There will be spoilers for any and all Marvel films and comic books that become relevant for this discussion. You have been warned.
I saw Ant-Man last week, which was a great film on its own, but it also devoted some time to setting up for the next Marvel film. And that’s okay, but it has me ready to go and watch a film that is still in fact being filmed. Since watching Captain America: Civil War isn’t an option, let’s speculate about it.
To grossly summarize, the comic book plot of Civil War featured more or less every Marvel character to ever grace the page, divided into opposing teams as regarding the new Superhuman Registration Act that occurred as a result of a superhero-related tragedy involving an explosive villain and a school full of children. Captain America (Steve Rogers), goes rogue, taking several other superheroes with him, on the grounds that the act is a violation of civil rights. Tony Stark (Iron Man), feeling guilty about his (very indirect) involvement with the tragedy, sides with the law. Spider-man winds up stuck between the two, though every character has difficult choices to make.
The movie will be different, because movies are different from comics, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is different from the one in which the comic Civil War plot occurred. So here are my speculations.
The disaster triggering the Superhuman Registration Act may have already happened. The events of Age of Ultron were a PR disaster for the Avengers, as we saw in Ant Man when Dr. Pym says they’re probably too busy dropping cities out of the sky to help him. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that there are powerful people out there protecting the world. On the other hand, sometimes those powerful people really, really screw up. Hence the Registration Act. There are rumors about another disaster involving Scarlet Witch and Crossbones, but I don’t know how accurate those rumors might be.
I have another theory about reasons for the Registration Act to happen, but first, let’s talk about who will be on which side.
Enter Tony Stark. Stark has a long history of acting to fix a problem, and having that fix blow up in his face and cause even more problems, then having the fixes to those problems also blow up, and so on. That’s how Ultron happened. He still wants to fix things, though. When people tell him about the new law, I imagine he’ll see it as a chance to finally put everything to rights.
Teaming up with Stark, I think we’ll have Maria Hill, War Machine (Colonel Rhodes), the Vision, and possibly a couple others if they don’t decide to remain neutral. Hill has already demonstrated her dedication to the law. Rhodes has a long friendship with Stark to swing him to his side, and has also been working as a superhero for the government for years at this point, and doesn’t seem to see a problem with it. Then there’s the Vision. Thanks to Vision’s previous incarnation as JARVIS, he is already well-inclined towards Stark, if only subconsciously. That won’t be why he sides with him, though. The Vision is a unique mix of human and computer. His computer half will run through calculations as to which path will lead to the fewest deaths and Stark’s side will come out on top. He may end up switching sides when new information comes along–more on that later. We may also have Spider-man, who is definitely in the film. The problem is that this version of Spider-man doesn’t have the same long history with the other heroes as he does in the comic books to sway his loyalties, and so the role he plays in the film is going to have to be different.
With the Captain, we’ll have Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), the Falcon (Sam Wilson), and I think Black Widow (Natasha Romanova). Scarlet Witch already mistrusts Stark, who built the bomb that destroyed her apartment and killed her parents when she was a child, and the “murder bot” that killed her brother in Age of Ultron. The Falcon has already shown a tendency to agree with Cap when it comes to politics. They’re both veterans with strong beliefs about what the law should and shouldn’t do. I’ve heard rumors that Natasha will be with Stark as a way of finally “going straight”, but I don’t believe them just yet. Thanks to Natasha’s history with both the KGB and SHIELD/Hydra, she’s already tired of being controlled by shady government forces. I suppose she could take the role Spider-man did in the comics and switch sides halfway through. We’ll have to see what Marvel does with her. Ant Man (Scott Lang, and possibly Wasp) will probably get involved too. They don’t want the Pym particle to get into even the most well-meaning government’s hands. Registration would ruin that plan. The end credits scene of Ant Man show Falcon saying he “knows a guy” to help them, and I think that’s our Scott Lang. They’ll get pulled in.
That still leaves a lot of characters in the middle ground.
Thor is on Asgard, and has plenty of shenanigans to deal with there without getting involved in Midgardian politics. Hulk (Bruce Banner) is in hiding. Even if he does show up in this movie, his divided loyalties will make it hard for him to pick a side. Hawkeye (Clint Barton) worked very hard to keep his family’s location off SHIELD records, and Registration will mess that up for him, but he may want to protect them and get them deeper into hiding rather than taking an active role in the fight. However, as his wife (whose name I don’t remember at the moment) said in Age of Ultron, the Avengers do need him. He’s their stability. He’ll get dragged in to it. Then there’s the Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes). We saw him in the Ant Man end credits scene being found by Cap and Falcon in a spot of trouble. He has enough on his plate without getting pulled into this fight, but if Cap and Falcon were already on the run in the end credits scene then he’s going to have to be involved. In addition, this is probably his last chance to reconcile with Cap before the Captain America (probably) gets himself assassinated (he might be killed in a regular old fight, but he’s going to die soon).
Nick Fury, who is pretending to be dead but puts in some random appearances, may also turn up, along with Agent Thirteen, who we last saw joining the CIA. Old Peggy Carter will probably show up too.
Now for my theory:
In the comics, the Registration Act was left deliberately ambiguous as to whether it was good or evil, but I think in this film they’re going to change that. We saw in Ant Man that Hydra is still alive and kicking, and wouldn’t they be interested in a way of knowing all the names and locations of the folks who might be a threat to them?
So I think Hydra is putting their support behind the Registration Act. They managed to infiltrate SHIELD and the government pretty well before the events of Winter Soldier, and they’re probably still there. Project Insight, which would have given them an easy way to identify and neutralize threats, didn’t work, so they’ll try a more subtle approach. This would mean the Winter Soldier, who knows how Hydra works and I imagine has been hunting down plenty of Hydra agents on his own, will have to get involved. When the Pro-Registration team finds out about Hydra’s involvement (with the Vision, they will) they’ll have to switch sides. Stark would be obliged to admit he was wrong, which would be a good experience for him. He still hasn’t got the hang of humility yet. Of course, he might not believe Hydra is involved when the evidence is first presented to him.
If Hydra is involved, the frustrating end of the comic’s Civil War (Cap realizes that in fighting, he is hurting the people he is trying to protect, and surrenders, then later gets assassinated) will have to change. The MCU public is probably tired of hearing how “Hydra caused…” and will take time to swing to Cap’s side, Some might even agree with Hydra about controlling superhuman activities, if not about everything else.
Those are my theories, and they might be all wrong. I don’t know how it will all end, except that there will be some setup for Ragnarok and Infinity War before the screen goes black, and I don’t really want to until I see the film. I’m just excited that it’s happening.
What are your ideas about Civil War?
I’d like to say that this twice a week posting schedule will work, but classes start next week and I have no idea. We’ll have to see what happens.