What began with Iron Man in 2008 has since grown to include a dozen films and four television series to date, making the Marvel Cinematic Universe one of the most successful and critically acclaimed media franchises in the world. Moreover, it’s also the no. 1 highest-grossing franchise in the world by a decent margin with the Harry Potter films currently several hundred thousand behind. That’s on top of the fact that what Marvel and Disney have done with these films and series — creating a shared fictional universe between them — had not been attempted before at such a daunting scale. Guided by film producer and president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, it’s easy to forget that Marvel is a modern Cinderella, a contemporary bankruptcy-to-billions fairytale.
On the verge of oblivion in the 1990s, Marvel practically begged Paramount and other studios to buy the film rights to popular Marvel characters in their stead since the company couldn’t afford to buy the rights to their own properties at the time. Fast-forward to today and Marvel Studios had made more than $7.7 billion at the box office after the record-smashing Age of Ultron; however, this past summer’s sleeper-hit Ant-Man brought the studios total across the $8 billion mark, cementing Marvel’s reputation for establishing the superhero genre as a heavy-hitting powerhouse in the entertainment industry.
However, I’m not writing today to praise Marvel Studios or tell of its numerous victories despite the fact that one could easily devote several articles to that. Instead, I’m doing a roundup of pretty much everything we know and can expect from one of the most highly-anticipated installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Specifically, I’m talking about a little film called Captain America: Civil War, which will be the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Additionally, I’ll be mentioning the feedback that’s been provided by James Gunn, who’s responsible for Guardians of the Galaxy (and its 2017 sequel) and was treated to an early preview of a rough cut of Civil War. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Where do Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron leave off?
Before we can begin discussing Civil War, it’s important to know a couple key details about the events leading up to the film in order to understand where we are at the beginning. In particular, there are things that happen in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron that will play important parts in Civil War, and although the films tend to be self-contained to a degree, it’s likely that one’s enjoyment would be enhanced with a little background knowledge.
In Winter Soldier, the eponymous villain is a brainwashed assassin with a connection to Captain America’s past. At a point in the film when the two super-soldiers are fighting one another, Captain America learns that the Winter Soldier is actually his childhood friend James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes who, due to the events depicted in Captain America: The First Avenger, was presumed to be dead. Insisting that some part of his friend remained despite decades of brainwashing, Captain America refused to take the Winter Soldier down when he had the chance and, fortunately, was spared by the Winter Soldier in return. After the helicarriers and the Triskelion are destroyed, the Winter Soldier/Bucky disappears and Captain America commissions Falcon to help him search the globe for his long lost friend, certain that Bucky can be redeemed.
Another important aspect of The Winter Soldier has to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. — short for the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division — which is the government-like agency that’s the superhero equivalent to the C.I.A.; S.H.I.E.L.D. actually operates independently of the government and is a so-called counter intelligence agency whose purpose is to deter terrorism as well as investigate bizarre occurrences involving superhumans, advanced technology, biological threats, extraterrestrial artifacts, and so on. In effect, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents show up when something dangerous and weird happens. S.H.I.E.L.D. is also important because they keep an eye on Hydra, which is essential the agency’s foil. Hydra is known for terrorism, human experimentation, and just generally trying to take over the world.
One of the most important developments to come out of The Winter Soldier was the discovery that Hydra had not only infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., but had actually been behind the agency’s creation and had been operating against them from the inside since the beginning. This basically caused S.H.I.E.L.D. to implode, meaning that the agency is no more. In fact, that’s what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been about for the past two seasons, the creation of a new S.H.I.E.L.D. from the ground up. However, the discovery that he’s been essentially been unknowingly working for one of his main enemies shakes Captain America to his core, making him increasingly distrustful of government agencies and authoritative powers in general. It boils down to Captain America essentially not wanting anyone telling him what to do and believing that he should be able to intervene in situations when he determines that it’s the moral thing to do.
Age of Ultron (see my Age of Ultron review for a more detailed synopsis) starts off with the Avengers seemingly taking down the last of Hydra’s secret bases, located in the fictional eastern European city of Sokovia. As an added bonus, they’re able to secure Loki’s scepter, which contained a mysterious, powerful, and potentially mystical stone that allowed Loki the ability to control people’s minds. Tony begins running tests on the stone and determines that it contains an advanced artificial intelligence that he wants to upload into his suits of armor so that his robots can protect the world and the Avengers can be the reinforcements and essentially retire.
However, the artificial intelligence — Ultron — is maniacal and tries to not just take over the world, but actually wipe out humanity by turning an entire city into a giant meteor and dropping it back onto the Earth’s surface, which would allow Ultron to repopulate the Earth with the humanoid robots that he believed were the next stage of evolution. Fortunately, the Avengers stopped Ultron and his army of mini Ultrons while keeping casualties to a surprising minimum; however, the collateral damage is high as the city of Sokovia is turned into an enormous crater.
Meanwhile, there’s basically no S.H.I.E.L.D. to help them and Captain America blames Tony Stark/Iron Man for their predicament. Specifically, Captain America believed that Stark is reckless and quick to meddle with forces beyond his control and understanding, which is what led to Ultron’s creation; in response, Stark maintains that he’s merely trying to push the envelope and harness potentially powerful sources for good. While they’d butted heads before, it was during the events depicted in Age of Ultron that there’s foreshadowing of intense rivalry between Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man as they clearly don’t see eye-to-eye on certain issues. There’s also the issue of the Hulk ravaging South Africa and the damage that ensued when Tony Stark donned his “Hulkbuster” suit in order to stop him.
As such, the overall landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading up to Civil War is rather bleak: S.H.I.E.L.D. has crumbled, Iron Man accidentally created a genocidal robot that tried to wipe out humanity, the Hulk almost killed a lot of people in South Africa, the Avengers are basically being blamed for extensive collateral damage around the world, and then there’s the fact that Captain America and Iron Man’s “friendship” is hanging by a thread due to their dramatically different perspectives. It’s almost time to begin the info roundup for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, but first…
Note: There is a lot of information here. Feel free to skip around by using the headers to navigate. Or you can click here for everything we know about the plot of Civil War, click here for the Civil War trailer dissection, and click here to skip to James Gunn’s review.
What is the Civil War?
The Superhuman Registration Act requires anyone with superhuman power to register as a human weapon of mass destruction.
The plot of the upcoming Civil War is based on a highly successful and memorable comics storyline that was published in 2006 and 2007. As Marvel tends to sometimes do, the storyline was a major crossover event that featured the majority of the Marvel superheroes roster with Captain America and Iron Man being the two key players in a civil war among costumed heroes. The premise is that the United States has instituted the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires anyone with any sort of superhuman ability or power to register as a so-called “human weapon of mass destruction”.
The Superhuman Registration Act was intended to curb the numerous casualties and collateral damage that often results from incidents in which superhumans are involved. The final nail on the proverbial coffin was the Stamford incident, which was when an inexperienced group of heroes called the New Warriors botched an attempt to take down a group of villains while being filmed for their reality television show; not only did the New Warriors botch their mission, but their carelessness resulted in an explosion that took out several city blocks of Stamford, CT, and killed about 600 people.
Registration forces the individual to reveal his or her identity and abilities as well as to undergo training, which is meant to make them more valuable and useful as they can be called upon as government agents for any incidents that might require their special assistance. Additionally, instead of just being an on-call agent, they also have the option to become full-time, salaried S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
As you might expect, the Superhuman Registration Act is highly controversial, essentially polarizing most of the superhuman community. There are those who agree with the mandate, including Iron Man who believes that the contemporary political landscape warrants some oversight for superhumans since not all of them have noble intentions; additionally, Iron Man feels that getting trained properly could only be beneficial. Meanwhile, Captain America and numerous others — referred to as the Secret Avengers — oppose the mandate, which they believe violates their civil liberties including the right to privacy; moreover, having to divulge their secret identities not only makes heroes more vulnerable, but also makes their loved ones more vulnerable as well.
Their opposition to the mandate makes them fugitives, forcing Captain America and the Secret Avengers underground. Very few are on the fence regarding the Superhuman Registration Act with virtually just the X-Men remaining decidedly neutral. Caught in the middle, Spider-Man gets coerced into revealing his identity by Iron Man and going pro-registration, but when he learned that Iron Man planned to imprison any anti-registration heroes indefinitely, he ended up joining Captain America on the anti-registration side.
Over the course of the Civil War, there are many brutal hero-on-hero battles. When it came down to the final battle in the center of New York City, Captain America was about to deliver the finishing blow to Iron Man when he realized, while being held back by emergency personnel, that he didn’t want to cross that line and decided to surrender in order to end the bloodshed.
In the aftermath, the Superhuman Registration Act remains intact, the Fifty State Initiative instituted a superhero team for each state, the Avengers become the Mighty Avengers with all members being registered superhumans, most of the Secret Avengers are granted amnesty by the government although Captain America remains in jail, and then Captain America gets killed by Crossbones outside the courthouse on the day of his arraignment. Many end up blaming Tony Stark for Captain America’s death and Bucky Barnes ends up taking his late friend’s mantle in order to honor Captain America’s legacy.
The Civil War storyline was a major commercial success. The idea of two sides opposing superhuman registration would appear to be an outgrowth of a very fundamental debate, which is whether it’s more important to have security or to have freedom. The most significant criticisms of Civil War tend to be about the ending with many feeling that it was rushed, abrupt, and incongruent with the plot of Civil War.
Now that we’re caught up on the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have a basic understanding of the Civil War comics storyline, it’s time to get down to business.
What we know about Captain America: Civil War
While Marvel Studios notoriously keeps their films under wraps, a number of developments and details concerning the upcoming thirteenth MCU film have come to light. Obviously, the first thing we learned was the film’s subtitle, originally revealed as Serpent Society when when the studio first unveiled its full Phase Three lineup in late 2014. However, Kevin Feige admitted that this was a fake-out as the company surprised fans by admitting that the third Captain America film would be Civil War, based on the acclaimed comics storyline. After the events of The Winter Soldier, this was definitely the storyline that fans wanted to see.
After the film entered pre-production, an official synopsis was released that captured the gist of Civil War and how some previous films have influenced its plot:
‘Captain America: Civil War’ picks up where ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ left off, as Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain.
However, there’s since been a new official synopsis for the film, which interestingly doesn’t make mention of the “new and nefarious villain”:
Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.
The new synopsis pulls the focus from the film’s main villain — which could be Crossbones or Zemo; it’ll be interesting to see how each baddie fits into the overall plot — back to what is the centerpiece of the film’s plot, which is the fact that our heroes have become fractured by legislation that wants to confine and control them, causing the Avengers to turn against one another in a battle of heroes versus heroes. This is likely also to encourage audiences to see one side as the “good” guys and the other side as the “bad” guys, which is a very interesting juxtaposition that at least two other upcoming superhero films will be experimenting with. Even with the renewed focus on the Cap-versus-Stark debate, it’s likely that it’ll be Crossbones that unites the Avengers in the climactic final battle.
Clearly, Captain America: Civil War requires almost the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe cast, prompting many to call it “Avengers 2.5” since it would seem to have the large scale that’s typically reserved for the Avengers films. And sure enough, in addition to Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man — with the two Infinity War films potentially being his last appearances in the acclaimed role — Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Paul Bettany as the Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man are a big part of the main cast. Additionally, Chadwick Boseman will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as T’Challa, AKA Black Panther. Frank Grillo will be returning after playing the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s S.T.R.I.K.E. team Brock Rumlow in The Winter Soldier, this time as the main villain in Civil War known to be the infamous Crossbones. Emily VanCamp will be reprising her small role in The Winter Soldier as Sharon Carter/Agent 13, who happens to be the daughter of Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger and the ABC series Agent Carter.
Interestingly, we’ll be seeing the return of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt. This is interesting because Hurt has only played General Ross in one film, and its the one that’s considered least canon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Incredible Hulk (2008) in which Bruce Banner/the Hulk was played by Edward Norton and Liv Tyler played Betsy Ross, who also happens to be the general’s daughter. In the 2008 film, Ross was United States Secretary of State, leading the U.S. Army in the hunt for the Hulk and, therefore, being very anti-superhero.
According to the directors, Ross is being reimagined despite his prior appearance in the MCU; having become more politically savvy, Ross is cornering the Avengers with the Accords, out-maneuvering them using legislative power rather than super-strength. Additionally, one of the main reasons for Hunt’s inclusion as General Ross in Civil War was to remind audiences about The Incredible Hulk and make that film a bit more relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe today. However, the most highly anticipated piece of the puzzle is the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduction of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible).
Joe and Anthony Russo, also referred to as the Russo brothers, are at the helm of Civil War after receiving much acclaim for The Winter Soldier, which some considered the strongest Marvel film yet made. In fact, Joe and Anthony Russo will also be directing the Avengers: Infinity Wars films.
There has been a ton of secrecy surrounding the plot and production of Civil War, which is probably a good thing despite all the impatient Marvel fans who think they’d rather know ahead of time. For instance, Martin Freeman — known for playing Arthur in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and, more recently, as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films — was cast in the role of a government agent who essential becomes the Avengers’ handler, but otherwise very little is known about his character, including whether he’s playing a character adapted from the comics.
According to Kevin Feige, Freeman will be increasingly important in future MCU installments. Additionally, Feige has been adamant that Spider-Man will not be making his debut in Civil War despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, even going so far as to say that appearances of Tom Holland dressed as Spidey on set were actually a cosplayer dressed as the web-slinger and simply goofing off with the actors; however, that’s a bit of a stretch and even Chris Evans (Captain America) has tried to quell the excitement by saying that Marvel often shoots scenes that they end up not using of changing, which is true: For instance, Joss Whedon had initially intended to introduce Captain Marvel in the final scene of Age of Ultron, but at the last minute he chose to put Scarlet Witch in Captain Marvel’s place since Scarlet Witch had been introduced at the very beginning of the movie and, therefore, wouldn’t be unknown to audiences.
Captain America vs. Iron Man
Captain America: Civil War begins with Captain America and Black Widow leading the new roster of Avengers as a global task force, preventing those with malicious intentions from harming innocents. However, there’s some sort of catastrophe that results in some serious collateral damage in much the same way as the Stamford Incident results in extensive losses in the comics. Between this catastrophe and the destruction of Sokovia in Age of Ultron, the Avengers face the new Sokovia Accords, which is legislation that forces superhumans to register with a governing agency that will hold the Avengers accountable for their actions and determine when they should intervene rather than to continue allowing them to operate with unlimited power and authority. In other words, the Avengers will answer to an overseeing agency, who will decide if or when the Avengers are to become involved.
In ‘Captain America: Civil War’, Captain America leads a resistance group of Avengers and Iron Man begins to fight against them in support of the Sokovia Accords, which is the same situation as in the comics.
It’s no surprise that Steve Rogers/Captain America would be distrustful of the Sokovia Accords and the government after the events of The Winter Soldier in which — as mentioned above — Captain America learns that he’d unknowingly been an instrument of the bad guys while crusading for an agency that was actually being run by Hydra. There’s another important implication of the Sokovia Accords, which is that the heroes will have to divulge their secret identities and potentially compromise the safety of their loved ones. Therefore, Captain America leads a group of Avengers who are against the Sokovia Accords while Iron Man begins to fight against them in support of the Accords, which is virtually the same situation as in the comics.
Given that in 2008’s Iron Man Tony Stark/Iron Man chose to axe his company’s manufacturing of weapons and has traditionally been opposed to working for or cooperating with the military, it might be a little surprising to see that he’s actually supporting the idea of superhuman registration with heroes having to answer to a governing agency.
However, the events of Age of Ultron — where Tony Stark accidentally created a murderous artificial intelligence that tried to destroy the human race — have made him reconsider whether the Avengers should be able to have free reign to operate how they see fit, or whether they should have some sort of overseeing agency to allocate the Avengers like they’re resources. Moreover, the fight against Captain America is a bit personal, too.
Ever since The Avengers in 2012, Tony Stark and Captain America have been butting heads. It has always seemed that Stark’s interests quickly become self-serving while Captain America was born with a strong sense of the greater good and, if necessary, sacrifice; however, Iron Man got a taste of what it was like to be Captain America at the end of The Avengers when he nearly died saving New York, and the event has traumatized him and caused him to throw himself into a somewhat reckless search for a way to put a “shield of armor around the Earth,” so to speak.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark also recognizes that Captain America is the leader of the Avengers while Stark is the one to “pay for everything, design everything, and make everyone look cooler.” With Stark wanting to retire from the superhero gig, Captain America was quick to start an working partnership with Falcon. So after bankrolling a team that’s led by someone else and watching Captain America pick the Falcon for his partner, Iron Man would surely relish the opportunity to hold some power over Captain America, which is very likely a factor with regard to his supporting for the Accords.
Crossbones & Baron Zemo: Our Main Villains
The villains in Captain America films have each have strong ties to Hydra: The Red Skull was Adolf Hitler’s head of advanced weaponry who wanted to use the Tesseract in his plan for global domination and the Winter Soldier was a brainwashed assassin controlled by Hydra, which turned out to be in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well. Although both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra have been reduced to rubble, our reported Civil War villains seem to also be derived from Hydra, indicating that the villainous agency is still in operation or is being rebuilt like S.H.I.E.L.D.
Crossbones is the alias of Brock Rumlow and is played by Frank Grillo in The Winter Soldier, which takes place before he becomes Crossbones. In The Winter Soldier, Rumlow was a high-ranking commander of the S.T.R.I.K.E. task force of S.H.I.E.L.D., which actually made him a Hydra agent since S.H.I.E.L.D. was secretly being controlled by Hydra. At a point in the film, Captain America realizes that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised and Rumlow tries to take Cap down to no avail.
Near the end of the film, a helicarrier crashes into the Triskelion, the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D., while Rumlow was fighting Falcon on one of the upper levels; Rumlow didn’t make it out of the building before it crumbled, but we see in the final moments of the movie that he survived, pulled from the rubble of the Triskelion in pretty rough shape.
There’s no doubt that Rumlow will be donning the mantle of Crossbones in Civil War just as he did in the comics, which showed Crossbones as a henchman of the Red Skull over in Nazi Germany; however, with Red Skull having been either killed or teleported to god-knows-where during the events of The First Avenger, it seems that the MCU’s Crossbones will be answering either to himself or perhaps some new overlord of Hydra that we’ve not yet met. Otherwise, to be completely faithful to the comics, Red Skull would have to make some sort of miraculous comeback. Whether or not Crossbones is responsible for the catastrophe that kicks off the film and results in the Sokovia Accords is uncertain at this point although many believe that’s going to be the case. It’s also uncertain whether he’ll be involved in the final battle once our heroes have finished fighting amongst themselves, or whether the final battle will be against only Zemo.
As seen in The Winter Soldier, Rumlow doesn’t have superhuman abilities, but is an skilled marksman, strategist, combatant and fighter, and pilot, amounting to him essentially being a pretty adept assassin in Civil War; however, we know that Crossbones will be donning an adaptation of his signature mask, probably in order to hide the scars from his injuries at the end of The Winter Soldier. Additionally, set photos show that the cinematic version of Crossbones will wield a variety of technical or mechanical enhancements that will make him a more formidable opponent to the enhanced super-soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America.
In a recent report by Collider, there’s been more details regarding the incident early in Civil War that initiates the remainder of the plot revolving around the Sokovia Accords. According to the report, it will, in fact, be an initial confrontation with Crossbones that goes terribly wrong at the film’s beginning, resulting in some pretty serious collateral damage and casualties.
While Crossbones is a major villain in the upcoming Civil War, we’ll reportedly see our Avengers facing a second villain. Daniel Brühl will be playing Helmut Zemo, known as Baron Zemo in the comics. According to that source material, Helmut Zemo (the one we’ll see in the film) is actually the second incarnation of Baron Zemo, the son of the original Baron who was named Heinrich Zemo. Whether this makes the film’s Zemo the son of an original Zemo or whether the writers simply preferred the name Helmut to Heinrich is not yet certain.
The original Zemo was known in the comics for the iconic, pinkish-colored veil that he wore due to it being permanently affixed to his face after Captain America spilled Zemo’s Adhesive-X — an adhesive Zemo invented that couldn’t be dissolved or removed by any known processes — on his face, topping the mask with a very distinct crown. Like Crossbones, Heinrich Zemo was associated with the Red Skull in Nazi Germany with his son Helmut Zemo adopting up his father’s mantle and beliefs, which included the Nazi philosophy that a Master Race should rule the world. Like his father, Baron Helmut Zemo set his sights on killing Captain America with the two battling it out on numerous occasions, several of which end with Zemo accidentally falling off a tall building.
During Civil War in the comics, Iron Man approached Baron Helmut Zemo and asked him to recruit his fellow villains to the pro-registration side, which Zemo had coincidentally already been doing. However, when he approached Captain America, Zemo instead tried to convince Captain that he was reformed by offering him a key to the superhuman cell that was being constructed in case Captain America was captured. Zemo also gave Captain America some of his old mementos that Zemo had destroyed previously, but re-acquired by using mystical alien gems to travel back in time. As such, Captain America accepted Zemo’s help during Civil War. Throughout other storylines, it became apparent that Zemo had developed some twisted sense of altruism, wanting to save the world by dominating it.
In terms of his abilities, Baron Helmut Zemo doesn’t have any superhuman powers; when he does exhibit special abilities in the comics, it’s through the power of certain items he sometimes wields such as the moonstones or by employing various advanced technologies of his own creation. As a villain, Helmut Zemo is dangerous due to his proficiency in hand-to-hand combat, military strategy, near-genius intellect, and his scientific and engineering knowledge, making him comparable to a villainous Tony Stark in terms of his intellectual capacity and technical knowledge. However, according to an interview with the actor we won’t be seeing Zemo’s signature veil/mask in Civil War.
Kevin Feige has said that the film’s version of Helmut Zemo will be a very loose interpretation to the character in the comics with only a few parallels and who is known by many different names in the film, suggesting that he might be some type of villainous overlord who directs battles rather than actually fighting in them. Additionally, it’s very possible that Helmut Zemo won’t be the primary antagonist of the film as Feige has stated that Zemo could potentially appear in future MCU films. With the primary antagonists of both previous Captain America films being high-ranking Hydra agents, it’s likely that Zemo may be someone of great importance in the sure-to-return Hydra.
Black Panther & Spider-Man
When Marvel announced its tentative lineup for Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many were excited to see that the lesser-known yet beloved Black Panther would be getting his own film adaptation in 2018. The comics character of Black Panther is sometimes referred to as Marvel’s answer to DC’s Batman as the character has a similar dark and mysterious quality; alternately, Black Panther might also be considered an African American — or Wakandan, as it were — version of Daredevil in a very loose sense.
Leading up to the start of Civil War‘s production, it was announced that Chadwick Boseman would play Black Panther in the upcoming Black Panther film; however, we also soon learned that Boseman would actually have his debut as the character in Captain America: Civil War.
As most will remember from Age of Ultron, Wakanda is the African nation known for being the only place on Earth you can find a very unique, rare resource known as vibranium, the strongest metal in existence can also absorb the vibrations of impact and is the material from which Captain America’s shield is made. According to the comics, T’Challa/Black Panther is a crusader for Wakanda and former Wakandan royalty, protecting the nation and those who want to exploit it for its vibranium. Much like the way that Batman relies on technology for his superheroics, Black Panther has incorporated vibranium into his trademark suit, including the making of sharp vibranium claws at the tips of his fingers. Additionally, he’s a skilled hunter and tracker, strategist, gymnast and martial artist, has genius-level intellect, and benefits from having superhuman senses.
In Civil War, reports indicate that Black Panther will appear as a Wakandan ambassador who will be in support of Iron Man and the Sokovia Accords. Initial reports indicated Black Panther would be substituting for Spider-Man’s Civil War role in the comics, which means that he may or may not be revealing his secret identity, may or may not be caught in the middle of the Captain-versus-Stark, pro-versus-anti-registration battle, and may or may not switch from the pro- to anti-registration side over the course of the film. When it comes to the film’s plot, very little of the details are known for sure, but we have much of the general outline and can try to make inferences from the source material to fill in blanks in the meantime.
Many of us remember the security breach that affected many of the executives at Sony, resulting in some emails being leaked and some very private comments that weren’t intended for public consumption coming to light. Although there were some amusing ones (such as the hilarious admission of being intimidated by Michael Fassbender’s “endowment”), we also learned that Marvel and Sony had been negotiating the shared use of Spider-Man. Since before the Tobey Maguire era and through the brief Andrew Garfield period, Spider-Man was a Marvel property for which the film rights were actually owned by Sony. While Sony still owns the rights to the character, Marvel Studios and Sony have made many dreams come true by sharing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, allowing Marvel to incorporate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe before appearing in a new film that will be distributed by Sony. In return, Sony will benefit from Marvel’s reputation, high quality, big budgets, and by piggybacking on the success of Marvel’s shared cinematic universe, which will surely spell a big payday for Sony. With Spider-Man being arguably the most beloved superhero of them all, this is the best thing that could have happened save from Marvel actually regaining full ownership of the property.
Shortly after this Marvel-Sony agreement was announced, we learned of the extensive manhunt to find the next Peter Parker. After a few months, it was announced that Tom Holland — known for his impressive performance as the older of Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watt’s sons in The Impossible (2012) — had won the role, followed by speculation as to whether or not Holland would be debuting in Civil War since Spider-Man played such an important part in the comics storyline. Thus far, Marvel executives have been quick to dismiss reports of Spider-Man having a cameo in Civil War with most of the cast reluctant to confirm as well. However, while Entertainment Weekly reporters were on set, they reportedly saw Holland dressed in the signature red and blue with Downey, Jr. on set, but Kevin Feige insists the sighting was actually a “cosplayer” on the set. C’mon, Kev.
Despite Feige’s insistence to the contrary, it seems that Spider-Man’s inclusion in Captain America: Civil War is pretty much a certainty unless his scenes are cut from the final film. Tom Holland has openly discussed his experience shooting for Civil War although he’s admitted to his role being rather minimal. Additionally, it’s been reported that in the film, Peter Parker will begin in a homemade costume much like in the comics; however, after Tony Stark takes Peter Parker under his wing, he provides the web-slinger with his signature Spider-Man costume. Alternate theories have been that Tony Stark gives Peter the so-called ‘Iron Spider’ costume, a version imbued with some of Stark’s technologies that’s lifted directly from the comics.
Featuring Iron Man’s red-and-gold color scheme and retractable, mechanical arms like a spider’s protruding from the back, the Iron Spider armor is given to Parker after nearly perishing in a fight; Peter uses it up until the point when he switches from pro-registration to Captain America’s anti-registration, joining the Secret Avengers and reverting to a more traditional costume.
If the Civil War film follows the comics somewhat faithfully, it’s possible that we may see several different Spider-Man costumes rather than just one, which is actually what many of the reports have indicated. It’s believed that we’ll see at least three suits: the first costume Parker makes himself, the Iron Spider costume, and the traditional red and blue. Alternately, it’s possible that Stark simply makes and provides the traditional Spider-Man costume rather than the Iron Spider version.
Being only fifteen in the film, it’s unlikely that Spider-Man will be playing the same prominent role as in the comics, which saw him unmasking himself in order to reveal his secret identity to the public as a show of pro-registration support. However, eyewitness reports indicate that Spider-Man has been seen participating in some of the film’s battle sequences, suggesting that his part may not be as miniscule as we’re being made to think.
What can we expect to happen in Captain America: Civil War?
I already outlined many of the events that lead up to Civil War, so now we can do some educated speculating as to what could or will likely be happening in the upcoming third Captain America film.
In The Winter Soldier, Captain America meets Sam Wilson while jogging in Washington, DC. The two become good friends and partners over the course of Winter Soldier and after, showing more chumminess between them in Age of Ultron with Falcon mentioning the ongoing search for Bucky/Winter Soldier. As we saw in the Ant-Man post-credits scene, Captain and Falcon eventually find Bucky; however, with him having previously been a brainwashed assassin, we can expect that there are some who will be wanting Bucky to be punished for his misdeeds while Captain America will likely want to protect his friend. This might seem contradictory, but Captain America is clearly very loyal to his friend, plus it seems that he doesn’t hold Bucky responsible for the majority of his actions as the Winter Soldier due to his being brainwashed by Hydra.
If you watch the trailer, it seems this will be the case in Civil War. There’s a scene in which Captain helps Bucky escape from a black ops team trying to capture him. There’s also a scene in the trailer in which Captain is apologizing to Tony Stark for not giving Bucky to the authorities and saying that Bucky is his friend; in what’s surely the most emotional moment of the trailer, we see Tony reply with “So was I,” following by a shot of Captain and Bucky in a tense fight with Iron Man.
There’s also been another report pertaining to Sam Wilson/Falcon. Fans of Falcon may recall that in the comics, he had a sidekick called Redwing, which was actually a real, trained falcon that is telepathically linked to Wilson’s mind; this is because in the comics, Falcon has the superhuman ability to communicate with any bird due to having a telepathic link to them, which means he can use birds as scouts and actually see through their eyes. Fortunately, the Marvel Cinematic Universe won’t be taking this route since Sam Wilson doesn’t have any actual superhuman abilities in the films. Instead, Redwing will reportedly be a drone that looks similar to a bird and which Falcon can mentally or remotely control.
Ant-Man is another character that’s at the center of some Civil War speculations. Those who saw last summer’s sleeper-hit Ant-Man will remember that when Scott Lang went subatomic and was seemingly lost to the quantum realm, he was able to able to reverse the regulator in the suit’s belt, which allowed him to grow rather than shrink and return to normal, human size. In the comics, Ant-Man not only has the ability to shrink at will, but also develops the ability to grow at will too; in these instances, he’s referred to as Giant Man. As such, there’s been some speculation that Scott Lang/Ant-Man will debut this ability in Civil War, growing to tremendous sizes; however, others believe that this is the kind of show-stopper effect that might be reserved for the character’s own sequel movie Ant-Man and the Wasp, which Marvel added to the Phase Three roster for a 2018 release.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow was a very well-received partner for Captain America in The Winter Soldier, echoing their frequent partnerships in the comics. So it’s not much of a surprise that Widow will be in Civil War, especially with essentially the entire MCU roster — reportedly excluding Thor and Bruce Banner/the Hulk — being present. Although promotional art showed that Black Widow would be on Team Stark with regard to the Accords, Scarlett Johansson has said that her character will actually serve as a mediator between the opposing perspectives of Stark and Captain America.
In fact, Johansson’s recent interview with Entertainment Weekly suggested that Black Widow’s neutrality is due to her being able to see both sides of the coin. The interview also confirms that the Accords are a culmination of previous events, including the Chitauri invasion in New York, those three helicarriers essentially dive-bombing DC, and Ultron trying to destroy the world by turning the city of Sokovia into a big meteor to be dropped back onto the Earth.
As I mentioned above, Civil War ended with Crossbones killing Captain America in the comics. This was followed by Bucky picking up Cap’s mantle and becoming the new Captain America. Although Chris Evans is contracted to appear in at least the two upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars films, a recent report or alleged leak suggests that Captain America: Civil War might just end the same way. According to this report, the film will both begin and end with funerals for two different characters.
Reports as far back as May of last year have all but confirmed that one death, likely the one at the beginning of the film, will be Peggy Carter. This makes a lot of sense considering she seemed to be on her deathbed in The Winter Soldier and this will be a great way of establishing a stronger connection between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter, resulting in her being on Cap’s team with regard to the Accords.
However, with the report indicating that Steve Rogers will be killed in Civil War, that lends credence to the film beginning as well as ending with funerals as the latter would be the funeral of Captain America. The Russo brothers have said time and again that they’ve wanted audiences to really feel like the stakes are getting higher and higher as the MCU progresses; additionally, with the introduction of the Winter Soldier and his apparent journey of redemption, his becoming Captain America would fit perfectly into the Marvel world we’ve seen on film.
In fact, the more you think about it the more it begins to almost feel like a certainty. In The Avengers, Captain America told Tony Stark that Stark isn’t the one to “lay down on the wire and let the other men crawl over you,” or to “make the sacrifice play”. Insides have suggested that in order to end the conflict of the film, Captain America will strike a deal to turn himself in to the government if they agree not to hunt down his teammates; however, he’s immediately killed thereafter, but it’s not known whether a faked death was part of the deal or if Cap is really dead.
The inside source has also said that in the aftermath of Cap’s funeral, many people blame Stark for Captain America’s death, including Stark himself to a degree. Also, the same scene was filmed three different ways, with three characters picking up Captain America’s shield to symbolize their becoming the new Captain America. There are three possibilities presumably to give the directors some flexibility, allowing them to choose whichever Captain America felt most right. The three potential candidates are Bucky Banes, Falcon, and Agent 13/Sharon Carter, although Bucky seems most likely.
Then again, it’s also worth noting that recent comics have shown Falcon becoming Captain America and there’s been a Civil War II confirmed by Marvel Comics, so it’s probably good to be aware of the possibility of other outcomes, even if they’re much less likely.
Captain America: Civil War trailer dissected
Aside from the leaked Comic-Con footage and the promotional images floating around on the internet, there have been very few visuals to hold fans over until the film’s release this coming spring. However, Christmas came early for Marvel fans with the release of the first official trailer for Civil War — the inaugural film of Marvel’s Phase Three film slate — at the tail end of November.
One thing that the trailer was really successful at doing was ensuring that the audience recognizes Civil War as a Captain America film rather than an Avengers film. Despite the bloated cast, the trailer totally nails the look and feel of the Captain America films, especially the Russo brothers’ The Winter Soldier. And despite the stakes, the trailer really grounds Civil War, making it feel very personal and intimate; conversely, even though legislation isn’t the most excited plot device to get things rolling, the film clearly will not want for action.
Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers who directed The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Civil War, sat down for an interview with Empire to give a shot-by-shot commentary for the new trailer, effectively filling in some of the dots and providing a lot more background information. The trailer begins with the post-credits scene from Ant-Man, expanding upon it a bit by showing Captain helping Bucky to escape the black ops team who is ambushing the building in order to capture the deadly former assassin.
However, the Russo brothers clarify that this doesn’t actually happen in the very beginning of the film, but rather was put at the beginning of the trailer to distinguish Civil War from Age of Ultron, reinforcing its status as a Captain America film. Therefore, it’s likely that Captain American doesn’t find Bucky until after the “international incident” that incites the Accords and essentially puts the film’s plot into motion. The brothers also said that finding Bucky is a pretty involved, detail sequence that also answers the question of how Bucky finds himself with his metal arm stuck in that big vice.
We also see that Bucky’s memories are returning, perhaps because he’s not longer being routinely “wiped” by that intimidating electric chair-like contraption we saw in The Winter Soldier. The Russo brothers imply that Bucky is experiencing a type of metamorphosis in the film; he’s no longer the mindless killing machine that Hydra created, but his experiences of killing so many people prevent him from being 100 percent Bucky again, so Civil War shows him becoming someone new that exists in between the Winter Soldier and the Bucky Barnes that Captain America used to know. It sounds complicated with Bucky trying to figure out who his is and his place in the world, especially with his slate not being so clean.
There’s also a frame in which we see the interior of a government building, looking much like the type of room in which members of the Senate would congregate, gets blown up as Captain America tells Bucky he’s a wanted man. Bucky replies that he doesn’t do “that” anymore with there being the faintest hint of implication that Bucky is being setup, perhaps for the explosion that we see. The Russo brothers only say that Bucky’s complicated history as a Hydra assassin pulls him into a new conflict in Civil War.
Lending more credence to this theory, Captain says that the people “who think he did” are coming to get him, intercut with shots of what looks like a large SWAT team raiding the building they’re in. “And they’re not planning on taking you alive.” We then see Captain America and Bucky making their escape. There’s a very good chance that Bucky’s getting freed from the vice will require the assistance of Ant-Man, which would actually explain why this scene in particular was used as the post-credits sequence and why Falcon would allude to recruiting Ant-Man’s assistance.
After we see Bucky jumping out of the building and onto the top of another, we get a shot of General Thaddeus Ross from The Incredible Hulk. The Russo brothers reiterate that including Ross in the film was their way of making The Incredible Hulk relevant to today’s MCU and to remind audiences that the film is still considered canon despite Edward Norton having played Bruce Banner in that film. As Ross tells Captain that many people considered him more a vigilante than a hero, it becomes clear that Ross will be one of the driving forces behind superhuman registration.
According to the Russo brothers, another reason to use Ross was because of his staunch opposition to superheroes, which we can attribute as the driving force behind his having tried to hunt down the Hulk. However, Ross has since become more politically savvy and obtained more power with the Russo brothers comparing him to Colin Powell in real life.
“You’ve operated with unlimited power and no supervision,” Ross says in the trailer. “That’s something we can no longer tolerate.” The Russo brothers say that you can’t have a character called Captain America without examining the politics of what that means. Moreover, there’s a philosophical issue here where you can’t help but wonder what right people with power have to use that power in ways that have really big ramifications, even if the use of that power is for the greater good. Should there be some system of checks-and-balances that keeps those people with power from simply interjecting their influence as they see fit?
Next we see the Sokovia Accords being slid across the table to a female; by the pseudo-Goth look of the hands it’s to Scarlet Witch, but Black Widow wouldn’t be totally out of left field. We quickly learn that these Accords are, in essence, the Superhuman Registration Act from the comics, intended to put a cap on the power the Avengers wield by essentially managing them as a special ops government task force instead of letting them operate independently. The Russo brothers reiterate that it’s not an exact adaptation of the storyline in the comics, but many of the major plot points have been brought over.
We see a close-up of Steve Rogers/Captain America deep in thought. Clearly, he disagrees with the Accords. In the comics, Captain America goes rogue due to his opposition to superhuman registration; however, while there are political and philosophical reasons for his opposition in the film, Captain America also has more personal reasons that pertain to Bucky, which we discover as the trailer progresses.
Next, Black Widow is telling Captain America that she knows how much Bucky means to him, but that he needs to stay out of this political battle. At the same time, we see shots of Bucky riding on a motorcycle through a tunnel. The friendship and partnership between Widow and Captain America was really solidified in The Winter Soldier, but the Russo brothers decided to test that friendship in Civil War by making Widow essentially the devil’s advocate to both sides.
Moreover, Widow recognizes that despite their serving the greater good, the Avengers have made some big mistakes over the course of their tenure that have resulted in some serious collateral damage, causing her to feel as though they may be culpable to a limited degree. As such, it seems she would rather try to preserve the Avengers by working within the system rather than against it as Captain America seems to have chosen to do.
With Captain America in disguise out in the field, we are privy to a phone call from Widow during which she is beckoning Cap to come back before he makes matters worse; this suggests that Bucky might be Captain America’s blind spot in terms of what’s right and wrong. In helping his friend clear his name, Captain America is forced to go rogue, making him a fugitive in the country to which he’s devoted his life trying to protect. In other words, by the third Captain America film we’ll have seen Captain America go from being a model propagandist and the star pupil of the system to actually becoming a fugitive and insurgent.
The Russo brothers make an interesting parallel to The Winter Soldier, which saw Captain America clearly and definitively on the side of good against the corrupt establishment; however, in Civil War it’s Captain America against the establishment, not corruption.
We’re finally treated to the first visual of Iron Man, who emerges from what looks like an elevator shaft. It’s implied that Iron Man symbolizes the establishment, which would normally be ironic for the egomaniac who has always bucked at authority; however, the events of the prior films — particularly Age of Ultron in which one could attribute Ultron’s near destruction of the world to Tony’s recklessness — have put Tony at a place in his life where he’s become willing to submit to authority if he feels that’s safer than the alternative. In short, Tony Stark is experiencing a guilty complex that’s making him willing to sacrifice a bit of his freedom if that means things like Ultron won’t happen again.
Next, we see Captain and Falcon — in civilian garb with shield and wings being taken away — as they’re led to some type of meeting where Tony Starks says that if they can’t accept limitations, they’re no better than the bad guys. According to the Russo brothers, a major goal with Civil War was to have audiences leave the theater arguing about whether Iron Man or Captain America was right. One would assume that with it being a Captain America film, Captain America would be in the right; after all, why would we want the Avengers to be under some government’s control. They’re our heroes and we want them to be able to save the day without interference.
However, Iron Man’s argument is coming from a very mature, adult place that considers other perspectives besides those that hail the Avengers for their victories. For one thing, much of the world will be intimidated or even scared of the Avengers, wondering why they don’t have to answer to someone like the rest of us. If the Avengers’ job is to save the world, doesn’t the world have some right to decide when or where they should help?
There’s also the part about culpability and responsibility; who’s at fault if the Avengers’ efforts end in extensive collateral damage? If a pilot crashes a plane, there’s an extensive investigation to determine if he or she was at fault; therefore, shouldn’t there be an investigation to see if the Avengers are responsible for collateral damage that results from their missions?
We see flashes of Captain and Bucky suiting up and Bucky seemingly about to snipe someone. Then we see Tony Stark and Captain America with Stark telling him, “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.” In Civil War, Iron Man has integrated his shades-of-gray perspective of the world with politics, which is a notoriously gray area. However, Captain America sees the world in black and white, right and wrong, unwilling to compromise his moral integrity and sense of righteousness. This is arguably a primary source of the conflict between the two.
According to the Russo brothers, there’s also some exploration of the history between Iron Man and Captain America. Having been a WWII hero before being frozen in the Antarctic ice for decades, Captain America would have been a national hero that was well-know and legendary at the time of Stark’s birth. Moreover, in the first Captain America film, we see a young Howard Stark, who’s Tony’s father. In the MCU, Tony’s parents were killed in a car accident when he was young, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier strongly implied that the Starks were taken out by the Winter Soldier/Bucky, which — if this is brought to like in Civil War — would be an incentive for Iron Man to make his pro-registration allegiance more of a personal vendetta against Bucky and, by extension, Captain America.
Soon enough, we see Falcon taking flight with his jetpack-style wings while cutscenes and voiceovers have him asking Cap if he’s sure about his actions because people who shoot at Cap end up shooting at Falcon too. Next we see Captain America crashing into a window at the Institute for Infectious Diseases, which lends credence to one of the Civil War rumors suggesting that someone — perhaps Crossbones or Zemo? — is threatening to unleash a deadly virus or disease.
Finally, we see a shot of Captain America standing with Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Bucky for what appears to be the final showdown between the splintered Avengers; we can only assume that Falcon and Ant-Man are out of frame. According to the Russo brothers, this shot is their “splash panel”, which is frame in comic books that shows all the characters in action in the climactic battle. Additionally, it appears that this confrontation takes place at an airport; is one team trying to intercept a flight while the other is trying to intercept the other team?
Missiles rain down onto the airport, presumably from either Iron Man or War Machine, while we’re treated to our first visuals of Black Panther in his striking costume. The Russo brothers have confirmed that Black Panther/T’Challa sides with Stark against Cap and his team of rogues, but Black Panther’s reasons for opposing Captain America reportedly differ from those of Iron Man.
Team Captain America runs toward us to confront Iron Man’s team. We also see Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch using her powers to fly, which we say for just a brief instant at the tail end of Age of Ultron.
There’s a cut to Captain America in a tunnel chasing after Black Panther with Bucky following distantly behind. Next we see Captain America — looking much like he does in the scene where Bucky’s metal arm is caught in the big vice, suggesting that this scene occurs just before or after Captain America finds Bucky — grab onto the leg of a helicopter with one hand and the railing of the helipad with the other, trying desperately to prevent the helicopter from taking off.
According to the Russo brothers, this scene represents Captain America’s struggle over seemingly insurmountable odds; additionally, Captain’s attempt to keep the helicopter from taking off is a very passionate and important scene, which, again, suggests that this scene might be related to Bucky. We can only imagine who or what is in that helicopter that he’s trying to stop from leaving.
We’re treated to a shot of Black Widow, standing high above the mayhem at the airport, surveying the explosions and destruction wrought by the two teams of Avengers fighting one another. (This must be either just before or just after she’s given Ant-Man a thrashing as has been reported by journalists who were present during the scene’s filming.) The Russo brothers said that putting Widow in this position of overseeing the fight was meant to symbolize her personal conflict; Black Widow’s mind is on Tony’s side, but her heart is on Captain America’s. It’s also during this shot that we see the airport is Leipzig-Halle in Germany, which suggests that Baron Zemo might be a factor here.
After a flash of Bucky throwing some punches at Iron Man, we see Captain America running through the hallway of the Institute of Infectious Diseases as bombs go off right on his heels. There’s also scenes of Iron Man cradling a stricken War Machine — who’s surely not dead — with a view of the devastated airport behind them as Captain America says via voiceover, “I’m sorry, Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice, but he’s my friend.”
Cut to a close-up of Tony’s face from within the Iron Man suit, when he says, “So was I.” Without a doubt, this is the most emotionally compelling scene in the trailer.
At this point, we see what is surely the main event: Iron Man versus Captain America and Bucky, who seem to be sharing the shield in a way that only further suggests Bucky may very well be a contender for the mantle of Captain America. The showdown looks intense with Iron Man seemingly outmatched, but the setting and background is clearly some type of massive underground structure with views of distant snowy mountains through windows. By the look of it, this would appear to be some sort of Hydra base, so perhaps Zemo is related to this event as well.
James Gunn’s gives glowing review of Civil War following early preview
While many of us are busying watching and rewatching the Civil War trailer, a certain special few have already been treated to a rough cut of the film. Despite still being months away from its release, James Gunn — director of the successful Guardians of the Galaxy — has reportedly seen an early cut of Captain America: Civil War with nothing but positive things to say about the film, referring to Civil War as “an amazing film” and “one of the best Marvel movies yet.”
In a Q&A video on Facebook, Gunn was asked about the upcoming Doctor Strange, but used that to launch into unabated gushing over the upcoming third Captain America film. Moreover, Gunn confirmed seeing Spider-Man in Civil War, and he confirmed that the character’s debut is “off-the-charts awesome.”
Of course, Gunn works for the same company under which CIvil War was made and can probably recite Marvel’s nondisclosure agreement by memory, so he basically gave zero details other than confirming the appearance of Spidey. Even so, his glowing review is very reassuring although there was almost no chance of Civil War not being incredible.
I covered a metric ton of information here, but I wanted this to be a pretty comprehensive resource. As we learn more, I will either amend this article/novel or write a “sequel”/companion piece.
Are you excited about the upcoming thirteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War? What are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns or are you confident it’s going to blow us away? Leave your comments below, feel free to share with your friends, and don’t forget to check back for tons of more Marvel info.