How Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Civil War will be different from the original Civil War miniseries.
The new Captain America: Civil War trailer offers fresh insight into the upcoming struggle between Captain America and Iron Man. Cap appears to be on a mission to redeem his former sidekick Bucky Barnes, now the Winter Soldier, much to the growling disapproval of reknowned Hulk-hater Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.
Bucky is branded an enemy of the state, following years of black ops villainy, and even an endorsement from the First Avenger isn’t enough to land him a second chance. Iron Man stands in opposition to Captain America’s decision, and the two are destined to clash, leaving the remaining Avengers and other heroes to pick sides. Maybe they’d talk it out if they knew Thanos was coming.
With our first glimpse into the world of the cinematic version of Civil War, we finally get to start picking apart how Marvel’s made the translation from a comics event to a movie.
The major difference between the film and the original Marvel miniseries Civil War is the absence of the Superhuman Registration Act. In the comics, the act was introduced after a clash between the New Warriors (a team of very minor heroes) and a group of villains led to an explosion that claimed hundreds of lives and leveled a nearby school. Tony Stark championed the Superhuman Registration Act and tried his best to convince the rest of the superhuman population to do the same, so that future tragedies would be prevented and to prove heroes weren’t above the law.
Captain America saw this as unconstitutional, and became the figurehead of the Anti-Registration side, a decision which branded him an enemy of the government and led to a confrontation with Iron Man and the other heroes (and some villains) supporting registration. The residents of the Marvel universe chose sides and prepared to confront each other in one of the company’s most iconic events.
While the Superhuman Registration Act is not a factor in Captain America: Civil War, the battle lines are instead drawn between Captain America and Iron Man because of the Winter Soldier. Cap is an idealist (and perhaps a bit naive), and believes his former sidekick can atone for the terrible things he’s done. Consumed by guilt over the widescale destruction unleashed by his own creation Ultron, Tony Stark isn’t willing to give Bucky a second chance.
Stark is used to being the smartest guy in the room, and is often blinded by his own arrogance. He completely misjudged Ultron, and even his Hulkbuster armor didn’t bust the Hulk as well as he expected. Whether he succeeds or not, Tony Stark tries to plan for every possibility. Both Ultron and the Hulk humbled Tony, and showed him he maybe wasn’t quite as good at planning as he thought. Distrust of other people with powers and support of regulation is part of Tony’s “Better to be over-prepared” philosophy.
Identities and Spider-Man
Ever since Tony Stark announced to the world that he was a superhero at the end of the first Iron Man, secret identities have been an afterthought in the Marvel films. Even the heroes in masks regularly reveal their faces, and with characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow operating as government agents, the Registration Act of the comics doesn’t fit. The Pro-Registration vs Anti-Registration conflict relies on a number of heroes with histories of maintaining secret identities, a throwback trope to the Golden and Silver Ages. Once upon a time it made sense for a hero to balance a costumed alter-ego with a secret identity and a day job, but in an age of smartphones and 24/7 surveillance, the idea is less plausible.
Spider-Man’s decision to unmask was a key element of Civil War, meant to motivate heroes on the fence to opt for registration. It worked in the comic, not just because of Spider-Man’s long history of maintaining a secret identity, but because of his role as Marvel’s superhero “Everyman.” His endorsement of the Superhuman Registration Act gave it credibility.
Spider-Man’s unmasking remains one of the event’s biggest moments, even though he ultimately jumped sides to support Anti-Registration by the end. Considering the newest Spider-Man will make his debut in Captain America: Civil War, it’s likely that SHIELD knows his identity. A teenage Spider-Man would have a difficult time keeping secrets from the world’s most extensive spy network. While Spidey picking a side could make for a huge dramatic moment in the film, he’s also excellent as a viewpoint character on the outside of the conflict. Easy to relate to and sympathize with, Spider-Man would be an excellent character to color the audience’s opinion of each side, even if he changes his position by the end of the film.
But the most important part of Civil War was the repercussions. The comics led to Captain America’s arrest and assassination. Bucky Barnes went on to assume the role of Captain America (which is a possibility given the direction of the film, but unlikely), and Tony Stark also became the director of SHIELD, which gave him even more authority to regulate superhumans.
This would actually be a pretty natural progression for Stark in the films, as it appeals to his determination to atone for Ultron, but also his arrogance. He knows what’s best for everyone, because he’s the smartest man on the planet. Stark is his own worst enemy, and being at odds with his former teammates will only push him harder to prove that he’s right. Being in control of SHIELD puts Stark in control of the Avengers and the superhuman community as a whole at the cost of ruining his relationships with the heroes who support Captain America. Some members may serve begrudgingly, while others leave the team entirely.
However the details come to pass, Captain America: Civil War will split in the Avengers leading into Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1, which is a pretty significant move for the MCU, one that would be felt over the course of several films prior to Infinity War.
Maybe a certain mad titan can bring them back together…