The latest Marvel film sees two of its biggest heroes – Captain America and Iron Man – butting heads. Andy Welch heads to the set in Germany to pick sides

We’re in Berlin, Germany, but we’re pretending it’s Bucharest, Romania. This is the set of Captain America: Civil War, the 13th film in the box-office-busting Marvel Cinematic Universe, and producers have turned the former Olympic Stadium into a village of trucks, marquees and trailers. In one, several stars of the film – Chris Evans (Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (Falcon) – entertain themselves by telling jokes and fiddling with their costumes.

“It’s like a second skin at this point,” says Chris Evans, looking down at the white star emblazoned across his chest. It’s the fifth time he’s played Steve Rogers, wimp turned super-soldier, but for the first time he says he’s conflicted by what his character is supposed to believe. “I think we can all agree Nazis are bad,” he says of his enemy in 2011’s The First Avenger. “Those aliens were no good either, nor [secret society] HYDRA. But this time, no one is really right or wrong; it’s just difference of opinion.”

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Based on the 2006 and 2007 comic-book series of the same name, Civil War concerns the Superhero Registration Act; a bill signed by more than 100 nations who’ve grown tired of super-powered beings smashing their cities to rubble – as happened in the finales of both Avengers movies and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The so-called Sokovia Accords are backed by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) but opposed by his Avengers teammate Captain America. So far, so much politics, but fear not – the civil war of the title heats up when familiar faces from the Marvel Universe line up behind either Stark or Rogers and an almighty scrap breaks out. Add into that minor villain Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and emerging global threat Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and it’s an action-packed film – all 147 minutes of it.

The scene being filmed today takes place below street level, amid the vivid orange pillars of the Messedamm underpass, and sees Evans’ Captain America, Stan’s Winter Soldier and Mackie’s Falcon being pursued by about 60 balaclava-wearing soldiers and Black Panther, making his big-screen debut ahead of his standalone 2018 film. A stunt double is manning the jet black ‘vibranium weave’ suit rather than actor Chadwick Boseman, and while Iron Man’s right-hand man War Machine arrives at the end of the scene, it’s a stuntman miming the movements Don Cheadle will make after being added in post-production.

Two things are immediately striking from being on set. Firstly, Captain America’s iconic shield is more often than not a computer-generated addition. Secondly, this raw footage is almost immediately edited, with rough effects added on the hoof and played back to directing brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. It means that seconds after a take rudimentary explosions and rubble are added into the mix.

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Filming the chase sequence takes the best part of a morning; in the finished film it will amount to less than 30 seconds of action. Evans, back in his trailer, seems incredibly relaxed throughout, given the pressure the film is under to perform. The Marvel Universe currently boasts three of the 10 highest-grossing films of all time and while no one explicitly states it, there’s an expectation that Civil War will break the billion-dollar box-office barrier.

The Boston-born actor says that while he was extremely nervous the first time he played Cap back in 2011, he’s since realised how lucky he is. Tainted by his experience in two critically panned Fantastic Four films (2005’s Fantastic Four and 2007’s Rise Of The Silver Surfer), he initially passed on the role several times before finally saying yes. “I’d be kicking myself if I’d said no a final time,” he says. “This is the best decision of my life. I can’t imagine having not done it.”

Security is understandably tight on set. Cameras and phones are banned and each actor NME speaks to is under the watchful eye of the Marvel Studios publicist, drip-feeding tiny, pre-agreed nuggets of their respective characters’ stories. Chadwick Boseman, however, is particularly enlightening when it comes to the subject of diversity, and how Black Panther is the first black character to get his own Marvel film. “We’re infatuated with these films because we get lost and we get to live out fantasies for a second while we’re watching, but it only ever looks like one thing: always male, always white – and that becomes a problem,” he says. “This isn’t just about getting to see a superhero that’s black or a woman or whatever, but for everyone to see other people doing other things. It frees everyone, in a way. You don’t just see yourself staring back, but different people.”

The Russo brothers believe Civil War is more complete than their own Winter Soldier, which is perhaps Marvel’s best film to date. Given its capes-versus-capes subject matter, you could be forgiven for worrying that Civil War’s storyline is, superficially at least, similar to CGI snoozefest Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Encouragingly, Joe says the Godfather trilogy provided something of a template for him and his brother to aim for. “There’s an awful lot going on, and then it all comes together in the third act,” he says. “It’s important to apply a genre to these movies that’s beyond ‘superhero’, because we’ve all seen those movies and it’s just not interesting any more. Our job is to have people leaving the cinema arguing with their friends about who was right and who was wrong, Cap or Iron Man, and to give fans something new, different and exciting. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”