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It's easy to mistake Captain America: Civil War for an Avengers movie. Jeremy Renner even jokingly called it Avengers 2.5, given the immense superhero roster. But screenwriter Stephen McFeely confirmed, "We’re not going to split all of the roles and lines and screen time into 15 parts." He continued, "It is a Captain America movie, and lined up on the opposite side of him, first and foremost, is Tony Stark."
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role of Iron Man for the third Captain America film. Tony’s been griping with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) since the first Avengers, when Loki’s scepter unearthed some buried tension, but Age of Ultron exacerbated their sparring ideologies. "Isn't that the mission? Isn't that the 'why we fight'? So we get to go home?" Tony asks. Steve responds, "Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time."
In Civil War, the debate becomes much larger. After another international incident involving the Avengers, the governments of the world pass the Sokovia Accords, which seek to enforce harsher restrictions on superhumans, as well as a system of accountability. We’ve already seen who takes up with Cap, but Iron Man, siding with the government, has his own big guns.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the newly created Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the superhero of Wakanda, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), all join Team Iron Man in stopping Captain America when he goes on the run. On the Atlanta set of Civil War this past summer, both sides faced off in front of a massive green screen that will later be replaced by their arena, a German airport. As friend fights friend, which side, if either, will emerge victorious?
Ahead of the film’s release on May 6, get the behind-the-scenes intel on Team Iron Man.
Iron ManTony Stark is not the same man we met in the first Iron Man. He was kidnapped by terrorists, he plunged a missile through a wormhole to space, he suffered PTSD from the battle in New York, and he unleashed Ultron unto the world thanks to his own hubris. For Downey, the main question posed by Civil War is, "What is the credibility factor?" Tony, having operated under his own authority for years, could use some Sokovia Accords right about now.
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. And that, for me, was just a really straight line, because I don’t like words coming out of a character’s mouth that I adore because not only is he a little bit duplicitous, but he’s kind of practical in the way he thinks, and he thinks in terms of everyone’s humanity and how quickly we can go against what we think we meant when we said it or what we believe…
For screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, this is what the film all boils down to. "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 49/51 split, because the question is a legitimate one," Markus said. Is Tony right in believing these superheroes, who have trashed entire cities and countries in battling enemies, need some oversight, or is Cap? "Steve at one point says in the movie, 'What if these people send us somewhere we don’t think we should go, and what if there’s a place we need to go and they won’t send us?'"
The war over this question (and The Winter Soldier) will take Tony to a dark place. Co-director Joe Russo teased, "I think you're going to see a side of Tony Stark you haven't seen in any of the films, and he's just crushing it. He's fantastic in the very, very complex and dark arc he has in this film." Because, as Downey says, "It’s never fun when [Tony's] in a good place, is it?"
Black WidowOne of the biggest surprise Tony sympathizers is Natasha. After going on the run from the Hydra-operated S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one would think she’d side with Steve once again. When discussing their relationship in Civil War, Evans even described it as "a really nice brother-and-sister bond." He said, "She’s kinda been a loner for a long time and probably avoided friendships for professional purposes. And I had no friends because I was frozen." Nevertheless, she at least initially sides with Team Iron Man in the airport battle, and it’s a decision she doesn’t make lightly.
It's difficult, because she's not trained to take sides. 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 toughest for her than anybody to go, 'This is my side and I'm sticking to it.’
According to Joe Russo, "We made some strong choices with Natasha in this movie," and we have Vince Gilligan to thank for her "tricky arc."
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 fucking 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.
Fans, especially those who have fought and failed to convince Marvel to make a Black Widow movie, will be pleased to see Natasha is back in the spotlight. She was a major part of The Winter Soldier, and she’ll be a major part of Civil War, as confirmed by McFeely. "We’re Cap guys," he said. "We feel very beholden to Winter Solider. You'll get a lot of Sam Wilson. You'll get a lot of Natasha Romanoff. It sort of trickles from there."
Black PantherIf the impending face-off between Captain America and Iron Man wasn’t enticing enough, Civil War will introduce Black Panther, the superhero from the African nation of Wakanda. Age of Ultron hinted at the character with the inclusion of Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaw, but fans will get to see him fully formed for the first time in a live-action film.
Before that, audiences will first meet him as T’Challa, a politician and the prince of Wakanda. There's a lot of tension surrounding this character, according to Anthony Mackie, who said T'Challa arrives "in the midst of 'a family fight,' where he's in many ways an interloper." Iron Man will find him particularly frosty; the self-proclaimed billionaire-playboy-philanthropist encounters someone who can always pull rank as a monarch. So just because he’s fighting alongside Tony at the airport, it doesn’t mean he’s fully Team Iron Man.
Chadwick Boseman, Marvel's Black Panther, tells us,
He sees both sides…it’s necessary to protect and stop crime and to protect your country, he understands that part because that’s what he has to do. But there’s a way to do it that is the best way. Like, if it was The Art of War, it would be, like, how can you inflict less pain on, how can less people die and you still win the war? He’s a tactician, he’s a strategist, so he appreciates that thought process. So it’s both sides.
Black Panther has a specific role to play in the events to come, but Civil War will merely be an introduction to the character, who has a solo film coming in 2018. Boseman read as many comic books involving the character he could find, including ones by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Reginald Hudlin. He said,
All of the writers have come up with different aspects of who he is, so you can take different things from each one and they don’t contradict each other, necessarily. Like, you get the principals and the essence of who he is. [That's] still there. He’s a little cooler in some of them. He’s a little, you know, um, in the Christopher Priest version, he doesn’t trust anybody…all of it is good stuff to use. The sense of humor, searching for himself and, in some of the ones in the ‘80s, which I think is really good. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I think a lot of those things are good things to put into the movie.
Chadwick Boseman proved his dedication to the Russo brothers, who confirmed the character will have a Wakandan accent. "He did great research on the very cultural aspects of the character," Anthony Russo said. "Even though it's a fictional cultural, figuring out ways to tether it into real African culture." Joe Russo added, "He found a regional accent based on where Wakanda would be. Just an incredible, intense amount of detail."
VisionThe Civil War screenwriters didn’t want Vision’s arc to take a cliched turn, but the android is trying to find his place in the world. "We're trying to be really elegant about this guy who was one day old at the end of Ultron, adjusting to life," McFeely said, though they did want him to have problems with the modern world.
One issue is blending in with humanity. "Vision doesn't walk around the Avengers compound in his cape, he walks around in clothes. He's trying to assimilate," said Joe. "That was a fun conversation because he sort of projects his own clothing, so it's an interpretation of his personality. He's rather dashing." Added Anthony, "Vision is thinking about, 'How does he make himself fit in to situations and fit in with people and connect to characters?' 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."
Will his dashing appearance be able to woo Scarlet Witch? Fans have been keeping an eye on these two, given their romantic relationship in the comics, but so far all they got was Vision swooping in like Superman to save Wanda from the plummeting Sokovia in Age of Ultron. Olsen teased, though, that there will be a connection between them that is largely due to the Mind Stone.
I think there’s something unique in the fact that her powers come from the same thing that powers him, and that is how we made them have that kind of, that specifically in common -- as opposed to it being something else that the comics, kind of created, just being pure romance. But they do have something uniquely special, because of that.
The biggest challenge with writing a story for someone like Vision, a creature who wears one of the most devastatingly powerful objects in the galaxy on his forehead, is figuring out his limitations. "If Vision is too powerful, then what do you need everybody else for?" Joe asked. "So there are limitations to him as a character. His arc specifically in this movie is about him discovering his limitations."
War MachineIt’s safe to say there are a lot of moving parts in Civil War, from the reappearance of The Winter Soldier to the Sokovia Accords to Black Panther. But one who’s been largely overlooked is James Rhodes. He’s still very much a mystery even after leaving the film’s Atlanta set, but here are some things to think about…
Rhodey is inherently connected to Tony. The two fought together in the Iron Man films and Age of Ultron, and even as a member of the new Avengers, he’s still a big part of Tony’s life. "All I do is fight for Pepper, and I lean on those relationships, that’s my go-to thing, that and Don Cheadle and War Machine," Downey said. "Because to me there’s been two hearts that have gone through it, and then a little mini heart who was JARVIS."
Since the end of Age of Ultron, War Machine has been spending the past year training and bonding with his new teammates. Producer Nate Moore said that’s why these heroes are "probably a little bit closer than that first group of Avengers," which is what makes the divide so powerful.
So, how might Rhodey fit into all of this? In an interview with SuperHeroHype, Cheadle said,
I never know where the character’s going to go, but he’s become more and more and in the next one, you’ll see that what happens to Rhodey is a little bit more intense and pivotal to what happens in the rest of the stories.
How pivotal? Could he be intertwined with what the Russos described as Tony’s darker storyline? Aside from footage fighting alongside Team Iron Man, the Civil War trailers have only shown us one scene involving War Machine. This one.
Again, it’s still unclear with so little information what War Machine’s fate might be, but perhaps we should be keeping tabs on Tony's buddy.