Russo brothers talk about that CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR trailer

15 min read
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I like Darryn. I really do. And I think he does good work, especially when it comes to trailer breakdowns like he did for Captain America: Civil War. But as much as I liked what he did, he just got beaten at his own trailer breakdown game by two brothers. They of course have the advantage of being the guys who actually directed Captain America: Civil War, so there is that, but c’mon Darryn, pull up your socks next time!

Joe and Anthony Russo – who also helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and will take over from Joss Whedon on directing the two-part Avengers: Infinity War in 2018/2019 – sat down with Empire to discuss the first full trailer, and tossed out some interesting nuggets of info.

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For those of you that watched Ant-Man, you would know that the trailer actually opens with that film’s post-credits scene as Chris Evan’s Cap and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon find Bucky (Sebastian Stan) trapped in a warehouse. Looking at the chronology of events in the trailer, you may assume that this implies that Civil War actually opens with the pursuit and capture of Bucky, which is over in no time. And that assumption would be wrong.

“That’s not early in the film,” reveals Joe Russo. “But we felt like it was the cleanest way to draw a line and highlight that this is Captain America 3, and not Avengers 2 and a half.”

“There is a story about how Cap gets to Bucky,” says Anthony Russo, “and that’s fairly involved.”

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This Bucky is also not the one we last saw at the end of Winter Soldier, at least not in the figurative sense, as he is no longer a brainwashed HYDRA assassin, but he hasn’t fully regained his personality as Cap’s old WWII buddy either. And that makes things very muddled when it comes to holding him accountable for past crimes –  like the one he is seemingly being accused of in this trailer.

“His memories are foggy,” says Joe Russo. “But he has them. He’s also different now. There’s a part of his personality that was under mind control, and he murdered a lot of people. So he’s got a very complicated history. Who is that person? How does that character move forward? He’s not Bucky Barnes anymore. He’s not the Winter Soldier anymore. He’s something inbetween.”

“All we can say about that,” says Anthony Russo, “is certainly The Winter Soldier has a very complicated history as an assassin and a weapon of Hydra – and that history ends up pulling him into a new conflict.”

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Moving on from Bucky for now, some of you may also recognize William Hurt’s character of Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross as Hulk’s military nemesis in The Incredible Hulk – which has become something of the MCU’s forgotten stepchild. His inclusion in Civil War gives Cap the perfect government foe who already has certainly problem with superheroes.

“The job is to tie all these films together,” says Joe Russo. “To be able to pull from The Hulk, which may have been forgotten about a little bit, and make it relevant again within the cinematic universe, is important to us.”

“We thought it would be interesting to take a character who had a fanatical anti-superhero point of view,” says Joe Russo of Ross, who once saw his prospective son-in-law turn big and green and mean. “Now he’s become much savvier and more political and has put himself in a position of power, not unlike a Colin Powell. He’s cornering the Avengers politically now, he’s out-manoeuvring them.”

Yes, guys. Joe Russo just described a Marvel villain as being like Colin Powell. Ahem! But there’s not where the Russo’s view on politics and how it can be filtered into the MCU stops though.

“You cannot have a character called Captain America without examining the politics of what that means, especially in this day and age,” says Joe Russo. “The heroes in this universe operate under their own auspices, not under the directive of a government, and that can cause a lot of problems. There’s a certain level of imperialism that we’re examining – what right do those that have power have to use that power, even if it’s to do good? How do you govern that kind of power?”

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Gen. Ross’ answer to question is of course the Sokovian Accords, a legislation named after the city that was destroyed by Ultron in his battle against the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron. We’ve also seen these Accords briefly mentioned in Ant-Man‘s post-credits scene, which Cap explaining that because of them, Iron Man can’t help Bucky (which is why Falcon turns to Ant-Man for help). But what are these accords and how do they affect the characters?

“The Accords are the world jointly trying to govern the Avengers moving forward,” continues Joe Russo. “It has to do with the effects of Ultron and Sokovia [the small city that Ultron tried to drop on the Earth from a great height at the end of Age Of Ultron], and New York City [roundly trashed at the end of The Avengers], and Washington D.C. [nearly devastated by falling helicarriers at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier]. Examining the third acts of all the Marvel movies, we’re saying, if you could point to the collateral damage in all those incidents, could you use that against the Avengers to control them?”

In the acclaimed same-named comic book story arc that Civil War uses as inspiration, there are no Accords though. Instead, we have the Superhero Registration Act, a governmental mandate that all superheroes must be catalogued, trained and assigned specific tasks to perform in certain areas. That doesn’t work in the Marvel movie universe because there aren’t enough superheroes running around to justify that sort of response. The Accords directly controlling the Avengers and the hunt for Bucky does get us on the same path to conflict though, but via a different route.

“The challenge was, we’re doing the story of Civil War,” says Anthony Russo. “Which everybody knows is nominally about superhero registration. And in a lot of ways that can be a political issue, and we didn’t want the conflict of the movie to solely exist on that level. We wanted to figure out very personal reasons why everyone’s relationship to this idea of registration is going to become complicated. That’s what the relationship between Steve and Bucky allowed us to do, to get very personal in terms of why people would lean one way or the other.”

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Of course one character that leans in a very unexpected direction is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. She and Cap made for a hell of a dynamic duo in past films, and it’s clear that they’re very good friends, and yet they’re ending up on opposite sides of the moral divide in Civil War.

“We thought it would be interesting to take that relationship that was so strong in Winter Soldier, and test it,” says Joe Russo. “She sees that they have made mistakes, very public mistakes and she’s trying to convince Steve that it might not be as black and white as he sees it and maybe they have some culpability, and maybe they have to accept that culpability, and then find a way to work within the system so that the Avengers aren’t disbanded.”

And the end result of that strained relationship, as well as the events of Winter Soldier in which it’s discovered that the enemy was actually hiding among the “good guys” the entire time, has made a huge impact on Cap, who is certainly not the sickly kid that we saw trying so desperately to just serve his country in Captain America: The First Avenger.

“The arc we’re tracking for Captain America, the thing we thought would be most interesting with this character when we came on board to direct Winter Soldier,” explains Anthony Russo, “was to take him from the most ra-ra company man that you could get, this character who was a somewhat willing propagandist, and by the end of the third film he’s an insurgent.”

“You have to pit him against the establishment, only this time it’s even graver consequences and even graver stakes than in Winter Soldier,” adds Anthony Russo. “In Winter Soldier, he was on the side of right because the establishment had been corrupted by a very evil organisation. In this movie, it’s just the establishment versus Captain America and he has to make a choice whether or not he can tolerate the establishment any longer.”

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And in this case, the face personifying that establishment is surprisingly Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man aka Tony Stark. So how does Tony get convinced to try and hunt down his friend and teammate?

“Tony’s defining characteristic is his egomania, in a lot of ways,” adds Anthony Russo, “and we thought it would be interesting to bring him to a point in his life where he was willing to submit to an authority, where he felt it was the right thing to do.”

Tony is also driven by the ghosts of Age Of Ultron, by the vision he had there of the return of Thanos and the destruction of the Avengers and Earth. “He now has a guilty complex,” says Joe Russo, “and the guilt drives him to make very specific decisions.”

“When people leave the theatre, they’re going to be arguing about who was right in the movie, whether it was Tony, or whether it was Cap,” says Joe Russo. “Tony has a very legitimate argument in the movie that’s a very adult point of view, about culpability, about the Avengers’ responsibility to the world, and the world’s right to have some sort of control over the Avengers. It’s a very complicated emotional arc for Tony Stark in this movie. Downey is utterly amazing in the part. I think he’s taking this character he’s been crafting for years and goes to some very risky places in the movie with the character.”

“Tony is a person who understands the grey as well as anybody,” says Joe Russo. “Cap is extremely black and white and there is a certain level of moral fibre and fortitude that a guy like Tony would perceive as being irritatingly perfect, and irritatingly obstinate. The notion of wanting to punch Cap in his perfect teeth is a way to express his frustration with Cap’s inability to conform to politics, and to compromise.”

“We also played with the history. By the time Tony Stark was born and grew up, Captain America was a legend. We’re tracing the history between these two characters. It’s very interesting. It’s a sick, complicated relationship.”

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But as Cap seemingly loses one friendship, another recent one is strengthened as Anthony Mackie’s Falcon definitely has Cap’s back in this battle.

“He’s deepening his relationship with Cap,” says Joe Russo. “It’s Falcon, Cap and Bucky – how is that dynamic going to work going forward? How does he feel about Bucky? How does it alter his relationship with Cap if Winter Soldier comes back into the picture?” We have a feeling the burgeoning Cap/Falcon/Bucky slashfiction industry is about to experience a major boom. After all, this could be seen as the greatest love triangle in the MCU.

Falcon is only one member of Cap’s “team” with the rest being Bucky aka Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch, and Ant-Man. On Tony’s side of the fence there’s Black Widow, War Machine, The Vision and newcomer Black Panther. So how did the Russo’s decide who would end up where?

“The way we went about it, it was about tracing what was going on with these characters,” says Anthony Russo, “and we would examine each character on a very personal level – how would they respond to the idea of registration? What stakes would they have in this issue? Why is it good or bad for them? That’s how we went about it.”

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And while we can actually work out most of those motivations for ourselves, the mystery man in all of this is Black Panther. The King of Wakanda is brand new to this world, but he already seems to be fitting in nicely. And by fitting in, I mean being a badass and looking totally cool while doing it. A lot of that coolness comes from his costume, which is a slight deviation from his traditional comic book duds.

“It’s a combination of a practical costume and VFX. It’s a vibranium weave, a mesh, almost like a chainmail. Luminescence is something we have to do in post,”

There’s more to him than just fancy clothes though.

“He’s there for a very different reason which brings him into conflict with Cap and his team,” adds Joe. “His motivations are not their motivations.”

Another mysterious character who we don’t actually see in the trailer is Baron Zemo, played by Daniel Bruhl. In the comics, there were two characters that went by this name: the first was a WWII Nazi scientist and the other was his descendant who seemed to continue the family business of being a villainous douche only to reveal that he was actually a good guy all along. Which version will show up in the movie? Both? Neither?

“Zemo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not Zemo from the comics, and what’s interesting and surprising is that we don’t always honour the mythology from the books,” says Joe Russo, dancing around the question. “One, because it’s predictable and two, it’s not servicing the story in the way we want. So, if Zemo were in this movie, I think people should expect that it’s going to be something fresh and exciting.”

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Know what else was exciting in that trailer? The cool shot of Cap holding onto a helicopter from a roof ledge, that’s what! And no, that wasn’t just there to give Chris Evans a chance to flex his muscles.

“He’s hanging onto that helicopter for an extremely passionate reason,” says Joe Russo. “In stories you’ll read where a mother will lift a car off a child. There’s something very important happening in that scene and for us it really represented his struggle as a character, one man pitted against a helicopter that’s trying to take off. Can he stop it? And what are the limits of his strength? For us, it’s one of the most powerful shots in the movie and it’s Chris Evans, who works very hard to physically exemplify this character. On set, we had him straining against a crane holding this helicopter, and you have this fantastic shot of his muscles bulging and you can feel the pain and the energy and the determination as he tries to stop this thing.”

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The final bit of dialogue in the trailer is truly a gut punch as Cap, referring to Bucky, tells Tony that “You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice… but he’s my friend,” with Tony dejectedly replying “So was I”. Oof, right in the feels. Right as the Russos intended.

“The theme of the movie is betrayal and it’s a very powerful theme,” reveals Joe Russo. “The movie’s extremely emotional. It hinges on that emotion, and on a very personal level we didn’t want the movie to become about politics and people arguing about platitudes. The third act is built around a very personal moment between these characters.”

And that’s a moment that I sure as hell cannot wait for. Alas, I will just have to as Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6, 2016.

Last Updated: November 27, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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