In talking with Joe and Anthony Russo about Captain America: Civil War, comic books and a deep love of Empire Strikes Back, I’m guessing the best is still yet to come from the talented siblings. While Civil War is enjoying critical acclaim — 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.com, the Russos are already turning their attention to the mega Marvel Cinematic Universe event Avengers: Infinity War.
The Russos were in town and I got to talk to them about making moments, why character deaths are necessary and if Agent Coulson will ever tell the Avengers he’s alive.
The post contains mild spoilers from Captain America: Civil War so don’t check it out if you’re worried about anything being spoiled.
You’re 2 for 2 now with A+ MCU films. Any extra pressure to deliver with Avengers: Infinity War?
JR: We always feel extra pressure. These movies are high profile and they’re global commodities and the fan base is extremely vocal and not shy on social media. So there’s always pressure, but at the end of the day we’ve learned over the years that we do our best work when we do what we are happy seeing on screen. Anytime we try and anticipate what someone may want we always do our worst work.
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Both of these films were made exclusively for us as fans and when we were satisfied with the content that’s what we put out for the world and hope that the people react.
The Russos don’t care about origin films either
JR: The thing about origin stories and this is me coming as a comic book fan is they all follow the same pattern. I’m very happy we’re coming into the Marvel universe at the point we’re coming into because personally I’m more interested in all that s!@# being out of the way and being able to tell the complicated stories with the characters.
AR: We are dealing with origin stories, but not in the traditional sense i.e. everyone knows Spider-Man’s origin, we didn’t have to tell you. But people could understand what he’s referring to when he’s sitting in a room talking to Tony Stark that when things happen and you don’t do something it’s your fault clearly referencing Uncle Ben but we didn’t have to tell you.
With Black Panther there is really no origin. We just had to tell you enough to explain his presence in the movie. You’ve seen enough superheroes movie, he can take bullets to the face so his suit has some special properties. He’s strong enough that he can go toe to toe with Cap and Bucky, you can process all that while watching a movie. These movies are about storytelling real estate. You’ve got two, two and a half hours and it’s valuable. The more you have to ascribe and take from real estate and give to explaining things and origin stories, the less you have for the more real estate with the characters in action.
Quicksilver dying in Age of Ultron hurt. Would he have been a nightmare and challenge to try and incorporate based on his powers?
JAR: No not really, we would have found somebody depending on which side he wound up to deal with him to counteract with him and maybe he would have been on the opposite side of Wanda. But look it is important that the characters do die in these movies because that’s what keeps the stakes up. Without death there are no stakes.
Certainly there is a real fiscal complication to killing characters they’re very popular and their movies make a lot of money but storytelling is cyclical and I think at some point you’ve gotta move on and go on to the next phases so as you’ll find in Infinity War they’ll be endings and beginnings. And I think that’s important and healthy for the Marvel universe.
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The reason we didn’t go there in this movie — to a character death — was because for us this was about a family falling apart. we thought the most tragic or emotionally cathartic ending to a family fight is that the family is divided not that the family is divided and someone else died.
How important was it to give everyone — as Black Widow would say — their moment?
AR: All those characters are special and they’re all being played by amazing actors. So for storytellers you have to do the most you can do possibly do with them even with someone like Ant-Man. That’s one of the fun arcs in the movie for me. He’s this guy he’s some rookie that gets pulled up because they need a spot filled and he’s totally starstruck and he just tries to deliver the best that he can and he’s able to do something very risky and dangerous to himself and come in for the big win. It’s pretty crazy.
He has no investment in the emotional complexities that all the other characters are going through in that fight. Vision and Scarlet Witch have some complicated emotion stuff going on and Cap is just … and Panther just wants to kill Bucky and we’ve got all these crazy agendas in that fight. And it’s really fun to be able to service the truthfulness of each character as they find their way through this fight.
Yes there’s multiple Empire Strikes Back references
JR: Of course [Black Panther’s pursuit] a reference! (Laughs) We’re big Star Wars fans.
For Infinity War will we see more new characters introduced in the film like Black Panther and Spider-Man or will we see them as Phase 3 continues?
JR: You’ll have seen most of them from the other films.
Last question: Is Phil Coulson going to show up in Infinity War?
JR: To let them know he’s still alive? (Laughs) I don’t know. We’ll see.
Big thanks to the Russos to taking time out of their schedule to chat. Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. After I left them, I went to see it a second time. Need more convincing? Check out my review.