'Captain America: Civil War' Set Visit: Witnessing The Beginning Of A Clash Of Superheroes

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On June 10th, 2015, in the sweltering heat of Atlanta, Georgia, I found myself on the set of Captain America: Civil War, the third installment in the patriotic superhero's Marvel Studios franchise that began with Captain America: The First Avenger and continued with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

In the middle of nowhere lies Pinewood Studios, and this is where we spent half the day conducting interviews with stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and franchise newcomer Chadwick Boseman, not to mention writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, executive producer Nate Moore and directors Anthony & Joe Russo. All of those will be coming to you today and tomorrow, but first we want to talk about what we saw on set, because that's what you're going to see in theaters in May.

Outside on the studio lot, three massive green screen walls have been constructed to surround a set made to look like an airport tarmac. The only real objects on the set, besides the Marvel heroes who would be fighting shortly, is a fuel tank (that may end up exploding at some point) and some vehicles that say "Flughafen Leipzig-Halle," which dictates that this is the Leipzig-Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Germany. And this is where the Civil War begins. We are about the witness the beginning of the first fight between Team Captain America and Team Iron Man

After the jump, find out what we observed on the set of Captain America: Civil War, and how Marvel dealt with plenty of questions about Spider-Man entering the Marvel cinematic universe. All this and more can be found in our Captain America Civil War set report. And in case you haven't realized it already, beware of spoilers after the jump!

First of all, let me say this is the first time I've been on a Marvel Studios film set, and the experience is rather surreal to say the least. It's one thing to see Captain America and the other heroes of the cinematic universe on the big screen in a completed feature film. It's another to see them right in front of you fighting each other. No matter how clichéd it sounds, it really is a dream come true to see the superheroes you grew up on existing in a tangible form right in front of you, especially in a story arc you never thought could be manifested on the big screen.

But at the same time, it's also amusing to see things like Jeremy Renner, suited up as Hawkeye, jumping around and yelling things like "Let's do this!" to get everyone excited. Before the first scene we watch, Anthony Mackie can also be seen doing some push-ups in full Falcon gear to get himself jacked for the scene too. And before they're at each other's throats (literally), Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner have a nice hug. Like I said, it's surreal to be on set while all this is happening.

The Scene: The Civil War Begins... in IMAX

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Here on the tarmac of the Leipzig-Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Germany is where the Civil War begins. But at the time we're on set, we have not been told why the fight begins here.

The first scene we observe is rather exciting because it shows one-half of the hero line-up walking in an intimidating line and then breaking into a full sprint towards their opponents. This side includes Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Winter Soldier a.k.a. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). This is Team Cap.

We now know how the teams play out thanks to details that have surfaced since I was on set, but at the time we had to determine ourselves that the other side has Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Vision (Paul Bettany). As of now, it doesn't seem like Spider-Man is part of this fight, but he could end up coming into play later, maybe to even the playing field and make it a six-on-six fight. We'll get to how Marvel was dealing with Spider-Man inquiries on this particular day a bit later in this report.

During this first scene, Scarlet Witch stops running and veers off from the rest of the team. It's not clear if this was just so Elizabeth Olsen didn't have to run the full length of the tarmac in her stunt heels (yes, those are real), but I imagine it's because she's going to use her her powers to levitate during the fight. The directors indicated we will see her use those powers in this movie, and that's something that has since been confirmed in promotional art and a couple shots in trailers.

Captain America Civil War - Team Iron Man

Joe Russo is on set and describes the shooting we've been watching:

We're referring to this sequence as the Splash Panel or the double panel. If you're a comic book fan you know that any epic book you would open it up, as a kid I would just go through and look at who was fighting who. I'd stand there in the store for 15 minutes until the guy told me to buy the book or get out. You'd just study it and so this sequence is our live action splash panel or double panel. It's a big epic sequence.

And this sequence is certainly going to be big, because it will be shot entirely in IMAX on a new camera that is being used for the first on this film, sort of as a tease to The Avengers: Infinity War being shot entirely on this camera. Joe explained:

This whole sequence is in IMAX, it's about a 15 minute sequence. It's the only one that we're doing on the camera. The camera literally just rolled off the press like a week before we started using it. It's an IMAX 65, so it's the Ares 65. It's a joint camera between Ares and IMAX. We're going to shoot all of Infinity War on those cameras.

And the sequence needs to be big, because while we were on set, a sheet of storyboard and pre-visualization shots was seen before it was taken away. A brief glimpse only offered one cool detail as it was confirmed that Ant-Man will become Giant Man at some point.

We can't be sure, but it seemed like Paul Rudd was shooting some Giant Man sequences in a small green screen set with an elevated platform off to the side of the airport tarmac set. This was happening while his stunt double was running alongside the rest of Team Cap in the earlier scene. Considering the fact that a LEGO set on shelves now has a Giant Man not-so-minifigure in the airport action sequence, this should come as no surprise to those following. Otherwise, Ant-Man's armor is only slightly different, with some metallic elements added to give it a bit of shine and a sleeker helmet.

On the next page, find out what it's like to watch superheroes collide, and find out what Anthony & Joe Russo, producer Nate Moore and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have to say about having these superheroes fight hard without killing each other but still making it exciting.

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When Superheroes Collide

The second set-up filmed is a fight scene between Black Widow and Hawkeye. Black Widow has her small nightsticks while Hawkeye has a bo staff for close combat since a bow and arrow isn't great for hand-to-hand combat. We've seen Black Widow and Hawkeye go at it before in the Avengers, but never with this kind of weaponry in their hands. Renner and Johansson really know what they're doing, with the latter getting some movement tips from her stunt double before the scene begins.

While Black Widow and Hawkeye fight in the foreground, the Winter Soldier and Black Panther are fighting each other in the background. But since those two are not the focus of this shot, their stunt doubles are doing the action instead of Sebastian Stan and Chadwick Boseman. In fact, we didn't see the latter actually in his suit until we were leaving.

Producer Nate Moore talks about how this fight is different from seeing the heroes fight any villain where they're out for total defeat, but that doesn't mean the stakes aren't still high. The fighting is still very dangerous, and it's a challenge to portray it in a way that is exciting but believable within the confines of the abilities each of these heroes have:

It's a challenge. It's something that we talk a lot about. Who's more powerful than who and what happens? I think part situational you put 'em in situations where they're having to make tough choices . I think the other thing to think about, and again this is something that I think the comics, I think tonally don't have to get as right, which is these people like each other. I'm not trying to beat the shit out of you. I'm not hitting you full blast because why would I do that? I'm trying to stop you, I'm trying to prevent you. So I think it prevents Tony Stark from blasting Hawk in the face. You're just not gonna do that.

That doesn't mean you still can't have a battle that has real stakes and tension but it does mean for characters like Vision, especially, who feels like he is the protector of humanity in some respects, from going full Vision power because are you gonna do that to somebody like Black Widow? Are you gonna do that to Wanda? I don't know. I mean that's pretty severe. It is that idea of situational use of power. Of challenging them in ways that are clever. All the tricks in the book are on the table. Tony's suit of armor can do a million things. Hawk has a million bows and arrows. There are ways that we have to, I think, just internally, of challenging these characters to be really be pushed to the brink, without sort of lethal force.

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However, Joe Russo talks about how they made sure that the heroes really did have a grudge to hold against each other, enough so that they did want to fight each other and not necessarily hold back much:

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.

So not everyone is going to stay in this fight, presumably until it's just Captain America and Iron Man going head to head, maybe with Bucky Barnes alongside his longtime friend. But don't expect to have an easy time choosing your side, even after the movie is over. Stephen McFeely says:

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. 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 wont send us? Right? It's an excellent argument.

Christopher Markus adds:

Part of the challenge in not making Tony clearly wrong as he seems to me to be in the comic book, where you're like, you built an inter-dimensional prison... is to give him his own personal reason, the same we've given Steve a personal, you know sort of illustration of this, give Tony his own one, so that he's coming from a place where you understand why he would make this decision.


Marvel Plays Coy About Spider-Man

At the time of our set visit, everyone was playing dumb about Spider-Man's involvement in Captain America: Civil War. Writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, executive producer Nate Moore and directors Anthony & Joe Russo weren't sure if he would appear in the movie. Or at least they were all pretending if they weren't sure. They didn't know if it was going to work. For a studio that plans everything in advance, they seemed pretty clueless, but we're betting they're just trying to keep it a "surprise" for when they decide to reveal it.

Holding Captain America's Shield


I'd by lying if I said this wasn't one of the high points of my life. While on the set of Captain America: Civil War, we were allowed to hold Captain America's shield. There were two versions that were brought over to us. One was a lighter wood version, and the other was the considerably heavier metal version. Both have a strap to fit your arm through and a handle to hold. Just holding the shield in your hands makes you feel like a superhero.

One of the prop crew members talked to us and revealed they have 90 shields from making the Captain America and Avengers movies over the years, but only 40 of them are actually usable. The rest have been battered beyond repair.

More to Come from Interviews with Team Cap and Team Iron Man

Captain America Civil War Interview

As I noted in the beginning, our set visit included interviews with stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and franchise newcomer Chadwick Boseman. You can look for interviews from Team Cap members Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Anthony Mackie today while Robert Downey Jr. and Chadwick Boseman interviews won't arrive until Tuesday, March 8th.

Some of these interviews will be accompanied by some words from producer Nate Moore, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Anthony & Joe Russo to help paint a more full picture of what each of the characters brings to the table for Captain America: Civil War. Stay tuned for all this from our Captain America Civil War set visit imminently.