CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
How Marvel orchestrated its epic airport dust-up.
The action centrepiece of Anthony and Joe Russo’s epic superhero showdown is a stunning battle between two rival factions of Avengers at an evacuated German airport. How did they sync the schedules of so many stars to choreograph a scrap that must have taken weeks to shoot, you might ask. Easy – they did the whole scene digitally (well, pretty much), and made such a good job of it that nobody noticed.
It was a tough ask. The Captain America movies pride themselves, after all, on a real-world feel. “Winter Soldier… could have been a ’70s thriller, or a Bourne movie,” said ILM visual effects supervisor Russell Earl. “Getting to Civil War, it was, ‘How is that going
to work on this one?’” Good question. It’s not easy bringing gritty authenticity to scenes that position Cap as the eye of a superhero storm swirling with Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Spider-Man, Falcon, Scarlet Witch,
Black Panther, War Machine and Vision. Step one was to descend on Leipzig/Halle Airport armed with LiDAR scanners – the hundreds of pictures and measurements gleaned from the recce then allowed ILM to replicate the exact geometry of the airport and to recreate all vehicles – planes, cars, luggage loaders. This in turn allowed the backdrop to be tweaked and augmented, meaning it could be matched to Ant-Man’s half-inch scale, Giant-Man’s 50ft scale, or anything in between.
The heroes without masks (Cap, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier – played, respectively, by Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Sebastian Stan) were shot a little on location and a lot against a giant greenscreen in Atlanta, while the others were 100 per cent digital. It wasn’t always intended this way – a parkour expert was hired to don Spidey’s suit, and Marvel planned to put a stuntman inside Black Panther’s outfit. But ILM stepped in, broadening Black Panther’s chest to make for a more imposing figure, and layering cloth simulation upon muscle simulation to render Spidey in his all-new Tony Starkcreated tech-suit, then mixing in Tom Holland’s mo-cap performance. Even Giant-Man, who Earl describes as “a big, drunk baby”, was modelled on footage of Paul Rudd performing the scene for real.
Oh, and one more thing: the live-action elements were shot on IMAX Alexa 65 cameras – just one more reason this bar-raising set-piece achieves maximum impact. JG