Civil War on Disc

The DVD and Blu Ray versions of Captain America: Civil War came out on Monday so naturally I rushed out and bought a copy. For those of you who care about such things, I got the Steve cover, because regardless of the issues if you ask me to choose between Steve and Tony I’ll pick Steve every time. I am, of course, Team T’Challa, but you couldn’t buy a cover for that.

The extras on the disc are fairly standard fare: trailers, gag reel, short “making of” documentaries and so on. The only real surprise was a sneak peek at the forthcoming Doctor Strange movie, due out in November. It doesn’t really tell us much new. We get to see more of Baron Mordo and Wong, and we also get to meet the bad guys for the film. There is, sadly, no sign yet of the Dread Dormammu, or his daughter. The villains are a sect of human magicians called the Zealots who seek power from the mystical dimensions. I continue to be rather worried about this film. Still, the Sanctum Sanctorum looks nice, and Benedict Cumberbatch certainly looks the part.

I spent yesterday evening watching Civil War with the directors’ commentary on (which also features the scriptwriters). I do like what they did with this film. The folks at Marvel have very much taken on board the criticisms about endless, formulaic action films and vast amounts of collateral damage. Civil War is very different, and puts a lot of effort into disguising that fact. Some people, I am sure, will feel cheated that they didn’t get a huge slugfest at the end, but so it goes.

Civil War is very much a character-driven film. As the Russo brothers say in their voice-over, the central narrative is all about the personal disagreements between Tony and Steve, and the issues in their lives that drive them to this point. One of the most interesting things about the film is that it couldn’t have worked without all of the backstory that we have got from previous Marvel Cinematic Universe products. Iron Man 2, the previous Captain America movies and the previous Avengers movies all feed into this one. There’s even mention in the commentary of something that Peggy Carter says to Howard Stark in the Agent Carter TV series as being significant to this film.

I guess you can probably watch the film and enjoy it without knowing all of this stuff, but it is better if you do know it. More importantly, given how rigid movie-making has become, there’s no way a Hollywood studio would have let this film be made the way it is without that backstory. They would have insisted on establishing scenes for all of the characters, which would have bogged everything down impossibly.

We don’t get much technical information in the commentary, save for some interesting comments on shooting angles in conversations, but there are quite a few points where the cast get praised for their contributions to the script. My favorite here is in the scene where Tony Stark first meets Peter Parker. An interesting thing about this scene is that we have 18-year-old Tom Holland playing opposite Robert Downey Jr., who is the top paid actor in Hollywood. They are playing a teenage science whizz kid meeting the most famous inventor on the planet. At one point Tony says to Peter, “I’m going to sit here, so move the leg,” and then sits on the bed next to the kid top continue the conversation. What actually happened is that Holland had forgotten the blocking for the scene. Downey improvised a line to remind him where he should be sitting, and it worked so well it got left in the film.

The other technical issue that sticks in my mind is the Black Panther costume. They didn’t have the budget to make it for real, at least not in a way that would have allowed Chadwick Boseman to survive filming. So they made him a much lighter costume for filming, and painted on the panther suit in CGI afterwards. Nice job, ILM!

The big outstanding question has to be where things go next. We know that the blockbuster Avengers movie(s), The Infinity War, are on the horizon, but right now the Avengers are entirely dysfunctional. Several of them, including Cap, are on the run from the US government, and probably quite a few other governments as well. It has been suggested that the natural next step is for Steve Rogers to give up the Captain America identity and become a character known as The Nomad — something he did in the comics back in the 1970s. Well, right at the end of the directors’ commentary there is mention of the possibility of seeing Chris Evans in this costume.