Source: Marvel Studios

No doubt the superhero smash hit of the summer was Captain America: Civil War. That can be for a plethora of reasons. It balanced the vast number of characters (the movie boasts a cast of seventeen actors) and the differing points of view of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. It managed to deconstruct the superhero genre in a way that was interesting and entertaining.

All of these reasons for this success can be attributed to the screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely, and the directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. That this creative combination was no successful comes as no surprise. This is the same team that brought us Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is commonly regarded as one of Marvel’s best movies. Lucky for us, all four will be collaborating again on Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled follow-up.

Speaking of those movies, it is no secret that Captain America: Civil War set the stage for Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel. Obviously, there are many story threads that will carry over, but it’s also much more than that. Included on the Digital HD and Blu-ray release of Captain America: Civil War is the special feature “United We Stand – The Making of Captain America: Civil War.” In the feature, Joe Russo notes structural and tonal transitions.

“The movie is consciously an effort to bring some of the tone and style of Winter Soldier and merge it with a new style that we’re going to use for Infinity War, which is a grander scale look, less handheld. So, the styles are merged, and as the movie progresses, it shifts from one tone and style to another.”

When I first heard this uttered, It got me to thinking. It really changed the way I viewed Captain America: Civil War. Just before the release of the film, Joe Russo had indicated that there was a through-line between the Marvel movies they directed. I had initially interpreted those comments as a connective story or connecting character arcs, but perhaps it was more subtle than that.

So, where does this shift occur in the movie? I believe this shift occurs about midway through the film. More accurately during battle between everyone else and Bucky after his psych evaluation with Zemo. It has somewhat of that hand-held Winter Soldier tone and style, but the sequence feels a little bigger than the action sequences that we had seen previously. The action sequences that were earlier in the movie were still big, but it was more along the aforementioned Winter Soldier tone.

Why does it feel bigger? For one, Bucky is in full-Terminator mode against everyone. The sequence does not feel like it is mindless action, though, because throughout the scene, you are still given unique character moments that allows each to shine. Whether it’s the moment when Bucky chokes Black Widow, and she utters “You could at least recognize me,” or the moment when T’Challa takes on Bucky and you get a full view of his abilities, without the Panther suit, you can definitely feel a shift in how the movie looks and feels at that point. It’s an interesting balance between the two styles, as it doesn’t seem to overpower what the movie is trying to do. It still feels like a Captain America movie, but a little bit larger than what had previously been presented.

You can still kind of feel this shift as the movie progresses past that fight, as the Russos indicated. You definitely feel like the movie is building towards something grand with the scene with Cap, Falcon and Bucky in the abandoned garage. That is especially true when the scene is juxtaposed with the scene in the task force HQ with Tony, Black Widow, and Secretary Ross. Both scenes seem to indicate that battle lines are drawn. It continues with the Wanda breakout scene and the scene where Tony recruits Peter Parker. When I initially saw the movie in theaters, I felt something moving and I didn’t quite understand what it was. Now, with the Russos’ comments, I definitely feel what they were attempting to do with that.

The obvious culmination of this shift in style is the infamous airport scene. If I am permitted to be a little self indulgent for a bit, I consider this to be the best superhero action sequence put to film. For me, it trumps the Battle of New York in the first Avengers movie. You can tell a scope and scale to that sequence. It feels bigger than the rest of the movie, but it doesn’t feel too huge either, like say a Transformers action sequence. It is not visual noise, because it is grounded in character. The Russos have indicated many times that an action sequence is pointless unless it is rooted in character. You definitely feel that in this sequence. Yeah, there’s literal big moments with Giant-Man, some funny moments with Spider-Man, but everything feels right for each of the characters involved. Every character has their motivations and it doesn’t feel like they’re fighting senselessly. You feel every punch that each are throwing (or pulling, in the case of Hawkeye).

As awesome as that grand airport scene is, the scale doesn’t feel any less grand after that even as the story moves to the smaller, more personal fight between Tony and Steve. Yes, the fight takes place with fewer characters in a much smaller environment, but the stakes actually feel even bigger. Getting such a huge impact out of two action sequences that are so different in size bodes well for the work the Russos, Markus, and McFeely will be doing for Avengers: Infinity War.

One can expect that we will get several or more of those kind of massive action sequences like these in Avengers: Infinity War in a couple of years. No doubt while the film is in pre-production, the Russos are crafting such sequences, as we speak. But like with the airport fight scene, it won’t feel overwhelming in the slightest, because the Russos will ground it. It won’t be grounded in a hyper-realistic tone, but with the characters in the fight.

Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel remain on the top of my list of most anticipated Marvel Studios films. The reason for this is what the Russos did in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. Both Joe and Anthony Russo were able to give us a sense of grandeur to the MCU while still grounding it in something that is relatable with all the different characters. I cannot wait to see how they balance the cosmic scale and the large number of characters with the relatable storytelling they’ve treated us to with their past two films.

Captain America: Civil War is on Digital HD now and arrives on Blu-ray tomorrow, September 13.