Captain America & Iron Man v Batman & Superman
With the nimble agility of Captain America, Chris Evans dodges the question that has been fired at him first up.
Team Cap: From left, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) prepare to take on Team Iron Man.
What does the star of Captain America: Civil War think of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the widely panned comic book movie that threatened to undercut his own blockbuster’s chances at the box office, given the similar plot of super-powered allies battling each other.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Evans says to laughter round the room.
Deliberately so given it’s been out a month?
“I’ve been busy lately,” he bats back. “But I really want to see it.”
Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson, aka the winged superhero Falcon, is even niftier in skirting the question.
“I said very early on that Ben Affleck would be a very good Batman,” he chimes in cheerfully. “And I’m proud to say that my man was really good.”
However tempting, it would never do for the stars of a Marvel movie to criticise a rival DC Comics movie. Especially when Zack Snyder’s leaden effort has already taken a handsome $US850 million ($1.1 billion) around the world.
But the early screenings of the third Captain America movie, including the south-east Asian premiere that has brought Evans, Mackie, Sebastian Stan (who plays the Winter Soldier) and director Joe Russo to Singapore, have shown there is no need to get too anxious.
With two elements Batman v Superman lacked – a decent plot and a sense of fun – Civil War is predicted to open even more successfully over the next two weekends.
A mega-budget production that shot around the world – Atlanta, Germany, Austria, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Brazil and Britain – it has the Avengers facing a United Nations push to reign them in after a clash with a mercenary gang in Nigeria goes wrong.
Faced with having to operate under the supervision of a UN panel, the superheroes split into two clashing camps.
While Iron Man (Robert Downey jnr) recognises the need for accountability given the deaths that have been collateral damage from their missions, Captain America insists they have to stay independent.
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey jnr) face off in Captain America: Civil War.
That leads to a battle at an airfield – a 17-minute sequence filmed with IMAX cameras for a sense of scale – that involves the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Winter Soldier and newcomer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
In other words, just about all of the Avengers bar the absent Thor and the Hulk.
“You could call it a culmination film of everything that’s preceded it in the Marvel universe, because it brings all the characters together in a big family fight,” says Russo. “The spectacle is enormous.”
Russo and his brother Anthony also directed Captain America: Winter Soldier and are down to shoot two more instalments: Avengers: Infinity War – Part I (out in 2018) and Part II (out in 2019).
“What Marvel is doing is long-form storytelling on a scale that we’ve never seen before,” he says. “Sure, we’ve seen sequelisation, but this is taking major characters from different franchises and interweaving them into one big story.”
In a big call given the success of Iron Man in 2008 and The Avengers in 2012, Russo calls Civil War “without question the most important” Marvel movie to date.
“Marvel fans have been following the storytelling for 10 years,” he says. “Where Winter Soldier may have addressed the dissolution of [espionage agency] S.H.I.E.L.D. and changed things on an external level, this movie changes the psychology of all of the characters moving forward, which is much more profound.
“It’s going to have massive ramifications in Infinity War – can these characters band back together, should they forgive each other, can they forgive each other in the face of the greatest threat they will ever face in Thanos [the villain played by Josh Brolin in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron]? He’s an incredible existential threat.”
Evans, who admits he had “a lot of shit-bombs” in the first 10 years of his career before taking on the star-spangled costume and shield of Captain America, says the action in Civil War was exhausting to shoot, but the movie’s emotional moments were more challenging for the actors.
“For the action scenes, there are lot of cooks in the kitchen and a lot of people are going to make those scenes look good regardless,” he says. “The emotional moments, that’s up to you – I shouldn’t say that – that’s up to you and the director.”
Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in Captain America: Civil War.
Mackie, who is making his name with a Will Smith style wit and screen presence, believes the casting of real actors is one of the reasons the Marvel movies have been so successful.
“They don’t cast handsome actors that look good in a suit,” he says. “They cast really good actors, then they make you fit in a suit. Because of that, I feel like all of the movies are geared on character and story.
“That’s why they’re  movies in now and you’re invested in these characters. It’s the only franchise in history where every movie is ‘to be continued’. Every movie starts the story of the next movie.”
While superhero movies are designed to be broad multiplex entertainment, as consumable as the popcorn in the candy bar, the best ones have something to say about the world. In Civil War, it’s the question of the accountability that comes with power – no small issue for the US as a global superpower in a troubled world.
“My brother and I are very concerned about current events, as we all are,” says Russo. “Part of the way we approach these characters is by trying to bring in immediacy to your experience of watching them, as if they’re in your own world dealing with the same issues you’re dealing with.
“So as artists and people affected by these kinds of issues on a daily basis we had very political questions that we were asking in Winter Soldier. We have very political questions that we’re asking in this film.
“This movie is about accountability. It’s about who has the right to wield power, who has the right to govern power, how should power be approached in the modern world. It’s also about how power divides people.”
Russo notes the movie’s topicality given the divisiveness in the US presidential election.
“The key thing in the movie is if you examine the motives of every character, they’re very selfish,” he says. “They’re very personal motives, very flawed motives.
“Captain America is as flawed in this movie as he has been in any of the films. Tony Stark still makes some narcissistic choices. He doesn’t want to lose the fight so he invites a 16-year-old with great power to the fight – not the smartest of choices.
“The characters are constantly making both good and bad choices, which we all do as human beings. I think that’s what we’re trying to say with the movie – that ultimately the concept of power and accountability is extremely complicated and involves both societal issues and personal issues.”
Captain America: Civil War is in cinemas now.
New cat lands in Marvel universe
Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, aka T’Challa, in Captain America: Civil War.
As well as returning many familiar characters, Captain America: Civil War introduces a new one to the Marvel cinematic universe.
Black Panther, the superhero alter ego of a prince named T’Challa from fictional Wakanda, gets caught up with the Avengers dressed – as one notes – like a cat.
Played by Chadwick Boseman, best known for 42, Get On Up and Gods of Egypt, he makes an impact in a movie crowded with costumed superheroes.
As Marvel keeps adding comic book movies – Civil War is the 13th and another nine are to be released over the next three years – Black Panther will get his own blockbuster in two years.
While Spider-Man is far from new on screen, a new actor takes over the famous red and blue suit – Tom Holland, best known for The Impossible, In The Heart of the Sea and the TV series Wolf Hall.
His turn in Civil War sets up yet another Spidey movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, next year.
Also heading down the Marvel pipeline are Dr Strange (out on October 27), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok (both next year), Avengers: Infinity War – Part I and Ant-Man and the Wasp (both 2018), and Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War – Part II (both 2019).
The writer travelled to Singapore courtesy of Disney.