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Warning: Spoilers for Captain America: Civil War are in play. Bookmark this page, and come back after you’ve seen the film, if you want to remain unspoiled.
It’s safe to say that Captain America: Civil War is one of the most action packed films of this year, with many moments begging to be included in the eventual rundown of the best fights of 2016. But if we had to pick one scene that outdid the lot of them, it would have to be the showdown in Germany, which saw The Avengers scrapping at an evacuated airport. Come to think of it, that scene was so good, it’s what we consider to be the best action set piece in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To prove our point, we have seven really good reasons that draw on the scene’s many technical aspects that turn what could have been a typical fight scene into the finest example of what the MCU can do at the height of its powers.
The Russo's Splash Panel Moment Pays OffWhen discussing their approach to the sequence that is more commonly known as "the airport scene," Joe and Anthony Russo explained how they wanted the scene to look like a splash panel that you would see in any big issue of your favorite comic. So obviously, the big scene of Captain America: Civil War that lends itself to that format the best is the big assed fight at Leipzig-Halle airport. By time both factions line up on the tarmac and start advancing on each other, the moment is something you could practically see in a two-paged art masterpiece.
It's Funny, Yet Also ThrillingFrom the moment that negotiations fail to prevent the ultimate duel of the heroes, Captain America: Civil War’s grandest fight scene doesn’t hold back. The action packed thrills are turned to 11 throughout, with every moment radiating adrenaline, and a bit of sadness – as this is a fight no comic fan would ever wish on their favorite fighting force. That said, the Russo Brothers, as well as writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, don’t let the solemnity of the situation get in the way of some well-placed humor. Most specifically, the sequences with Spider-Man taking on Bucky and The Falcon manage a perfect balance between destruction and comedy, promising that Peter Parker’s future exploits might reflect more of the same. It’s perfect material to soften the audience up, right before the heartbreaking finale surprises everyone.
It's Marvel's Best Usage Of The IMAX FormatIt’s standard operating procedure at this point to port a superhero film into the IMAX format, so much so that the two major studios that craft superhero franchise entries have extended agreements with the company to load their programming slot each year. Sometimes a couple flourishes make a film's large format journey worth the time, while others come off as pure cash grabs. Captain America: Civil War qualifies as neither in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s IMAX experience, as the Leipzig-Halle airport face off is tailor made for IMAX. Between filming the entire sequence with IMAX Alexa 65 cameras, as well as some good old fashioned excellence in cinematography, the content of Iron Man and Captain America’s scuffle for the ages fills the screen like any good IMAX picture should. And if that doesn’t convince you that IMAX was the perfect fit for this scene, let these last two words seal the deal for you: Giant Man.
Someone Actually Changes Sides Mid-FightIn a fight as massive as the one the Avengers engage in at Leipzig-Halle airport, allegiances are usually as tight as the costumes that our heroes tend to wear into battle. But in the case of Captain America: Civil War, the moral principles of our heroes are as flexible as an actual person’s stance would be, which is proven in the fact that a couple of the participants in the big fight switch from Team Iron Man to Team Cap by the end of the film. However, one major contributor makes the switch during the events of this set-piece, and it’s none other than Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. In the face of physical confrontation between herself and her friends and allies, Natasha knows that the fight has gone too far, and that maybe Steve Rogers is going somewhere with his anti-Sokovia Accords stance. It’s a twist, but it’s one that’s well earned, and executed with a hell of a stun gun.
It Packs In A Lot Of Characters, Without Losing Track Of ThemWith three core superheroes, and three more extraneous inclusions in the roster of metahumans displayed during Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the story did a lousy job of jumping between each participant. Not everyone needed to be there, and honestly the cameos of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg should have been a post-credits tag, instead of a hinge-point for the story between Bruce Wayne and Diana "Wonder Woman" Prince. The complete opposite scenario is what occurs in Captain America: Civil War’s big action set-piece, and this is an extraordinary feat considering there’s ten heroes in play throughout. Even Ant-Man, who basically appears for spectacle and comic relief, gets some moments to shine – proving that there truly are no small parts, even in the MCU.
It Ends On An Emotional WallopAfter a high flying sequence of generally thrilling action, mixed in with some hysterical quips from various participants, the airport fight scene ends with the cliffhanger moment between The Vision and Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Once that beam hit Rhodey’s reactor, the collective audience’s hearts dropped, unknowing of whether Iron Man’s best friend would get up from the far fall to the ground he took once his suit was de-powered. If it wasn’t for F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s almost automatic detection of a heartbeat, you could have bet there would have been tears in the audience, and the rest of the film works off of this dour note as a gateway into more serious matters. To be able to switch gears at the drop of a suit of armor is something that's not easy, but astonishing if it makes it work.
It Sets The Tone For The Rest Of The Movie... And Phase 3Every moment leading up to the massive set-piece at Leipzig Halle airport is another chip away at the general foundation of the partnership known as The Avengers. So by time Captain America: Civil War kicks off the gigantic fight between both factions feuding over the Sokovia Accords, the tension is high. From the moment the first blows land between Team Iron Man and Team Cap, everything goes downhill – leading to the blow-up between Tony and Steve that closes the film, and promises further repercussions throughout Phase 3. Hero is turned against hero, and all are trying to accomplish the same goal through differently lensed means. Without the big airport fight scene, the third Captain America adventure would awkwardly jump from the semi-serious, but still partially humorous content that the first two acts exhibited, into the dark finale that the film winds up landing on. It’s everything a set-piece should be, as it winds up the audience, but also advances the story in high form.
You can take our word on this, or you can see it for yourself - whether it’s your first or fifth time doing so - as Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now.