According to a recent article in Variety, Robert Downey Jr. is “on the verge” of signing on to play a significant role in the third Captain America movie. This has led to speculation that the plot of the movie will be based on the Civil War crossover event of 2006. This could be great news, or this could be terrible news. It all depends on how you feel about the story, with fans standing as divided as Cap and Tony. The potential for a movie version leads to several big questions about the direction Marvel is planning to take their ever expanding movie universe. What changes will be made to the story when adapting it to film? Will Civil War be a lead in to the Infinity Gauntlet? Are we going to get a two-part Avengers 3, and if so, what new characters will we get to see?
And arguably the most important question, especially considering recent rumblings of talks between Sony and Disney regarding the future of the character, will we FINALLY get to see Spider-Man in a Marvel movie?
That last question is relevant for a few reasons, the biggest of which being the fact that Spidey is integral to the plot of Civil War and absolutely essential to any big screen adaptation. Last week rumours began circulating that Marvel and Sony were in “delicate preliminary conversations” around potentially sharing the character in a way that would allow Spidey to appear in a Marvel movie. During Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man compete like Victorian-era marriage suitors for the hand and heart of Spider-Man, who is basically the moral compass of Civil War and the Marvel Universe as a whole. Following the less than fantastic box office returns of the Amazing Spider-Man 2, it’s no surprise that Sony is entertaining the idea. For comics fans though, this news is gigantic. If only Fox would stop being jerks and allow the X-characters to show up, I would finally be able to see this moment on screen.
For those of you who don’t read comics, or are unfamiliar with the Civil War storyline, here’s the basic gist of the whole thing. A group of super-humans, while filming a reality show, are having a fairly stereotypical good guys vs. bad guys battle near an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut. At one point in the skirmish, the villain Nitro explodes himself, resulting in the deaths of 600 people. This is all caught on film and results in a public outcry to implement some form of legislation that would hold super powered individuals accountable for their actions. Enter the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires any super powered being operating in the States to register their identity with the government. Anybody who refuses to do so will be thrown into a super-prison built by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Long story short, Captain America thinks this idea is fascist bullshit, and goes underground to start recruiting other heroes who feel the same way. Iron Man, on the other hand, thinks this forced registration is a fantastic notion, and joins up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to hunt down the rebels. Nearly every major and minor character eventually picks a side, with the central tug-of-war revolving around Spider-Man, who starts off on Tony’s side but eventually realizes he’s doing the wrong thing and signs up with Cap’s guerrilla group.
The event received mixed reviews from fans, and left most feeling that Iron Man had been railroaded into becoming a straight up villain. While it seemed that Marvel really wanted everyone to pick a side and split readers down the middle, it was pretty difficult with the writers strongly pushing the idea that if the pure of heart and impeccably moralistic Captain America thinks something is a bad idea, you best feel the same way or you’re a bastard with no soul.
This brings us back to the other major issue in adapting Civil War to the big screen. Thanks partly to the unbelievably smart casting choice of Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man has become the mascot for the MCU. He is without a doubt their biggest and most popular character at this point, with the three films grossing over two billion dollars worldwide. How can Marvel successfully adapt a story that made readers hate a character who has become the company’s biggest cash cow while simultaneously ensuring it remains at least somewhat faithful to the source material? There’s always the classic switcheroo plan, which could see the two characters switch roles; an arrangement that most fans assumed would be the setup when Civil War was originally announced but looks pretty unlikely at this point.
There are hints dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 make this pretty unlikely. Following the events in the Avengers, Iron Man 3 finds Tony questioning the culpability and responsibility super heroes take on- whether willingly or not- when they don the tights and start throwing aliens through office buildings. On the other side of the coin, the end of The Winter Soldier sees a jaded Captain America on the run after losing faith in a corrupt system, and has Black Widow taking the stand at a congressional hearing that is questioning the burgeoning super powered community and who exactly will take charge and ensure it is held accountable for its actions.
Making a big screen Civil War seems like a no brainer for Marvel and the interconnected cinematic universe they’ve been building over the last seven years, but this is worrisome news in regards to another question posed at the beginning of this article. What does this mean for the Infinity Gauntlet? Are we still going to see a monumental struggle between all the heroes and the Mad Titan, Thanos? Ever since the notorious post-credits scene in the Avengers, followed up by a small cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, everyone assumed it was basically written in stone that the colossal finale for all the MCU movies would showcase the gigantic battle against Thanos for the fate of the universe. Civil War is just too much content for one film, and if they do plan on bringing the event to the big screen, how long will we have to wait for Marvel to do it justice while also setting up the Infinity Gauntlet?
It seems pretty likely, given the trend set by film franchises like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, that the third Avengers movie will be split up into two parts. When one takes into account the absolutely massive scale of Marvel’s crossover events, and the slew of new characters getting their own films in the next few years, this might be the only viable option to include everything and everyone on the same screen. However, Marvel might be biting off a lot more than they can chew if they plan on doing both Civil War AND Infinity Gauntlet, and who knows if people will even still care about all of this by the time it happens. Luckily, all this is mostly rumour and hearsay at this point, even if one can easily connect the dots and extrapolate where it’s all headed. I’m all for more Marvel movies, and at the time Civil War was a lot of fun, but I will travel to LA and burn the Disney offices to the ground if I never get to see Thanos, with his cheeky grin and fiery eyes, holding the universe hostage and battling every single hero at the same time in IMAX 3-D.