For a ‘Captain America’ film, ‘Civil War’ looks incredibly crowded. Besides the titular superhero, the third cinematic instalment of the red-white-and-blue superhero sees Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Don Cheadle’s War Machine and Paul Bettany’s Vision join Chris Evans in the Anthony and Joe Russo-directed film. And oh, if you haven’t already heard, it will also be the first time that Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spiderman are introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) before their respective standalone films due out this fall and next summer respectively.
If that seems like a major step-up from their previous ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, let it be known that Joe Russo isn’t breaking any sweat.
‘It’s been a fantastic journey from ‘Community’ to ‘Civil War’,” he says, referring to the hit NBC sitcom that he and his brother were best known for before being handpicked to join the MCU. “But really filmmaking is filmmaking. Of course certain things are more complicated with Marvel movies, but the things we do in comedy do correlate with Marvel’s storytelling.”
“When you execute a comedic gag, there’s a lot of correlation to action, spatial relationships on screen, editing, rhythm and so on,” he adds. Joe also mentions how the “unprecedented long-form storytelling” that Marvel has been executing is akin to the character development and relationships on TV. “How Marvel takes major characters from franchises and weaves them into one story has never been done before in cinema,” he explains. “So the actors actually know their characters much better than my brother and I ever will.”
Joe is effusive of his praise for the actors Marvel has chosen to fill their stable of characters as well as the performances from the actors themselves. Speaking at the press conference for the Southeast Asia promotion tour at Marina Bay Sands where he is joined by Evans, Sebastian Stan (aka Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (aka Falcon), Joe calls it a ‘Steven Soderbergh-level of cast’, proclaiming their performances as ‘exceptional’ and saying that it makes his job very easy.
Evans says that the emotional scenes in ‘Civil War’ were more demanding than the action ones. “The action is physically demanding, but you have a whole bunch of people helping you” he says, “Whereas in the emotional scenes, it is really up to you and the directors – and Joe and Anthony are fantastic.”
Further giving props to the Russo brothers, Evans calls them ‘true cinephiles’. “A lot of directors don’t always want to reference other movies, but Joe and Anthony love the movies and aren’t afraid to take and learn from the best,” he adds. “They basically give very simple direction and give you that space, so that it makes for a very comfortable landscape as an actor to take risks.”
Though it is his physique that often gets the most attention, Evans is quick to downplay how he actually gets into shape. “There’s no magic there. It’s actually pretty simple,” he says. “You just go to the gym, pick up some heavy stuff, put it down, do it again and you do it until you can’t do it anymore.” Mackie though lets in that Evans plays ultimate Frisbee when they are not filming, which Evans laments will probably get the tabloids unnecessarily excited.
Unlike how his character naturally assumes the lead for their faction, Evans seems much less keen in real life being the star of their contingent; in fact, he gladly lets Mackie play that role in front of the journalists. Outside of the MCU, the actor best known for his role in the Best Picture winner ‘The Hurt Locker’ displayed his winning sense of humour at the conference when asked to respond to Iron Man’s comment about his suit being a ‘bird suit’.
“Say that one more time? I’m described as what?” Mackie repeats jokingly twice. “If mine is a ‘bird suit’, then Iron Man’s a Coca Cola can. Vision looks like someone drew over him with a big marker. Black Panther’s suit looks like it’s made of Michelin car tyres.” Johansson though, whether in and out of character, is someone he calls ‘perfect’.
Evans too mentions Johansson’s Black Widow when asked who his character would most likely date. “They are two characters who come from very different worlds and very different backgrounds who found comfort in each other at different times of distress,” he says, “I always thought that it was very sweet and very pure that they’ve kept it platonic, and that they found something besides an intimate relationship to lean upon.”
Indeed, Johansson is the only one the ‘#teamcap’ actors praise from the other side of the ideological divide. Drawing a comparison to the ‘#teamironman’ tour which Downey Jr is leading in Paris, Mackie says, “We try to get to know the culture that we’re in, eat the food (he mentions chilli crab and sting ray as examples to show that he ain’t just bluffing) and meet the people… Whereas Team Iron Man, they’re more about just going from the press conference to the spa, and then from the spa to their jet, stuff like that.”
And yet beyond the marketing buzz that the Captain America-versus-Iron Man discord is meant to fuel, Joe says that ‘Civil War’ is incredibly important to the evolution of the MCU.
“Winter Soldier changed the external structure of the MCU with the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” he says.” I think that this movie changes the psychology of the Marvel Universe in a very significant way. The ramifications of ‘Civil War’ are not over. They are going to carry over significantly into ‘Infinity War’ and put the characters in a very complicated space.”
Judging by the fantastic reviews that ‘Civil War’ has been getting (it may in fact become the best reviewed movie of the MCU canon so far by the time all the reviews have been tallied), Phase III of the MCU – and its characters, new and old – could not have asked for a better start.
Text by Gabriel Chong and Photos by Linus Tee