Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why the Civil War Needs to be BIG

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or if you’ve caught anything I’ve written on other Marvel-related sites, you may have seen comments from me to the effect that Captain America: Civil War shouldn’t just be a one-and-done movie, but needs to have consequences that last into other movies and TV shows.  Of course, this sentiment has not been popular with everyone, so I’m going to take some time over the next couple of weeks (well before I start talking about Civil War in depth) to talk about how and why Civil War needs to be an event like it was in the comics.  This article will focus on why it needs to be a major event in the MCU.  Check back next week and the week after for my thoughts on what this might look like based on the movies and TV shows that have been announced thus far.

Before I get started, however, I want to address one argument against my position:  the MCU in general (and this movie in particular) is too small to do the comic book Civil War justice.  Simply put, there is no disagreeing with that.  At the time of the Civil War in Marvel Comics, there were thousands of heroes and villains, and dozens of different teams, including multiple Avengers and X-Men teams.  There were also many issues of comics coming out every week which could feature some tie in with the event.  By contrast, the MCU today has around 40-50 heroes (depending on your definition of “hero”), of whom 10 will be off-Earth during the Civil War.  Where the comic book Civil War was an event mini-series of 7 issues (to say nothing of tie-ins), Captain America: Civil War is going to be a single movie of about 2-2½ hours.  Simply put, Marvel doesn’t have the time or roster to do the actual comic Civil War in the movie.

But that’s not what I’m looking for.  Rather, I’m looking for Marvel Studios do the Civil War in their own way, with the resources and characters at their disposal, but to do it in a big way.  This Civil War should (following the example of the comic) be more than just a single one-and-done movie.

So with that out of the way, here is

Why I Think the Civil War Needs to be BIG

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The Comic Book Version Was MASSIVE

Fundamentally, this is the place to start:  the comic book Civil War was a 7-issue event, but it also included no less than 182 different comic book tie-ins.  The results of the Civil War were felt in the pages of just about every comic book Marvel published for the next several years.  The events of the Civil War eventually expanded from the United States to draw heroes from around the world (Canada, England, and France, among other places) into the conflict.

Just about every major event to happen in Marvel Comics in the last decade or so—the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign, and the Siege of Asgard especially—can be traced back to the results of the Civil War

Given the massive scope of the comic book version of Civil War, it would make a lot of sense for Captain America: Civil War to expand its scope beyond that single movie and include tie-ins with the other movies and TV shows of Phase 3.

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This Conflict Has Been Building Almost as Long as the MCU

Avengers: Age of Ultron would stand as a major counter-argument to my previous point.  In the comics, the “Age of Ultron” event was a 10-issue event which included no less than 18 tie-in comics featuring all of Marvel’s most popular books, heroes, and teams.  The MCU version, however, only involved a 2½ hour movie and a couple passing references in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ant-Man.  If Marvel could condense the years-long (multiple-alternate-future-spanning) Age of Ultron into about a week, why shouldn’t they do the same with the Civil War?

Answer:  Because while Ultron was developed and defeated in the same movie, the whole MCU has been building up to a conflict over freedom and security (the Civil War).

The build-up can be traced back to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s appearance in Iron Man, but it’s not really obvious until The Incredible Hulk, when General Ross hunts down Bruce Banner.  Ross is not just motivated by a desire to “register” him—his primary motivation is the desire to replicate the Hulk and create an army of Hulks—but ensuring security (at the expense of the Hulk’s freedom) is a definite motivator.

Iron Man 2 is the movie when this becomes the most obvious—they dedicate an entire congressional hearing to the need for superhumans like Iron Man to be registered and put to work for the government.  In the end Tony makes Senator Stern look like an idiot, but that is not enough to diminish Stern’s efforts to control Iron Man.

The ending of The Avengers also furthers the build-up to Civil War when a politician calls for the Avengers to be held accountable for the Chitauri invasion.  Though very little was done with this at the time, it was a definite call for superheroes to be registered and held accountable for their actions for the sake of security.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron both also included some nods to the question of security vs. freedom.  In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Insight Program—and Zola’s program directing it—was definitely an effort at ensuring security at the expense of freedom.  The Ultron program in Age of Ultron was also intended to ensure security, though the loss of freedom it would have entailed was not recognized at the time or important to the plot.  Even more than that, however, after Ultron’s creation (and after the Hulk’s rampage through South Africa), Maria Hill told the Avengers that there were multiple calls from the international community for them to be held accountable for the destruction they had wrought.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has also explored the concept of superhuman registration with the introduction of the Index and their conflict with the Inhumans at the end of season 2.  Since then Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has introduced far more superhumans in the form of Inhumans who may be affected by the Civil War and Sokovia Accords.

Even Jessica Jones got in on the action with an episode focused on showing the response of some regular New Yorkers to the existence of superheroes.

Long story short, the lead-up to the Civil War has been in full swing for quite a while, and for all of that to be solved in a single 2-hour movie would feel very anticlimactic.

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The Global Scope of This Movie

The majority of Marvel movies to-date have taken place within the continental United States.  Leaving cosmic adventures out of the equation, Thor: The Dark World (London) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (Sokovia and Africa) were the only two movies with a global scope.  However, in contrast to those two movies, Captain America: Civil War looks to be the most global movie yet, introducing the third international hero in the MCU in Black Panther (after Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) as well as other international characters and settings.  But even more global than the characters and settings is the scope.  The inciting event of this conflict is the United Nations’ decision to adopt the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement establishing guidelines for the governance of superhumans.  Can you get any more global than the United Nations bringing together all the nations of the world to oversee the Avengers (and other superhumans)?

Simply put, the global scope of this movie makes it virtually impossible that the Civil War would leave anyone unaffected.

Could we see this exact scene in May?
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Actions Need to Have Consequences

Captain America: Civil War will see Captain America and Iron Man on different sides of a major ideological divide.  This is not to say that the conflict will not also be deeply personal on both sides, but it does mean that this conflict will likely be about more than just what to do with the Winter Soldier.  By the end of the movie, it is likely that the Civil War will have resulted in casualties on both sides—and if there are casualties, I don’t think any number of common threats will be able to reunite the heroes permanently.  And given the ideological divide behind these two teams, I don’t think Stark or Rogers will switch sides within a 2-hour movie.

This movie is about consequences:  the consequences of Sokovia and Ultron, the consequences of Bucky’s actions as the Winter Soldier, and the consequences of the Civil War itself.  And the consequences of the movie need to be lasting if it is going to succeed.

Remember, this is not Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which it looks like Batman and Superman are going to fight for a while before Wonder Woman pulls them together to stop Doomsday.  This is Captain America: Civil War, and a Civil War has consequences.

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This Sets Up Phase 3

What is Marvel’s Phase 3 going to look like?  From what we know so far, it seems pretty clear that over half the movies in Phase 3 will introduce new heroes (Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans—honorable mention to Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and about a third will have cosmic-level consequences for the universe as a whole (Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2—possibly also Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2).  What better way to set all of this up than with a majorly-divisive Civil War which splits the established heroes into two sides which are looking to recruit the emerging new heroes to replace those who fell in the conflict?

Additionally, a far-reaching conflict which leaves the heroes divided and broken would be the perfect set up for Avengers: Infinity War at the culmination of Phase 3.  During those movies, Thanos will have to come to Earth to claim at least one of the Infinity Stones (Vision’s Mind Stone?  Doctor Strange’s Soul/Time Stone?) to complete his Infinity Gauntlet.  Captain America: Civil War would be the perfect movie to divide the Earth’s heroes and leave them vulnerable to Thanos, who would likely defeat the divided heroes quite handily.  However, when he does so, Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 becomes the perfect movie to reunite the heroes against the cosmically-greater threat of Thanos.


Marvel’s comic book Civil War was a massive event which eventually drew every hero and team in Marvel Comics into the conflict.  The consequences of the Civil War lasted through at least 5 years of comics and eventually led to the destruction of Asgard and repeal of the Superhuman Registration Act.  Many heroes were killed in the conflict, including Captain America himself.

Marvel Studios certainly can’t make Captain America: Civil War a direct adaptation of the Civil War storyline, but that’s not to say that it shouldn’t still be a major movie event with long-lasting consequences which are felt all through Marvel’s Phase 3.  They’ve been building this conflict up since the MCU started in 2008, and have used both their movies and TV shows to do it.  So anything less than a major event would be a bit of a letdown.

Do you think that Captain America: Civil War should see both the beginning and the end of the Civil War, or do you want to see it carried through into other movies and TV shows?  How do you think the consequences of this movie should play out through the rest of Marvel’s Phase 3?  Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great potingan . Greetings readers :)