From the set of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ – Is Black Panther REALLY ‘Team Iron Man’?

03.08.16

Yesterday I covered the ‘Team Cap” side of visiting the Captain America: Civil War set last summer. It was a hot, humid mess that nonetheless proved entertaining and informative. Today we dive into ‘Team Iron Man,” which was conducted completely within the blessed relief of an air-conditioned warehouse. As neither Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) or Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) were filming the day the press came calling, there was no reason to stand around on the surface of the sun watching them. As sad as I was to not see them in action*, I can”t say I was sorry to beat the heat.

*We did, however, witness Boseman”s stunt double in action during an outdoor fight sequence. The man was a champion. Between each take he was bent over double, I can only imagine half-dead/half-nauseous from the searing heat.

Both Boseman and his stunt double had to sink or swim. There”s no time in Civil War to slow down. “I”m just kind of thrown into the middle,” Boseman told us, reiterating this is a Captain America film first. “It's definitely not [Black Panther”s] origin story, no. You meet me as the Prince of Wakanda. You meet me as a politician/monarch, not as a superhero.” With the solo Black Panther film not hitting theaters until 2018, it may be a while before movie-goers discover how T”Challa came to have his powers.

But they won”t have to wait until 2018 to see Black Panther fight. Even the Prince of Wakanda may be forced to choose a side in Civil War. Boseman said his character might not be the strongest or the fastest, but what he does have is a plan.

“[T”Challa] sees both sides. It's necessary to stop crime and to protect your country. He understands that, because that's what he has to do. But there's a way to do it that is the best way. If it was the ‘Art of War,” [he”d be asking] how can you inflict less pain? How can fewer people die and still win the war? He's a tactician. He's a strategist, so he appreciates that thought process. He's definitely a middle ground at this point.”

Adding Black Panther into the mix was a great decision on multiple levels for the Russo Brothers. The co-directors told us having an outsider who is on the same playing field as the Avengers was a key choice. According to Anthony Russo, “[T'challa] enters the movie as an outsider and there's a lot of conflict surrounding him in the film. In many ways [he's] an interloper. There's a lot of tension around that, it's great dramatic tension. It works great on a story level but it's tense and complicated.”

And the co-directors couldn't be more pleased with Boseman's performance. Joe gushed:

“Chadwick brings real gravitas to the role. He really personifies that character beautifully.He's playing the character with a real intensity and a real grace. He's got a movement style that he brought because he has a background in martial arts and it's fascinating. He moves like none of the other characters in the universe.”

While Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are fighting over the best way to move forward in a post-Age of Ultron world, Civil War pulls back the perspective to bring in a world view. Black Panther is one of those new voices. Boseman explained where his character is coming from and how the culture of Wakanda differs from the superhero culture of the United States.

I think the difference in him is that he's a ruler of a country. That's the difference. I wouldn't even call him a superhero. In the mythology of his country, he's not a superhero. He's a warrior, and it's part of their tradition. It's not like [his people are asking], ‘Who is that masked guy that's doing this stuff?” Everybody knows it's hi. They expect that it's him, and they pray to God – or even him in some cases – that he would do the right things.There's an expectation that's much different. So that's the main difference.

How does that dynamic play into the greater storyline? According to Civil War co-writer Christopher Markus? Not smoothly. “[Black Panther's] a guy who could go, 'Well I'm better at what you do than you.' And I'm not gonna take either of your crap. So it's fun to have that guy show up after we watch the in-fighting and squabbling over however many movies now, someone to come up and go, 'You don't matter [to me]',” McFeely told us.

Black Panther”s role in Civil War may be ambiguous, but Iron Man”s is not. Based on the trailers, Tony believes the team needs to accept limitations or they”re no better than the villains they fight. Robert Downey Jr. explained, “I think what”s interesting is not so much that he”s looking for more control, but that he”s saying that as a group of individuals [the Avengers] all require a little bit more supervision than we might imagine.” But RDJ admits Tony”s cold calculation might be blinding him to his own double standard. “He a little bit duplicitous. But he”s kind of practical in the way he thinks, and he thinks in terms of everyone”s humanity and how quickly [humans] can go against what we think we meant when we said [something] or what we believe.”

Of course, without Steve Rogers to butt heads with, there is no Civil War. During his interview, Downey had nothing but glowing words for the Captain America star:

Chris Evans had the tallest mountain to climb out of any us. I would put Chris Pratt kind of in the second because [Guardians] was not an on the radar as beloved character[s]. But I think that what [Evams] was able to do that first time around with Cap and even more so in The Winter Soldier was take this character that seemed like a real stretch that a mainstream audience was going to embrace and he did something that was very, very hard to do, which was make it kind of credible and make it relatable.

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6, 2016.

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