There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about the next Captain America film, with rumors and speculation flying every which way. Which characters will be in it? How closely will the plot stick to Mark Millar’s original (2006) “Civil War” storyline from the comics? Will the respective heroes take the same sides as they did in the comics? Will other superheroes be introduced as minor/background characters, or will it be limited to those seen in the Avengers movies? And, of course, who will die?
One of the biggest questions was how the writers would work around the absence of Spider-Man, since he was a central character in the comics version. Would they have someone else (e.g., Black Panther or Hawkeye) fill that role, at least in part? Or just rewrite a big part of the plot? With the new deal between Sony and Marvel, it sounds as if the webslinger may assume his rightful role in the Civil War story. (Though, some of the details about him will have to change.)
Before going further, I suppose I should re-cap (hah!) the original “Civil War” plot: While filming a reality TV series, the relatively young and inexperienced superheroes known as the New Warriors fought some supervillains in Stamford, CT. The villain Nitro caused an explosion that killed not only most of the heroes & villains but destroyed the entire neighborhood where they were fighting, including a school full of young children. The subsequent grief and outrage of the nation convinced Congress to pass the Superhuman Registration Act (SRA), whereby all superpowered and costumed adventurers, hero and villain, must reveal their identities to the government and submit to official training and regulation. Despite already being publicly known, Captain America could not in good conscience support the SRA, so he became a fugitive and leader of those heroes who also refused to submit. Iron Man, on the other hand, sided with the government, leading SHIELD and the registered heroes in tracking down, arresting, and imprisoning the unregistered, including many of their friends and associates. This conflict became known as “Civil War”.
I have to say, though, that I think “Civil War” is a bad idea for Captain America 3. I realize that it is a well-known and loved story arc from years past, and many fans have been clamoring for it. But, it is all wrong for a Captain America movie. I’m not the first to say this, but if anything it should be an Avengers film. The story necessarily requires that many different heroes — Avengers and otherwise — have significant roles. So, even if Captain America is one of the primary characters, a lot of the focus is off Cap — and it’s his movie!
In my opinion, the third Captain America movie should focus… on… Captain America. Sure, there can be a couple cameos and maybe one or two others (e.g., Falcon, Bucky, Sharon Carter (aka Agent 13), Fury) in supporting roles. But, the emphasis should be in exploring Cap/Steve — as an individual, as a 1940s guy living in the 2010s, and as a hero/”Living Legend”. The writers/producers need to spend time developing Cap as a person, his joys & struggles, etc. Plus, while we have already seen the Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Baron Strucker & Hydra, Batroc, and Crossbones, there are a ton of other classic Cap villains to build a story around — e.g., A.I.M. & M.O.D.O.K., Taskmaster, Baron Zemo, Flag-Smasher & Ultimatum, Serpent Squad, Grand Director & National Force. That is who the fanbase wants and “needs” to see in a Captain America movie. Btw, I understand that Crossbones will be back and it looks like Baron Zemo will be the primary villain, but “Civil War” is the wrong story for them.
I also think that, even if produced as an Avengers team film, “Civil War” is a poorly-timed story for the Marvel Cinematic Universe for many reasons. The “Civil War” story in the comics takes place in a well-established timeline/setting, where dozens (hundreds?) of costumed heroes and villains have been around for many years, decades even. There is a lot of history between characters, both friends and foes, as well as in relation to the rest of the world at large. The original CW storyline really gets its weightiness, its significance to the public and the heroes & villains and authorities involved, from that long, established history of existing, working, and fighting together in the MU. Frankly, this cannot be replicated in the movies without jumping ahead several years, but then the audience still wouldn’t feel it.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
There are a boatload of characters from the comics that will never make it into the movie version. Even if they did, the audience doesn’t know them — or, at least, movie versions of them — and, therefore, there is no emotional connection to them, so their struggles are much less meaningful. Even Spider-Man will be a new character in the MCU — very young, single, with little experience or history. The reason Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s arc was so impactful in the original “Civil War” was because he was such a well-established character, beloved by fans, with a well-known struggle to maintain his secret identity while keeping his loved ones safe. I don’t see how that can be used at all in the MCU. It makes sense, then, that the focus for the movie version will be more about government control and accountability than secret identities.
The New Warriors don’t exist in the MCU, so the writers/producers had to come up with a totally different incident/cause for choosing of sides and testing loyalties. (Plus, I think the dangers of real-life terrorism made some bigwigs skittish about blowing up a school full of kids.) Just in general, there are only a relative handful of superheroes & villains in the MCU at this point, so the impact of a SRA has a lot less impact than it did in the comics. Plus, most of our heroes’ identities are already publicly known, and they are quite well trained. There will also be no Hank Pym, no Bill Foster (aka Goliath), no crazed Thor-clone (aka Ragnarok), no Mr. Fantastic (or the rest of the FF), all of whom played major roles in Millar’s story. (Probably no Thor or Hulk, either, but neither were they in the original, though for different reasons.) No “Prison Alpha” in the Negative Zone. On the other hand, heroes like Black Panther, Ant-Man, Winter Soldier, and Agent 13 will be involved in the movie version, as opposed to having minimal or no appearance in the comics version.
Mark Millar himself has said he was OK with how Marvel was adapting his story for the big screen, in particular with the need to focus on a smaller group of heroes. (Not that there was much choice, really, for several reasons.) I guess that’s a plus. And I understand how they can use events from the previous movies as part of the lead-in to a ‘civil war’ between heroes, even if there is no SRA. Ideally, though, if the powers-that-be were so bound and determined to do “Civil War”, I still think they should have waited a few years until there were more heroes established in the MCU and do it as an Avengers film (or two). However, I suspect that they were uncertain of the future availability of the current Avengers actors after their current contracts expire, so they decided to squeeze “Civil War” in now. Understandable, I suppose, but still very annoying.
What we will have come May 2016 will not be a true Captain America 3 but a new Avengers story for the MCU. It will have factions of heroes fighting each other, with particular emphasis on the Tony/Iron Man vs. Steve/Captain America feud, and a familiar title will be slapped on. But, with so many key events and characters missing or drastically changed, this is not a faithful adaptation of the original “Civil War” story. At best, it is merely “inspired by….”