Captain America: Civil War is nearly upon us, and as I expected last time we indulged in this exercise, some of you are no doubt wondering why Cap and Iron Man are trading blows with each other. The easiest and most cynical answer would be that they are fighting because they fought in Marvel’s Civil War crossover event from 2006 and 2007, and since that is routinely among the ranks of Marvel’s highest selling trade paperbacks then it makes sense to make an adaptation out of something fans really dig. Coincidentally, Batman v Superman did pretty much the exact same thing, with much of its plot being informed by The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman but I’d really rather not talk about that right now and at any rate, we need to discuss Marvel business this week.
So what exactly happens in the Civil War comic to bring about conflict between the two biggest Avengers? In the inciting incident of CW , a young and relatively inexperienced superhero team called the New Warriors try to take down a villain called Nitro, who uses his explosive powers to destroy an elementary school and a couple of city blocks, resulting in the deaths of most of the New Warriors and more than 600 people. Public sentiment starts to turn against heroes, so the government proposes the Superhero Registration Act, which would require all superheroes to register with the federal government for oversight purposes. Tony Stark/Iron Man takes up the reigns of the pro-registration side after initially opposing the SRA, while Steve Rodgers/Captain America becomes the self appointed leader of the anti-registration side. Things quickly got out of hand…
After a not bad start, CW rapidly flew off the rails. The breaking point was when Iron Man and Mr Fantastic starting dumping captured ani-reg heroes into a prison in the extra dimensional Negative Zone without any semblance of due process, culminating in Cap and his gang staging a massive prison break that spills into the streets of Manhattan and culminates in massive collateral damage. The story ends with a sobbing Steve Rodgers unmasking and turning himself in to the authorities after witnessing first-hand the destruction caused by the brawling heroes.
I do not have any great fondness for this story and I was more than a little apprehensive when Marvel announced it would be the basis of the next Cap movie.
From what I’ve seen of the trailers and promo material, Captain America: Civil War is working off that same basic framework. The movie’s Sokovia Accords appears to more or less be the same thing as the comic’s SRA, except its scale is global rather than national. Part of my initial skepticism of a straight adaptation of CW is that despite being around for nearly eight years and spanning 12 films, two TV series and two (so far) Netflix series, there still aren’t really that many superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hence, a CW movie wouldn’t have the advantage of taking place 60 plus years into the existence of a Marvel Universe already inhabited by hundreds of characters. Since the CW movie we are getting is baffling still (at least technically speaking) a Cap feature and not an Avengers sequel, the smaller stakes could actually work to its advantage. At most, this titular civil war appears to be a six-on-six affair; I’m okay with that.
CW was almost a decade ago, so I’m really hoping all of those years of hindsight will allow directors Joe and Anthony Russo (who directed Winter Soldier and will also helm the next two Avengers) to avoid some of its mistakes, particularly the business where Iron Man turns into a fascistic prick and starts tossing his friends in jail (that building at the 54 second mark in the above trailer looks like a prison, so maybe we are getting that version of Iron Man). Granted, the early reviews have been positively rapturous and it can’t possibly be worse than the slog that was BvS. I’m cautiously optimistic.
So what’s the deal with Spider-Man? In the comics he initially joined the pro-reg side of the Civil War and even followed Tony Stark’s example by publicly outing himself as Peter Parker. As the story went on, he became disillusioned with Stark’s increasingly Draconian measures against rogue superheroes and jumped ship to Cap’s team. As for him being in the movie (where he’s played by Tom Holland), Sony Pictures and Marvel studios now share “joint custody” of Spidey’s film rights on account of Sony scuttling their initial plans after the dreadful Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperfomed at the box office. I’m pretty sure this Spider-Man (who already has his own solo feature in the works) won’t be revealing his secret identity to the public, but the business with him getting a conscience attack and switching sides? I’m absolutely positive that will go down in the movie.
Captain America: Civil War opens this Friday. Good movies being made from bad source material isn’t unheard of and maybe that will be the case here. I’m a huge fan of the Captain America movies and they’re largely the reason why he’s my favorite Marvel hero. As much as I don’t like stories where superheroes fight each other, I’m Team Cap all the way on this one.