9. Tony can blame his guilt trip on Jaws
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has a very rough go of it in Captain America: Civil War. His longtime girlfriend has left him, he’s still working through the loss of his parents since he never really came to terms with it, and he is plagued by guilt after accidentally creating Ultron. This was all very intentional in allowing Tony a genuine emotional response to all that he’s gone through in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also setting up where he will go by the end of the film.
Tony needed to be emotionally vulnerable in a way he had never been before in order to get to a breaking point. That was certainly necessary in order to justify Tony losing it in the final battle and trying to avenger the murder of his parents by killing their assassin, Bucky. An important moment in Tony’s Civil War arc is when he runs into Alfre Woodard’s character while waiting for an elevator at MIT.
Woodard, as the mother of the deceased Charles Spencer, gives Tony a face and a name to add weight and a crushing new level of reality to the lives lost in the battle against Ultron. Woodard was fantastic in the role and her casting was actually a suggestion made by Downey.
The cinematic point of inspiration for this scene came from a film regarded by many as an all-time favorite. Anthony Russo notes in the commentary that the scene between Woodard and Downey was inspired by the scene in Jaws where Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is shamed by Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro), as the grieving mother blames Brody for the death of her son, Alex.
8. Black Panther’s costume got a digital paint job
Marvel Studios Head of Visual Development designed an amazing costume for Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). It might be my favorite of all the MCU costumes so far. Boseman and his stuntman, Jason Chu, actually got to wear and, at times, suffer through the costume in the Atlanta heat. Every time you see the costume in the final film, however, it is digital, as Joe Russo explains.
“Every frame of Black Panther is a CG outfit. We had an outfit that we used on set, [but] it’s impossible when you’re talking about an otherworldly outfit like the one that the Panther wears, which has a certain luminescence to it because it’s made of a woven metal. We could never afford to construct that outfit like that that an actor of stunt player could move around in without sweating to death.”
There is an important distinction to be made here. Black Panther is not a CG character all the time. Industrial Light & Magic simply painted over Boseman or his stuntman and their on-set costume with CG in each frame to make the suit look and work the way it was intended. It’s hard to question the results with Black Panther looking so incredible throughout the film.
7. Robert Downey, Jr. brought his own olive branch
One of the best scenes in Captain America: Civil War is the last conversation Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have before meeting again on an airport battlefield. Tony makes a heartfelt plea to his friend to try and get Rogers to sign the Sokovia Accords and prevent any Avengers from facing arrest for their recent and future avenging. Tony offers an olive branch, a pair of pens used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign the Lend-Lease Act in 1941.
It is an important prop that bookends the scene and plays on some of the film’s most vital emotional beats. It was also all Robert Downey, Jr.’s idea. In the commentary, Joe Russo describes how each of Downey’s eight shoot weeks began with a Sunday meeting that would include “a very lovely lunch” as the writers, directors, and actor went through his upcoming scenes. Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely discuss how the pens came into play.
Joe — “Robert is incredibly additive. The pens were an idea that he brought to the scene as a way to represent what was going on between Cap and Tony in the scene.”
McFeely — “It basically gives you a beginning and an end in that scene.”
Markus — “And it reminds [you] about this weird connection, which the scene also does, is that Steve knew Tony’s father personally.”
McFeely — “Well that’s certainly by design. We knew we had to bring up Howard just lightly a couple times in the movie. You couldn’t just rely on the opening BARF scene. And Steve’s relationship to Howard was gonna echo at the very end of the movie when he drops the shield.”
Not that anyone should need any convincing as to Robert Downey, Jr.’s value to the MCU, but this is a great example of how it goes beyond what we see on the big screen. Downey does not just understand his own character, but all the other characters Tony shares the screen with and how they interact. One simple suggestion of a set of pens made all the difference not only in the structure of a pivotal scene, but also by informing the emotional arc of the two characters at the center of the conflict.
It was never a coincidence that Tony saying, “My father made that shield,” is the last thing Cap hears before he stops in his tracks and drops the shield. As important as it may be on its own, Steve Rogers dropping the shield is not only a symbolic resignation as Captain America. Steve dropping the shield is also an acknowledgment that in not coming forward with the truth about Bucky murdering Tony’s parents, Steve had failed both of his Stark friends, Tony and Howard.