Captain America: Civil War is now in production, and it has the official synopsis and cast list to prove it. The film, which will see Captain America come to blows with Iron Man, already feels like one of the boldest entries on the Marvel horizon. Can it make Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s infamous series work within confines of the MCU? Can it effectively juggle a cast list that seemingly grows bigger with each passing week? Whether you’re a hardcore fan nitpicking every decision or a casual observer trying to figure out what the hell is going on, don’t worry. We’ve got this.  If you only know your Marvel heroes through the movies or never got around to reading 2007’s Civil War series, we’ve put together a primer on everything you need to know. SPOILERS for the comic (but not necessarily the movie!) lie ahead.

It Will Follow the Same Basic Premise as the Comic


In the original Civil War series, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers come to blows when they disagree about a new government program that wants to hold superheroes accountable for their actions. Marvel’s newly released official synopsis for Captain America: Civil War and it mostly aligns with that original concept:

After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain.

Although things can (and will) change, the film version of Civil War certainly sounds like it will keep the basic set-up of the comic. The government wants to regulate superheroes. Iron Man agrees. Captain America disagrees. They do not resolve this conflict with an even-keeled conversation and a handshake. Meanwhile, villains from all corners of the Marvel Universe watch as the heroes fight each other, with some of them jumping in and getting their hands dirty. This is, presumably, where Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo and Frank Grillo’s Crossbones will come into play. Whether or not they will actually team-up with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark or just manipulate things from a distance is a question for another day.

But It Will Also Be Nothing Like the Comic


At the same time, movie fans shouldn’t run out and buy the original series looking for a beat-for-beat preview of the film. Just as Captain America: The Winter Soldier used its titular comic storyline as a jumping-off point, Civil War will have to make a ton of changes to make its story work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For example, the “Superhero Registration Act” of the comic is all about secret identities, with the government demanding that masked heroes register their real names and receive special training before they’re allowed to march into conflict. Since the heroes of the MCU are are all public figures whose identities are known to the world at large (even Black Widow showed her face on national TV at the end of The Winter Soldier), the film will most likely be about accountability, not secret identities.

It all snowballs from there. Tons of characters who play key roles in the Civil War comic cannot appear in the MCU for legal reasons. Don’t expect Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four to create a clone of Thor (CLOR!) to assist in the battle and especially don’t expect any X-Men to play a part. And then there’s Spider-Man, who’s a massive player in the comic, joins Tony’s side and allows himself to be unmasked on television ... before changing sides and finding his life in more danger than usual. Although the brand new MCU Spidey is expected to appear in the film, his role will probably be little more than a cameo. After all, the deal with Sony to share the character only came together after the film was gearing up to start shooting.

Expect individual scenes and elements of the comic to play a role, but don’t hope or expect it to stick to the text. The MCU is its own universe and it will do whatever it wants.

This is Essentially Avengers 2.5


Sure, Captain America’s name may be in the title and the story will directly deal with the lingering plot threads of his last solo adventure, but Civil War is going to be closer to an Avengers movie than a typical Captain America outing. Chris Evans should still be the heart of the movie and he should (hopefully) have the most to do, but you can expect Robert Downey Jr. to try to steal as many scenes as possible.

But will he have any room to steal any scenes? The confirmed cast for Captain America: Civil War is massive, making the ensemble for Avengers: Age of Ultron look small in comparison. Every member of Cap’s new Avengers team will be returning, including Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Paul Bettany’s Vision, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. Jeremy Renner is also set to return as Hawkeye, Emily VanCamp will show up again as Agent 13, and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier will, somehow, still play a key role. Oh, and then there’s Bruhl and Grillo as the villains, Martin Freeman as a mysterious new character, and Chadwick Boseman making his MCU debut as Black Panther. Oh, and Spider-Man. And whoever else Marvel decides to slip in. Doctor Strange? Why not!

So yeah, this is pretty much a Captain America movie in name only.

Heroes Will Be Forced to Pick Sides


However, there’s a good reason for Captain America: Civil War to have 16-plus major characters – the movie needs enough people drawn to both sides to make this battle matter. One of the most intriguing aspects of the original comic was watching the citizens of Marvel Universe choose a side and watch them justify their decision. Some of the results were predictable. Others were genuinely surprising. And then there were those who floated between both groups.

We can already make some predictions about who will fall on either side in the film version. Surely the Falcon will stick with Captain America until the very end. Hawkeye, who has more to lose than most Marvel heroes, will probably agree with Tony Stark that the Avengers need to be controlled. And then there are wild cards like War Machine, who will be forced to choose between his old friendship with Tony and his new partnership with Cap. We’re nearly a dozen movies into the MCU, so watching these characters we know and love align against one another should make for some pretty harrowing drama. If successful, Captain America: Civil War will tear the hearts right out of our chests.

And Then They’ll Battle It Out


There are few things more satisfying than watching your favorite superheroes throw down. It’s an extension of the kinds of debates you used to have on the playground and you currently have at the comic shop: Who would win in a fight between so-and-so and such-and-such?

The MCU has already had its fair share of hero-on-hero conflict (Iron Man versus Thor, Iron Man versus Hulk, etc.), but Captain America: Civil War is going to up the ante in a huge way. While the central conflict is between Captain America and Iron Man, both heroes will be backed up by their own personal armies of superheroes. The possibilities are endless. Who would win in a fight between Scarlet Witch and Black Panther? Could War Machine overpower Vision? In a battle of mortals, could Hawkeye take down Falcon? More than anything else, expect this movie to be a smorgasbord of goodness in the “theoretical superhero showdowns brought to life” department.

Captain America May Die


In the Civil War comic, Captain America ultimately grows weary of watching the good guys fight and turns himself in to the authorities ... only to get assassinated. In a murder plot that involves Crossbones. Who is also in this movie. Hmmm.

We cannot guarantee that Steve Rogers will bite the bullet in Captain America: Civil War, but it’s a definite possibility. Like all comic-book deaths, Cap’s wasn’t permanent (he was resurrected a few years later), but it did lead to all kinds of great stories as the heroes and villains of the Marvel universe reacted to his departure. Heck, why would Marvel sign Sebastian Stan onto a nine film contract if Bucky Barnes wasn’t going to follow the path set by the comics and pick up Captain America’s mantel after Steve Rogers dies? That may very well be the main reason why the Winter Soldier is returning in an already overstuffed movie.

Speaking of contracts, Chris Evans is rapidly running out of films on his, and if Marvel wants him to return for at least one of the Avengers: Infinity War movies, they need a way to take Steve Rogers out of the picture for a little while. Striking him down will give the rest of the MCU someone to grieve ... and allow for his grand, final return in a few years when everyone finally assembles to battle Thanos.

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