified ideological positions, it could be easy to slip into monotonous tautologies about “us versus them.”
“Ultimately, what we didn’t want was a story that’s just a bunch of ideologue nonsense going back and forth,” Downey Jr. told us. “Because it’s like, ‘Why are you guys talking? We like it when you’re doing witty stuff or when you’re in a weird position or when you’re really hurting or when you’re fighting.’ So I, just as a fan of these movies, I wouldn’t want to see anything irreparable happen, but I also like it when seemingly irreparable things occur and men and women find a way to move past it.”
More than anything else, the filmmakers want you to leave the theater feeling genuinely conflicted, Stephen McFeely confessed:
“We want people walking out of this movie going, ‘Tony’s right.’ And half the other people going, ‘Steve’s right.’ That would be a dream if we got a 49-51 split. Because the question is a legitimate one. Do they need oversight or not? And as soon as you imply oversight… Steve at one point says in the movie, ‘What if these people send us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s a place we need to go, and they won’t send us?’ Right? It’s an excellent argument. And yet, things have happened that you can’t deny.”
Robert Downey Jr. is also quick to sing the praises of his co-star Chris Evans, who he says had “the tallest mountain to climb out of any of us.”
“I think what Chris was able to do that first time around with Cap, and even more so in Winter Soldier, was take this character that seems like a real stretch that a mainstream audience is going to embrace, and he did something that was very, very hard to do, which was make it kind of credible and make it relatable,” Downey said.
Most of all, Robert Downey Jr. is excited, proud, and the teensiest bit incredulous at what an expansive universe Marvel has created, something which is embodied by the plethora of new characters and familiar faces we’ll be seeing on screen together.
“We’re, like, investing our lives and our creative credibility on these things, and so there’s this sense of oddball destiny in it all,” Downey Jr. said. “But it’s easy to get overwhelmed, too, and you think, ‘Man, what this thing has turned into and now there’s all these new people and all this.’ But it’s also kind of like reserves coming up from the rear. It’s a very difficult task to take on by yourself. I think in this one it really falls on Evans, which I’m enjoying.”
One of the single coolest moments on set was seeing the Black Panther in costume for the very first time. By now, we’ve all seen the costume in both still images and in the film’s trailer, but seeing it in the flesh sent a shiver up my spine. It just looks so damn cool and formidable, and feels unlike anything else we’ve seen in the MCU thus far. Equally as awesome, though, was watching the Winter Soldier and Black Panther duke it out during the gigantic group fight that took place on set. This sequence, which the Russo Brothers referred to as their “splash page,” will run nearly 15 minutes long and is the only sequence in the film shot on IMAX cameras. (Fun bonus fact: they will shoot the entirety of Infinity War in these newly produced IMAX cameras, which are a collaboration between ARRI and IMAX.)
Longtime comic book fans already know about T’Challa, the prince of Wakanda, who also serves as the country’s defender as the superhero Black Panther. But Boseman, who was not a “comic book geek” as a kid, is looking to bring a little bit more to the character than simply what is seen in the comics.
“Yeah, there are definitely things that I think will show up more so later,” he said. However, Boseman was also quick to pay deference to the writers who made Black Panther the iconic character that he is today:
“I shouldn’t say that they’re not in the comic books, because they’ve been written by several different writers: [Jack] Kirby, Stan Lee, Christopher Priest—all of the writers have come up with different aspects of who he is. So you could take different things from each one, and they don’t contradict each other necessarily. The principals and essence of who he is are still there. He’s a little cooler in some of them. In Christopher Priest’s version, he doesn’t trust anybody; you know what I’m saying? All of it is good stuff to use. There’s a sense of him searching for himself in some of the ones in the ’80s, which I think is really good. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think a lot of those things are good things to put into a movie.”
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo were particularly impressed with how Boseman approached the character and prepared to play the part.
“Chadwick brings real gravitas to the role,” Joe Russo gushed. “He really personifies that character beautifully. He has great passion for the character.”
“He did great research on the very cultural aspects of the character,” Anthony Russo added. “Even though it’s a fictional culture, [he figured] out ways to tether it into real African culture.”
Seeing Boseman on screen as the Black Panther was also a powerful moment for many on the film’s crew, Joe Russo revealed:
“Today was the first day that the character worked in costume, and when he came out on set there were some comic book fans who were just tearing up. It’s a real moment for people to see this character for the first time on screen. People who grew up and championed this character as kids. [He] was a role model for them, their favorite hero. The sense of that as a comic book fan, there was historic nature of getting him on screen for the first time. He’s playing the character with a real intensity and a real grace. He’s got a movement style that he brought because he has a background in martial arts, and it’s fascinating. He moves like none of the other characters in the universe. We really distinguished him.”
Boseman was quick to stress that this isn’t a Black Panther origin story. “You meet me as the Prince of Wakanda,” he revealed. “You meet me as a politician/monarch, not as a superhero.”
But, having seen T’Challa in the full costume, we know that he’ll be assuming the mantle of Black Panther during the course of Civil War. “It’s not necessarily a transformation,” Boseman conceded. “I am just thrown into the mix. To answer your question, yes, I am already Black Panther.”
We won’t see Wakanda at all, Boseman revealed to us during an interview. “No, sorry,” he said. “I know you thought you were because of Age of Ultron, but… it’s not happening,” he added with a laugh. We will, however, get to hear a Wakandan accent, Boseman confirmed… although he denied us the chance to hear it during the interview. (Rats!)
“He found a regional accent based on where Wakanda would be,” Joe Russo added.
So, if it’s not an origin story and we aren’t going to Wakanda in this film, how will the events of Civil War inform the Black Panther solo film in 2018? “Well, just in a basic way,” Boseman answered. “You’re seeing him in the larger scheme of things, like fighting outside of his country. So it will definitely affect what you see later. That’s all I can say.”
When pressed for details as to the timeline of the Black Panther film, particularly if it takes place before or after Civil War, Boseman was cagey. Which is to say he was cagey in the same way that any Marvel star is when they have been made to sign enough non-disclosure agreements to deforest much of the Eastern seaboard.
Seeing Black Panther in advance of his solo film is outside the norm for Marvel, and Boseman thinks it’s a wise decision. “I think it’s a really smart way to introduce him and let people know, ‘Oh yeah, this guy was one of the major comic book characters—he was part of the Avengers,'” he explained.
That being said, he isn’t exactly champing at the bit to get back in the suit. It looks cool, but it is basically a maximum security prison for heat.
“I have not gotten to the point where I’ve said, ‘Just put me in the suit,’ because that suit is hot!” he said with a laugh. “It’s hot. It’s blazing hot. Listen, it’s so hot. I’ve never been that hot before in my life, seriously. Once you’re in it, you’re ready, but once I realized how hot that suit was going to be, I’ve not said that one time.”
What will undoubtedly be one of the most heart-wrenching plot developments is Natasha Romanoff’s (a.k.a. Black Widow) decision to side with Team Iron Man over her longtime friends and allies, Captain America and Hawkeye.
“We’re still friends, right?” Natasha asked Hawkeye during a ferocious fight sequence in the Civil War footage shown at Disney’s D23 Expo.
“Depends on how hard you hit me,” he shot back.
Her arc is one of the toughest in the film, and it’s also one about which the filmmakers are proudest.
“It’s difficult, because she’s not trained to take sides,” said Christopher Markus. “She’s trained to be a duplicitous double-agent and have loyalties for sale. Obviously she’s well on her way to not being that person, but it’s still… standing up next to someone and taking a side and going, ‘No, I believe in this,’ is counter to her nature. So it’s, in a way, almost tougher for her than anybody to go, ‘This is my side and I’m sticking to it.'”
According to producer Nate Moore, part of what makes this decision so tough for Natasha is that she has spent so much more time with this current version of the Avengers.
“So Cap, and Falcon, and Wanda, and Natasha, and War Machine, and Vision… they’ve been a group for a year,” he said. “So they’re probably a little bit closer than that first group of Avengers, who [were] really just pulled from opposite ends of the Earth to do this one thing.”
“That’s why Civil War is powerful, because it’s not a bunch of people who just met each other arguing,” Moore continued. “It’s a bunch of people who spent a year together kind of growing as a unit and becoming real friends all of a sudden being pulled apart.”
Director Joe Russo compared her arc to Breaking Bad:
“We made some strong choices with Natasha in this movie and it’s a tricky arc that she has to play in the film. You always want to surprise people, you don’t want to make choices that are easy. I always said what I loved about Breaking Bad is that Vince Gilligan always wrote himself into the hardest corner. I would watch an episode and go, ‘I have no f—king idea how he’s going to solve this next week,’ and he would solve it. That’s compelling narrative, that’s compelling storytelling to me. We made a similar choice with her on this film, but it’s tricky because you have to monitor constantly throughout the filmmaking to make sure you’re getting the subtleties of the arc and what she’s doing”
If that means Natasha is going to rig up a car with a turret in the trunk or start selling high-grade crystal meth, then I am on board.
Vision, who made his cinematic debut towards the end of Age of Ultron, is perhaps the Avenger that we know the least about. Essentially the bastard child of Ultron himself, the Vision wields immense power, thanks to the Infinity Stone embedded in his forehead. Yet, for all that power, he knows very little of the real worlds, which is one of the major challenges the filmmakers will be trying to address in Civil War.
“We’re trying to be really elegant about this guy who was one day old at the end of Ultron, adjusting to life,” said Stephen McFeely.
“In the same way that in Winter Soldier, we didn’t want Steve to have trouble with iPhones and tight jeans, we wanted [Vision] to have [some] problems with the modern world,” added Christopher Markus. “We also don’t want to do, [in robot voice] ‘How do I become a human?’ yet.”
“His arc specifically is about him discovering his limitations,” said Joe Russo.
What we will see, though, are some of the subtler ways that the Vision attempts to adapt to civilian life, which means he’ll be wearing normal clothing rather than floating around his cape and skivvies all day long. So, what does that look like?
“That was a fun conversation, because he sort of projects his own clothing, so it’s an interpretation of his personality,” said Joe Russo. “He’s rather dashing. It looks really good.”
“We always thought about it from the point of view, Vision is thinking about how does he make himself fit in to situations and fit in with people and connect to characters,” Anthony Russo added. “It’s a very interesting projection. It’s like how anybody chooses to dress. It’s how you want to be or who you think you are.”
“He’s superior, but he doesn’t have complete knowledge,” Markus continued. “The question that everybody faces, when you put it to him, he has to have an opinion. And in a way, his opinion can sink other peoples’ opinion completely because you’re not gonna go, ‘Oh, he’s probably wrong.'”
“He can cut through the bullshit in some ways,” McFeely added.
Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6, 2016.