Captain America: Civil War is almost here. Without a doubt it's going to be the biggest Marvel movie of the year, a film where former friends become enemies and the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be forever changed.

It's also going to be jam-packed with characters new and old, as well as recurring plot threads from previous films. That is all to say that if you're not 100 percent up to date on the MCU, Captain America: Civil War is going to get awfully confusing awfully quick. Heck, even if you are up to date, the introduction of multiple new heroes and villains might still be enough to have you scratching your head as you walk out of the movie theater.

Not to worry. We're going to go over everything you need to know about Captain America: Civil War in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Ready? Let's get going.

What's up with Captain America: Civil War?

It's the biggest Marvel movie of the year! It's basically a new Avengers film in everything but name, as it features the most Marvel characters to appear in a movie yet.

Yeah, yeah, you already said that. I guess I'm just wondering where the "Civil War" part of the title comes from.

Right. The Civil War subtitle is there because this movie will have Captain America and Iron Man fighting each other, two former friends and allies turned enemies. The superhero community is divided over a few key issues, and that sees all the various heroes of the MCU picking between either team Captain America or team Iron Man.

In other words, it's basically Captain America v. Iron Man: Dawn of Money?

Yeah, kind of. It's a no-brainer that having two of the most popular Marvel characters duke it out on the big screen will make big bucks at the box office. But the subtitle, and the film itself, also takes inspiration from a Marvel comic event of the same name. Captain America and Iron Man (and their respective followers) fought in that too, though the reasons were a little different.

So why exactly are Iron Man and Captain America fighting in the movie version?

There are two major reasons for why the superheroes are going to war with one another. The first is Bucky Barnes.

Who is Bucky Barnes?

He's the Winter Soldier.

You lost me.

Okay, backing up. Bucky Barnes is Captain America's longtime friend. They served in World War II together, but Cap thought Bucky was killed in Europe during the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. In actuality, Bucky is taken captive and experimented on, becoming the brainwashed assassin Winter Soldier. He has a cool metal arm now.

Okay, I think I've seen or heard of that guy before.

Bucky played the lead villain role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Cap first learns Bucky is alive. In most of the movie Captain America is running from S.H.I.E.L.D. and trying to stop Hydra, but along the way he's also trying to save his friend. The two have a climactic showdown, and afterward it appears like Bucky is beginning to remember his former self. It's there where Civil War picks up.

All right, I know who Bucky/Winter Soldier is now. But why is he a cause for all the heroes to fight one another?

During his time as Winter Soldier, Bucky did some bad, bad things. He killed a lot of people, and was also at least partially responsible for some of the events that happened in the Winter Soldier film. Various governments want Bucky to answer for his decades of war crimes. Captain America, on the other hand, doesn't find that fair, and is trying to help his friend escape capture and possibly execution. Some of the heroes in the MCU don't think that's a good idea and think Captain America should be turning Bucky in.

That makes sense. What is the other reason for why everybody is punching each other?

The next reason comes as a direct result of the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Did you watch Age of Ultron?


Short version: Tony Stark aka Iron Man makes a super powerful AI hoping that it would be able to help protect the Earth. Things go very bad, and the AI, Ultron, decides that humanity is evil and seeks to destroy all of mankind after spending about 5 minutes on the Internet.

That escalated quickly.

Yep. Ultron's master plan is to lift a giant chunk of Earth way into the sky and then drop it. The size of the object falling back to the ground would decimate the entire planet in a way not so different from how a massive meteor (supposedly) wiped out the dinosaurs.

I'm assuming the Avengers stop Ultron?

You would be correct, but not without costs. Tony is pretty shaken from the event. The U.S. government begins to try and regulate superheroes, given how their actions led to the creation of a killer robot that almost destroyed the planet. Tony, who made Ultron and feels responsible for the whole affair, jumps on board with this government regulation plan. Other heroes, like Captain America, don't think it's a great idea to become lackeys of the government.

He has a good reason to be suspicious of this kind of idea too. Captain America: The Winter Soldier saw Cap fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D., a powerful U.S. government defense agency that had secretly been infiltrated by Hydra, who are essentially evil neo-Nazis with super advanced technology. If there had been a law in place keeping superheroes loyal to the government at that point in time, it's likely Hydra would have taken over the world.

So everybody is fighting because one side is pro-government regulation and the other isn't? Plus Captain America is trying to protect Bucky?

Nailed it.

Okay, I think I understand what's going on. But where does Spider-Man come into this? I saw him in the trailer and he looked super cool!

Yeah! Spider-Man is officially joining the MCU. It's kind of a big deal.

Why wasn't he part of it before?

It gets kind of complicated, but basically Sony Pictures owned the rights to make Spider-Man films thanks to an old contract that was in effect from before Marvel really got into the movie business. That meant Disney, who owns Marvel, didn't have access to the character when it came to movies for a long time.

Gotcha. But if Sony owns the rights, why is he joining the Marvel universe now?

Good question. Sony and Marvel finally struck a deal, so Spider-Man will officially be joining the Marvel film universe in Civil War on the side of team Iron Man. Marvel will also be making a new standalone Spider-Man movie.

Isn't it kind of weird though to just throw Spider-Man into the group all of a sudden? And who's under the mask?

Sort of, but people know who Spider-Man is. He's been in five major movies in barely more than a decade, so moviegoers are familiar with him. He's also Marvel's poster boy. People love Spider-Man, and having a great Spider-Man in the movie is only going to help it sell more tickets. As for the actor underneath the mask, that would be Tom Holland.

That doesn't sound like Andrew Garfield.

You're correct. Marvel recast the character for his Marvel universe debut.

Makes sense I guess. So what's the deal with that cat guy, Black Panther? I've never seen him before.

Black Panther is by far the most prominent black character in all of the Marvel universe. He's the king of a super-advanced country in Africa called Wakanda, and when he's not ruling his country he's out fighting to keep it safe with the Avengers. The character will soon be getting his own standalone Marvel movie, so he's being introduced first in Civil War. He's played by Chadwick Boseman.

He sounds and looks badass. Why is he on team Iron Man in the film?

It's unclear exactly what Black Panther's motivations are for becoming involved in the superhero conflict or why he sides with Iron Man. In fact, the motivations for many characters, including Spider-Man, are still unknown. But we can assume that they are generally on board with the idea of superheroes having to register with the government. That makes even more sense for Black Panther, since he basically is the government back in his home country.

Is there anything else I should know before I go see the movie?

Not really. If you want to be up to speed without having to watch the entire MCU, watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron should cover it. Enjoy the movie, we hear Spider-Man is awesome.

Thanks, I will!

Captain America: Civil War is in theaters May 6.

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