From Locations to Camerawork to Splash-Page Action, How the new Captain America Is Already Making Audiences Happy
Hype is reaching a fever pitch as the release date approaches for Captain America: Civil War, which promises a battle royale among Marvel superheroes in a movie whose scale is more befitting a full-on Avengers picture than a single-character adventure. Observers are expecting a huge box-office take — perhaps coming within sight of Avengers: Age of Ultron's $207 million opening weekend, if not quite matching it. With the film opening this week in much of the world and next week in North America, here are some fast facts about the production, gleaned from the film's production notes and from articles around the web.
1) Reviews are fantastic.
With 40 reviews counted by Rotten Tomatoes, the Tomatometer shows this one at 98% fresh. Review aggregator Metacritic pegs its score at 85/100 based on the average of 14 reviews drawn from both fan-friendly sites and mainstream outlets. Compare that to a 28% Tomatometer and 44/100 Metacritic rating for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and it's no wonder Marvel started screening this for critics about a month in advance of its release.
2) It's one of the first movies to use the ARRI Alexa 65 for some sequences.
While the recently wrapped Marvel movie Doctor Strange used the large-format Alexa 65 as its primary camera, Captain America: Civil War used it for some sequences. According to film-gear database Shotonwhat.com, the Alexa XT Plus was also used; IMDb lists both of those cameras plus the Red Epic Dragon. (The two Avengers: Infinity War movies set for release in 2018 and 2019 are shooting entirely with the Alexa 65 in its Imax configuration.)
3) The production was based at Pinewood Atlanta Studios, but shooting took place in Germany, Austria, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.K.
Ant-Man was the first film to be shot at the newly built Pinewood Atlanta, and Marvel decided to headquarter Civil War there as well. The film makes use of practical locations in and around Atlanta, a ground tactic that the Russo Brothers borrowed from the film's predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. "We tried to make the style of [Winter Soldier] something that was human-size and more relatable to what people are capable of, as opposed to what superheroes and demigods are capable of," Anthony Russo said. "So that led us to shoot more practical locations than we normally would and executing action in a way that's more grounded and visceral, more real world rather than fantastical. We … took that grounded world of Captain America and blew it up a little bit for this movie. But we still kept the same dynamic of staying rooted in that fidelity of real locations." [Source: studio production notes]
4) The opening sequence set in Nigeria? Yeah, they shot that in downtown Atlanta.
The original plan to shoot the film's Lagos scenes in Puerto Rico ended up being cost-prohibitive. "Our amazing locations team found this big, empty gulch in downtown Atlanta that essentially was like a backlot, where we built Lagos, Nigeria, which wasn't an easy feet," said producer Nate Moore. Hundreds of extras were cast and the set was built out to that degree that it could be shot as a "360-degree real environment," Moore said. The gaps were filled in with VFX to extend the environment to resemble a huge city. Doing double-duty, the exterior of the Atlanta Civic Center was used for a Nigerian laboratory while an interior there was used for a scene set at MIT. [Source: studio production notes]
5) You have to break some eggs to make an omelette, and you have to crash some cars to make a car chase.
The production worked closely with Audi to get some speed into the film. T'Challa, aka Black Panther, drives a previously unseen Audio concept car with a dashboard that resembles the HUD in Iron Man's suit. For a chase scene involving Captain America, Black Panther and Winter Soldier, Cap drives an Audi Q7. "We had decided that we wanted to actually crash one of these Q7s and fortunately they let us crash several of these cars, which was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time because you see these gorgeous cars rolling over several times," admitted executive producer Louis D'Esposito. [Source: studio production notes]
6) Expect less handheld cinematography as the franchise transitions into Infinity War mode.
As the film progresses, expect smoother, more epic-style camerawork. “This film is a bridge between Winter Soldier and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War story, so we consciously made an effort to bring some of the visual style and tone of the Winter Soldier film and merge it with a new style and tone that we’re going to use for Infinity War, which is a grander-scale look and less handheld," said Joe Russo. [Source: studio production notes]
7) The biggest challenge was the carefully choreographed, 16-minute-long "splash panel" sequence.
It's called the "splash panel" scene because its scope recalls a full-page, double-panel illustration in a comic book as members of the two different superhero factions in the film face off. "You have almost every superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe out here and they're going to war with each other," Anthony Russo says. The sequence was shot on location at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany as well as on the Atlanta Pinewood backlot, where a slab of concrete was laid down to match the tarmac at the real airport — and temperatures hovered in the mid-90s. At the real airport, the Civil War production crew of 350 had to be cut in half in order to shoot beyond security checkpoints. "It was much like a sports team — we were shuffling in and out cast and crew memebers for different scenes in order to keep our numbers at 175," recalled executive producer Patricia Whitcher. In all, the scene took four weeks to shoot. [Source: studio production notes]
8) Working with an ensemble cast of big stars presented challenges for both scheduling and cinematography.
"There were a ton of actors on this film, and that was actually quite challenging — to shoot them all with their crazy schedules," DP Trent Opaloch said in an interview. "The tough thing is that you can end up shooting someone's close-up in another country and weeks after you've shot the other side of the conversation, so it's always a challenge dealing with changing weather conditions, etc, to maintain some cohesiveness to the scene."
9) Black Panther's costume incorporates multiple cultural influences.
For Black Panther's outfit, the production took its first cues from the comic books, then took care to combine African design elements with ninja-style accoutrements. “There is certainly a hint of African aspect in the decorations — it’s almost like they’re weapons here as well around the necklace," said actor Chadwick Boseman. "There are other portions, too, where you certainly see a medieval armor and you also see aspects of a ninja as well. So I loved that you can look at it and see one thing and look at it another moment and see another thing and when I put on the suit it immediately took me to another reality." [Source: studio production notes]
10) Yep, Spider-Man's being re-rebooted.
Inasmuch as every Marvel movie now functions as an advertisement for other Marvel movies, Captain America: Civil War is the launchpad for the new Spider-Man, actor Tom Holland, who stars in his own flick, Spider-Man: Homecoming, in 2017. Among the changes, Spidey now has the ability to emote through eyeholes that are designed like a camera's iris, to widen and tighten depending on his mood. As sci-fi site io9 asked, will 2016 be remembered as the year that superheroes' eyes got animated? Speaking of reboots, Robert Downey Jr. has reportedly signed on to play Tony Stark in the new Spider-Man movie, extending his run as Iron Man to a full nine years and eight films (if you count his uncredited cameo in The Incredible Hulk). Would the Marvel Cinematic Universe be the Marvel Cinematic Universe without Downey's presence? Marvel doesn't want to chance it — Variety reported in 2014 that Downey is getting a hefty $40 million paycheck plus back-end participation on Civil War, as well as a bonus if the new Cap film pulls in more than its predecessor. Now that's how you keep your heroes happy — but it does seem like a lot for Iron Man to get for a film with Captain America's name on it. No bad feelings, we hope.
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