The Five Biggest Question Marks About an MCU Civil War
The news broke yesterday that Robert Downey Jr. is in final negotiations for a significant appearance in Captain America 3, one that will usher in a Civil War storyline. The news has set the entire internet on fire, and with good reason. Civil War was an acclaimed Marvel comic series that famously pitted Iron Man and Captain America against each other, in a violent ideological conflict that split all the Marvel superheroes down the middle. Any movie that took on this storyline would be extremely ambitious, and we're just as excited as everyone else (for all our reasons to be excited about this development.). However, there are still a few reasons to be concerned about whether Marvel will get it exactly right, and the rumblings have already begun. Here are five of the concerns raised by the internet over the last 24 hours, from least to most worrisome:
1) If there's a war, then where's the army?
Civil War's large scope requires entire armies of superheroes fighting each other, so a common theme of the complaints surrounding the recent announcement have been, "But there's only six of them!" (Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor)
Why Captain America 3 will last ten minutes, from Reddit user JeanReptile:
First, this isn't actually true. In addition to the six that appeared in Avengers, we have Falcon and Winter Soldier introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and War Machine/Iron Patriot in Iron Man 2 and 3. Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch are confirmed for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Dr. Strange are getting their own movies, Mockingbird will appear in the canonical Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Defenders (Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil) will soon appear in their own canonical Netflix series. And those are only the ones that are confirmed; there are many rumors flying about introductions of heroes from Ms. Marvel to Black Panther, as well as whispers about Sony and Marvel working together to bring Spider-Man to the MCU. (There's also Guardians of the Galaxy, but they don't appear in the comics and might be too silly to take part in such a dark storyline.)
2) The cinematic versions of Iron Man and Captain America would need to undergo major changes
In the films, Iron Man has mostly been a quippy, snarky, lighthearted character, while Civil War would see him becoming significantly darker. Furthermore, his arc over the film series has seen him become disillusioned with government power, while in Civil War he takes a particularly pro-government, anti-individual liberty stance. And while Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed Steve Rogers becoming a little less of a company man, he's still a long way from the morally ambiguous rebel he becomes in Civil War. Comics have much more room for nuanced character developments than relatively short movies, so many are worried that these character shifts could come across as contrivances.
But the Marvel writers seem to be laying the groundwork for these shifts already. As stated above, Captain America's arc seems to be disillusionment with absolute government power, and Tony Stark will reportedly create Ultron in Avengers 2, which means he has clearly not learned his lesson about using technology in ways that spin out of control and violate human rights. Plus, even if the shifts were somewhat sudden, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are both very talented actors who are capable of bringing that kind of complexity to a character. Furthermore, since Lord knows Marvel isn't averse to sequels, the Civil War storyline could (and hopefully will) play out over several movies, which would make characters' ideological changes seem more organic.
3) It would represent a significant tonal departure from the rest of the MCU
[Credit: Hot Guys Laughing]
Marvel and DC are bitter rivals, and therefore intent on carving out their own niches. If DC has peed all over the territory of self-serious, philosophical, "gritty" superhero movies, Marvel has worked to become an antidote to all that lofty dourness, injecting a refreshingly silly, irreverent sense of humor into the proceedings. Even when the world is about to end and buildings are getting knocked down, the Avengers (and especially the Guardians of the Galaxy) can usually find something to quip about.
It would be more difficult to quip about Civil War. As I already mentioned, the quippiest character, Iron Man, gets significantly darker, the subject matter draws extremely heavy parallels to controversial political topics, and the entire thing begins with an explosion destroying an entire city block, including an elementary school full of children. This is dark stuff, and treating it with a lighthearted tone would fall anywhere between tone-deaf and disrespectful. This is a legitimate worry, but then again, as we've said before, Marvel would love nothing more than to beat DC at its own game, and be master of both lighthearted and super serious superhero fare. Not to mention, Joss Whedon was well-known for writing television shows that managed to be both quippy and oftentimes tragic before he directed the much lighter Avengers, so it's possible that he'd be the perfect person to adapt this series.
4) It would need to walk an extremely thin political tightrope
[Credit: Force Change]
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises both received flak for their conservative stances on plotlines that seemed to parallel political issues, even though these parallels may not have been intentional. But every piece of art will be evaluated through a political lens if there are obvious parallels to current events, and those parallels are 100% unavoidable in Civil War. First, the central conflict is individual freedom/privacy versus collective security, a persistent conflict in US politics that's reflected in a myriad of divisive current events such as the Patriot Act, Snowden and the NSA, and Wikileaks.
But the most potentially inflammatory parallel is the issue of gun control. Not only does the entire issue revolve around freedom versus security, but the impetus for recent discussions of gun control was Newtown. The comparisons to Newtown are inevitable; children are killed in a small, wealthy Connecticut town (Stamford, and the tragedy is thereafter called the "Stamford tragedy," very similar to Newtown), which renews discussion about setting certain restrictions in order to prevent that tragedy from happening again. The Superhero Registration Act could be interpreted as parallel to either liberals wanting gun owners to register their guns or conservatives wanting to crack down on the mentally ill. Either way, they risk being reductive and/or offensive. However, the fact that these parallels exist also provide an opportunity for bonafide social commentary, which, as we saw in the drone plotline of Winter Soldier, will garner nothing but positive attention if done in a nuanced and respectful manner.
5) The two most iconic moments of Civil War may be impossible to adapt to the screen
This is subjective, of course, but arguably the two most memorable moments of Civil War (and definitely the two events that had the most impact on the Marvel universe), were the public revelation of Spider-Man's identity and the death of Steve Rogers. As stated above, there have been a few rumors that Andrew Garfield could make an appearance in the MCU, but ultimately it seems unlikely that Sony and Marvel will work together, considering the fierce competition between studios. Although we would all love to see Garfield's endearing version of Spider-Man join the Avengers, this is not necessarily a fatal blow to an adaptation of Civil War. Spider-Man's role is significant, but his plotline could easily be left out or given to another character in a way that would only upset hardcore fans of the comics.
The execution of Captain America is another story. Although Marvel often makes changes from the comics in order to suit their stories and their bottom line, the death of Steve Rogers is crucial to the Civil War storyline thematically. Captain America is the classic hero, emblematic of ideals such as liberty, privacy, and equality. Regardless of what America actually is, Captain America represents everything America wants to be, and his death represents a death of ideals and a loss of innocence. Changing the ending would be much more egregious than leaving out a subplot, but it seems somewhat unlikely that they would kill off Chris Evans's character when his star is rising so fast and furiously. They could kill him and bring him back for further movies, as they've done with several characters so far, but even that would cheapen it a little. It's possible that they will actually kill him and Anthony Mackie's Falcon would take over, as he has in the comics, but we're not holding our breath.