In October 2014, Marvel Studios revealed its upcoming Phase Three slate and made fan's brains explode.
For many, the crown jewel in that announcement was "Captain America: Civil War." Marvel's follow-up to the critically and fan-acclaimed "Winter Soldier" pits the titular hero against Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man in the aftermath of "Age of Ultron's" world-changing events, and as comic book readers know, the resulting rift was cut long and deep across the Marvel U.
Among the returning crew are the Russo Brothers, back as directors, hot off their "Winter Soldier" success -- and they're bringing a few of their previous film's cast with them.
With Hawkeye recently revealed to be the latest Avenger to join the story's roster of heroes, CBR presents a primer on everything you need to know before "Civil War" hits theaters.
What It's About
It remains to be seen how much of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's original crossover event will make it into the script by "Winter Soldier" scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, but like the comic, the film will focus on the Superhero Registration Act.
This comes into play following the world-changing (and world-shattering) events of "Age of Ultron," when the people are Earth are no doubt in damage control in the aftermath of the latest epic brawl fought by its mightiest heroes. The law requires anyone with abilities to be catalogued to better assist the governments of the world in tracking them, should another Ultron-level crisis rear its collateral damage-y head.
While many characters find themselves in favor of the act, Steve Rogers is against it. Rogers' choice brings him into direct conflict with one of the Act's staunchest supporters: Tony Stark.
The once and future Iron Man largely blames himself for the state of a post-Ultron world, as he had a hand in creating the very thing that almost destroyed the people he swore to protect. The Act lights the fuse on a civil war between the two Avengers, as circumstances force them to defend their positions at the cost of their friendship, with Iron Man emerging as a villain of sorts in the film. Expect lots of kick-punching between Cap and Iron Man, the fallout of which will ripple effect across the MCU -- all the way up to "Infinity War."
In the comic, Cap became a fugitive -- forced to go underground before leading a resistance effort that waged guerilla-like attacks on Iron Man and the SRA's allies. While the film will most assuredly not follow the book's plot exactly, dollar-to-donuts, the basics will fuel Cap's arc in "Civil War."
Who's Definitely In It
When Marvel announced the project in the Fall of 2014, fans had to puff on their inhalers overtime at the prospect of Cap and Iron Man duking it out on the big screen. Some no doubt fainted as more casting rumors trickled out from the event. Here's what we know so far:
Kevin Feige confirmed that Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) will make his first live-action appearance in te Cap sequel before headlining his own movie.
"He is definitively a big part of 'Civil War,'" Feige told reporters at the 2014 event. "We will meet him for the first time in "Civil War," in costume."
In addition to Black Panther, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) will also enlist for "War." Some of "Winter Soldier's" best moments came from the interactions between Natasha and Steve, so her presence in this crossover event is a welcome one. But the big question is: Which side will she take -- Cap or Stark's?
We should have a stronger idea as to the answer to this question by the end of "Age of Ultron." Forcing such a wild card to choose a side between friends is ripe with conflict. But her strong ties to both heroes promises to create some compelling drama, on and off the battlefield, once the fighting starts.
Clint Barton was originally planned to have an appearance in "Winter Soldier," in a glorified cameo that would have found him joining S.H.I.E.L.D. in the hunt for Captain America. It's unclear as to how big a role Hawkeye will play in the film, but fans can expect him to have a significant presence -- much more than a cameo. And expect spark-age between him and partner-in-crime Black Widow, as the two will bring an interesting dynamic to the event fracturing the MCU. Like Widow, Hawkeye's loyalties fall in the grey area. In the past, Renner has voiced his character's more "neutral" stance in comparison to other Marvel heroes. If anything can push him out of his comfort zone, it's "Civil War."
Falcon (Anthony Mackie) will be back at Cap's side, this time in a new costume.
"The new Falcon suit is gonna be much better than the old Falcon suit," Mackie said in a recent interview. "You gotta rebuild."
It's ironic to hear Falcon talking about rebuilding at a time when the MCU is on the brink of falling apart. Expect to see Falcon sharing screen time with another hold over from "Winter Soldier" -- The Winter Soldier.
Last time we saw Bucky Barnes, he suffered a crisis of conscience (after also suffering several body blows and a broken arm.) His whereabouts are unknown, but Cap will no doubt be on the trail to help redeem his old friend-turned-enemy. What is the WS to do now that he knows (brainwashing be damned!) who he really is? And what about the hints in "Winter Soldier" that maybe Bucky had a hand in assassinating Tony Stark's parents?
Should that plot element pan out, it would immediately put Cap and Iron Man at odds, as the latter seeks to dispense some ol' fashioned repulsor ray justice on the former's pal. Again, nothing is confirmed, but the smart money's on Bucky playing an essential role in driving a wedge between the two Avengers.
Crossbones (Frank Grillo) rounds out the "Winter Soldier" characters reunion touring in "Civil War." Last time we saw HYDRA's loyal badass, he looked like a burnt pizza. Those physical scars scorched his already-villainous insides, and Grillo can't wait to see his character get some payback on The First Avenger.
"['Winter Soldier'] was only a taste of what's to come with the next film, and I couldn't be more humbled and excited," Grillo said in late 2014.
If the rumors are true that Crossbones is the film's main (read: more traditional) villain, then that raises a big question mark about who actor Daniel Bruhl will be playing in the film.
Bruhl, Oscar-nominated for his supporting role in "Rush" opposite Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, is rumored to play baddie Baron Zemo. How this would play into the overarching Registration Act remains to be seen.
Who Might Be In It
Does "Civil War" have room for the recently-acquired Spider-Man?
Fans of the comic know of the pivotal role Peter Parker played, with the hero ultimately "outing" himself to the world in an attempt to inspire other superheroes to do the same. When news hit that Sony and Marvel had reached a deal on the web-slinger, the rumor mill was quick to point to "Civil War" as the film where he would make his entrance into the MCU. Since then, rumblings indicate that we could first see Spidey in "Doctor Strange," coming November 2016 -- seven months ahead of Cap's third outing.
Using "Strange" as a launch pad of sorts for the hero makes sense…ish. It gives Marvel time to ramp audiences up to his first "official" MCU appearance, instead of just air dropping him into "Civil War" without any set-up. Unless the filmmakers have a plan in store to smoothly transition him into a movie that's already full with four Avengers in main roles, and a host of others ready to join in the battle.
Either way, fans only lose if he fails to appear in "Civil War," so it's a good thing the odds are Spidey'll be swinging into the fray. The story is too big for him to sit on the sidelines, and it's doubtful that Disney and Marvel can resist the piles of box office to be earned by touting Cap, Iron Man and Spider-Man being in the same movie.
"Civil War" hits theaters May 6, 2016. Get excited.