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Russo Brothers Defend Captain America: Civil War Against Visual Backlash

Captain America Civil War visuals Marvel MCU
By Klein Felt

As the years pass, the Russo Brothers' impact on the MCU only grows. The directing duo helped Marvel Studios round out the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgamebut the first wet their feet in the franchise with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War

Civil War has been deemed by many as Avengers 2.5, as the Russos brought together a plethora of Marvel heroes in an ideological battle amongst themselves. While the film has been praised for its introduction of Spider-Man, the stellar villain in Baron Zemo, and the moral gray area in which its heroes traverse, one of the biggest criticisms of the movie is its color palette. 

Captain America Civil War Color 1
Marvel Studios

Much of the MCU has leaned into its bright and colorful comic book origins, but Civil War was a little more toned down, with some critical fans saying it looked desaturated. Well, it turns out this color grading was done intentionally, or at least that is what the Russos are saying. 

Living in the Gray in Civil War

In an interview with Vanity FairCaptain America: Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo addressed criticism of their second Cap film over its desaturated color palette. 

Joe revealed this was all intentional, as they saw Civil War as "brutalist in tone," meaning it must be "devoid of color." This meant that, as "these characters were slipping into this morally gray area," so did the color of the movie:

"This movie is brutalist in tone. it’s meant to be devoid of color. The whole idea behind it was all these characters were slipping into this morally gray area. They didn’t understand their identities. They, you know, they were in conflict with one another. And so we wanted to use a location where, you know, civilians wouldn’t be running away while they were fighting each other. We didn’t feel like they could recover from that. So we chose an airport tarmac.”

Captain America Civil War Run 2
Marvel Studios

The director also offered up a funny tidbit about filming for the climactic tarmac battle in the film, noting that they did it "on the back lot of sound stages in Atlanta" and that nearly "Everything else [in the background] is all CG." This meant that - with most of the characters being CG as well - the day of shooting included "Scarlett [Johansson] literally running by herself with a stunt player" in what was some extreme heat at the time:

“What’s interesting is we shot this on the back lot of sound stages in Atlanta. And I remember we took the temperature of the black top and it was 128 degrees on the black top. So all of the ground you’re seeing here is the black top. Everything else back here is all CG, right? None of that exists. When they ran at each other this [right] side, there’s no CG characters on this [right] side [on Team Cap]. So these are the only two real characters on this side [on Team Stark]. Spider-Man is CG. Ironman is CG, Vision, War Machine. It was Scarlett literally running by herself with a stunt player in a hundred and you know, 28 degree blacktop, over and over. I remember her looking at us at one point and going we can’t do this one more time. There’s certain actors who could escape from having to do a sequence like this over and over. Sebastian could not, Renner could not, Scarlett could not. Mackie takes flight, Lizzie takes flight, and Rudd of course is completely covered.”

Marvel's 'Washed Out' Wizardry

Captain America Civil War Run
Marvel Studios

It's funny to hear just how much thought went into something as simple as the color grading of a mega-blockbuster like Captain America: Civil War. Of course, directors always have think about this kind of stuff, but to hear it put into words is fascinating. 

The Russos really care about how they make their movies, fawning over every little detail until it is exactly the vision that they saw on their original storyboards back in preproduction.

And something like the color palette of a film, while it may seem trivial to some, can make a world of difference. Sure, it does not come right out and say, "Look, this story is traversing some gray area," but it does implant that thought subconsciously into the audience. 

Just look at the color of something like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies compared to this. Guardians instills this sense of intergalactic wonder in the audience by way of bright, saturated colors. Whereas Civil War offers up a story of internal struggle amongst the Avengers, something that comes through in its coloring. 

Captain America: Civil War is available to stream now on Disney+.