Let's be honest: Age of Ultron just wasn't the Avengers movie that fans were hoping for. It wasn't a bad movie, there was just too much going on at once and it felt more like setup for future movies than anything else.
One of those movies is Captain America: Civil War — and judging from the amount of hype surrounding the movie, it's set to be one of the biggest Marvel movies to date. From what the trailers have shown, it's the natural conclusion to the conflict between Chris Evans' Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man — something that's been brewing in the movies for a few years now.
Of course, the movie takes its name from the Marvel comic book event of the same name — but how much do the films and books actually share in common? It's impossible to tell for sure before the film's been released, but there's enough content in the trailers to figure out some of the major differences between the story of the film and the comics — long story short, it looks like Marvel Studios is more concerned with touching on the same themes as the comic books, rather than making a one-for-one adaptation.
The Story of Civil War
For those who have never read them, the plot of the Civil War comics centers around the Superhuman Registration Act, a bill that would officially register all known superhumans as government agents. Those who resist would be treated as villains themselves — though as the story opens, it appears as if the anti-registration side of the conflict will ultimately win out.
That's when things go bad: in Stamford, Conn., a group of young heroes named the New Warriors attempt to apprehend a villain known as Nitro. In retaliation, Nitro unleashes the full force of his explosive powers, completely eradicating several city blocks — including an elementary school. With over 600 people dead (including several dozen schoolchildren), the fight over superhuman registration is reignited, and the two sides of the conflict begin to form. Tony Stark becomes the face of the pro-registration side, and Captain America leads the anti-registration heroes.
From there, the comic diverges into several different stories: for instance, when Tony Stark and Captain America are arguing back and forth, Wolverine sets off to capture Nitro, and Spider-Man deals with the ramifications of revealing his secret identity. The event was all-encompassing, and just about every Marvel hero got some time in the spotlight.
The movie, on the other hand, is dealing with a much smaller cast of characters. There's still a major focus on keeping superhuman heroes under control, but the trailers seem to imply that Captain America: Civil War will focus on a few select individuals, rather than trying to cram every superhero in the Cinematic Universe into a two-hour movie. The biggest difference seems to be the Winter Soldier himself — Bucky Barnes wasn't really a major player in the comic books, but he appears to be central to the plot of the film.
The Major Players
From what the trailers have shown, Cap's stance on regulation largely stems from trying to protect the Winter Soldier, aka his old friend Bucky Barnes. The focus on protecting superhumans carries over from the comics, but it looks as if Cap's motivations will be far more personal in the film than that of the original comic books. Captain America: Civil War seems to be more about doing everything to protect your friends and ideals than anything else — which makes sense, especially given the reduced scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Unsurprisingly, Tony Stark's motivations seem much more straightforward than that of his comic book counterpart. Several films — most notably Avengers 2: Age of Ultron — depict Stark as someone doing his best to help the world, only to slowly realize that giving a few select individuals such responsibility will (and has) led to disaster. In the Captain America: Civil War trailers, Stark is portrayed as a sympathetic pragmatist — which is actually a pretty big departure from the Tony Stark of the Civil War comics.
In the comics, Captain America is depicted as less of a martyr and more of a classical symbol of freedom. To Cap, the Superhuman Registration Act is an infringement of basic human rights — and his fears are confirmed when the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. tries to arrest him before the act is even passed. Instead of the gradual build-up of the films, everything kicks off quickly in the comics — and once in hiding, Cap begins amassing anti-registration heroes in an effort to combat the growing pro-registration forces.
The comic book version of Tony Stark is portrayed as far more devious, almost acting as a supervillain at times. Stark was originally anti-registration — even going so far as to hire a supervillain to attack him as a way to prove that the bill was flawed — before realizing that the Superhuman Registration Act was, in fact, the best solution. He then manipulates a number of major heroes, while simultaneously constructing a massive prison and holding anti-registration heroes without trial. Needless to say, his characterization in the comics is far less sympathetic than the film's trailers make him out to be.
The End (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
At this point, there's no telling how the film will end, though it's easy to assume that all of the major players will survive — especially considering that Avengers: Infinity War is due out in 2018.
In the comics, however, Civil War made a huge impact. After the final battle in New York City, Captain America realized that he was wrong — with so many heroes causing so much damage, regulation was the right choice after all. Cap gives himself up to Iron Man and his pro-registration forces, after which many of the remaining anti-registration heroes go into hiding. The Negative Zone prison is completed, and the U.S. government institutes the "50 State Initiative," which sees each individual state receive its own super-powered team of crime-fighters. Tony Stark is even named the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., though his new appointment doesn't last for very long.
The biggest twist is that, while en-route to his trial, Captain America is seemingly assassinated by an agent of the Red Skull. This acted as the end for nearly all anti-registration activities, save for the actions of the Secret Avengers.
Obviously, the film probably won't have such a morbid, melancholy conclusion — though it's entirely possible that Marvel will use it as an opportunity to really change the status quo of the Cinematic Universe.
With any luck, Captain America: Civil War could end up being exactly what Marvel fans have been hoping for. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron wasn't exactly a bad movie, but it didn't tie the universe together like the first film did — with any luck, Civil War will do just that.
Plus, who doesn't want to see Spider-Man join the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Captain America: Civil War is set to debut on May 6.