DISCLAIMER: If your first response after reading this is to immediately argue about why Marvel Civil War won't happen because of reasons not listed here, please read this article that I wrote over a month ago. I guarantee I already addressed and refuted any argument you might have.
What a few weeks it's been for Marvel Cinematic Universe news, right? If you haven't been keeping up, let me just summarize: EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING.
And a few days ago, what I've been speculating on for months seemed to have been confirmed: Robert Downey, Jr. is negotiating a deal to appear in [Captain America 3](movie:994409), and it's setting the stage for Marvel Civil War.
But, because this is the internet, while some fans are buzzing with excitement, others still refuse to acknowledge it might actually happen (really, guys?), with the most common argument being, "We already know they're doing an Infinity Gauntlet storyline, so the Civil War can't happen, HAH!" Prompting this reaction from me every time:
To this I say, not so fast, kids. Actually...it can happen. I think it will. There's room enough for both storylines. And if you give me a few minutes of your time, I'll explain how. As with the previous article, I'm not saying this is exactly how it will happen. I'm simply making a case for how it could.
Ready? Onward, Marvel soldiers, marching as to (Civil) War!
The Marvel Cosmic Universe and the Marvel Earthbound Universe are two separate things
When fans hear the word "Marvel," they tend to associate it with capes and spandex, not laser guns and spaceships. In other words, the "Marvel" that most moviegoing fans now immediately think of is Marvel Studios, not Marvel Comics. Fans of comic book movies aren't necessarily readers of or knowledgeable about comic books in 2014, and there's nothing wrong with that.
So it may surprise many MCU fans who aren't very familiar with comic canon that Marvel actually has a complex and extensive history of space-based comic books and story lines. And make no mistake, while it's pleased so far with the success of the MCU, Marvel Studios has always intended to branch out into the cosmic end of things. And that's exactly what [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) was intended to do: Introduce fans to a new side of Marvel they'd never before seen and let them know that the space-based side of Marvel had officially arrived.
Many fans have speculated about a crossover, assuming that at some point, the Guardians and Avengers would be sharing some screen time, whether in [The Avengers 3](movie:738027) or [Guardians of the Galaxy 2](movie:1081113). And while that may very well happen, it also wouldn't surprise me if Marvel brought them together briefly only to establish a base story and then keep the two completely apart, or not have a crossover at all. As Guardians' bonkers box office numbers showed, the galactic side of the MCU does not need to use a team-up with the Avengers as a crutch. At the moment, Marvel Studios are a cinematic storyteller nonpareil, and a crossover would make sense only if it helped the larger story progress. And while that would understandably need to cover a lot of ground on the big screen, it's not impossible, because...
Marvel has more room to maneuver than you think
Marvel has built up enough momentum and goodwill from fans that it could easily expand from 2 movies a year to 3 or even - dare I say it? - 4. Lest you worry about franchise fatigue setting in, this is exactly what keeping the space side and Earth side of the MCU (mostly) separate would help avoid, as they are very, very different beasts. Tired of traditional superheroes? Great, there aren't really any of those in the Marvel Cosmic Universe, but a lot of spaceships and aliens and sci-fi. It's space opera, not a superhero movie. The same works in reverse. Sci-fi not your jam? That's cool, Marvel still has all your superheroes on the ground.
So yes, the Marvel Cosmic Universe is coming: We already know [Guardians of the Galaxy 2](movie:1081113) is on the way, along with [Doctor Strange](movie:559685), [Ms. Marvel](movie:949779), [The Inhumans](movie:910490), all of which have been announced as being in development. We already know most of the films in development on the Avengers side of things. And we know that Marvel is planning on expanding its television branch of the expanding universe, with [Marvel's Agent Carter](series:1119765) debuting mid-season and [Daredevil](movie:47230) launching on Netflix, along with [Iron Fist](movie:6462), [Luke Cage](movie:586393), [Jessica Jones](series:1168773) and a Defenders miniseries.
Which leads to the next checkmark.
There will be more than enough characters to bring the Civil War to life
Along with, "But they're already doing the Infinity Gauntlet storyline!" the second most-used argument by naysayers is, "There aren't nearly enough characters in the MCU to support Civil War. Never gonna happen."
But what fans using this argument seem to keep forgetting is that they're thinking of the MCU as it stands now, not as it will be. We know that, at least with as much certainty as we can, the start of the Civil War storyline will begin in [Captain America 3](movie:994409) when Iron Man crashes Cap's party and the war begins. Some fans are saying, "This doesn't make sense, it's happening too fast," but it's actually a logical leap to make considering we know that Steve Rogers will be forming his own team at the end of [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035). The gunpowder will be packed in the Avengers sequel, but the fuse will be lit in Cap 3 when Iron Man shows up.
And remember, Captain America 3 isn't hitting theaters until 2016. That's two whole years from now. By that time, all of Marvel's Netflix shows should have debuted (or at least cast) and even if they haven't by then, they certainly will have by the time [The Avengers 3](movie:738027) hits theaters in 2018. That means that by the time the Civil War kicks off, the following characters will almost definitely have been introduced: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Loki, Agent Coulson, the rest of the [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.](series:722469) (who may or may not turn out to be other heroes/villains), Deathlok, Falcon, Peggy Carter, Crossbones, Mockingbird, Sharon Carter, The Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, Ultron, Ant-Man (Scott Lang AND Hank Pym), Pepper Potts (who may or may not appear as Rescue), Iron Patriot, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and possibly even Spider-Woman.
If you're keeping count, that's at least 30 characters, most of which were directly involved in the Civil War comic book story arc and subsequent tie-ins. And I haven't even mentioned most of the supporting characters from the already-established films and TV shows.
The reality is that there is no way Marvel will be able to incorporate every single character from the comic books into the movie adaptations. It just won't work. It would be a mess. Some characters won't make the cut out of necessity, but that's not a bad thing. It just means it will make for a tighter, more streamlined plot, with all of the gravity of the story but without the clusterf*ck of characters that ruins a movie. Surely you've not forgotten Spider-Man 3.
With all that in mind...do you still think they won't have enough characters to pull it off now?
There are too many MCU projects in development to focus on one major storyline
When you think about everything that's on the table for the next few years, the question suddenly becomes less, "How will the Infinity Gauntlet and Civil War storylines both fit in the MCU?" and more, "How in the world can all of those movies and characters be contained in only one major storyline?"
The answer is, they can't. And I don't think they will. I truly think Marvel will want to keep their Marvel Earthbound Universe and Marvel Cosmic Universes as separate as possible to give them more room to maneuver. And I believe that because of this, we'll see the Infinity Gauntlet storyline played out (mostly) in space, while the Civil War storyline will play out on Earth. I broke it down in the previous Civil War article I wrote a month ago:
Right now, that main storyline is the aforementioned Infinity Gauntlet arc, and that story is currently unfolding in the Marvel Cosmic Universe. Think about it: Right now, we know of three Infinity Stones (or Gems) revealed, along with the Gauntlet, and all four pieces are in the Cosmic end of things. The Tesseract, along with the Gauntlet, are secured in Asgard. The Collector has the Aether from Thor: The Dark World housed in his collection in Knowhere (we'll assume it wasn't destroyed in the explosion), and the Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy is now in the hands of what's left of the Nova Corp. That means there are three more to find in the MCU, assuming the "One down, five to go" tally by The Collector in the mid-credits scene of Thor 2 is correct. It's all but certain that one of the remaining Stones will be the focus of Doctor Strange, and that the last two will also be found in space, not Earth.
There is a rumor floating around that the third Avengers film will actually be split into two movies, mostly to make room for the battle with Thanos. Still, if the decision is indeed made to split the third installment into two films, it doesn't make sense that a single battle will account for needing two whole films to let it unfold.
But two films is plenty enough time to have two different storylines working simultaneously and still give ample development to each. And it is more than enough time for two teams of superheroes - the Guardians and Avengers - to join forces and then split up again in order to pursue their own agendas.
And by the way...
Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans aren't going anywhere
There are some savvy fans who understand that Chris Evans' contract runs out after the third Avengers film, and that Robert Downey, Jr. isn't slated to stick around forever, either. But let's be honest with ourselves here: RDJ is pretty much a Marvel man for life. He loves the role, and Marvel is willing throw whatever amount of money he wants at him to keep reprising it.
That being said, there are some who are saying that Marvel would "never" let an iconic character like Iron Man become "the bad guy," and to those people I say: Read the comics. The tragedy of the Civil War wasn't that either side was wholly right or wrong, but that both sides each had valid reasons for believing as they did. Iron Man wanted to keep the people of the world safe. So did Captain America; he just felt the government was going about it in the wrong way. They never stopped loving and respecting one another - they simply couldn't agree on an issue that each felt fundamentally in their hearts.
And even if Iron Man were painted as a villain, do you really have such little faith in Marvel's scriptwriters and RDJ's acting abilities to believe he couldn't pull off being on the wrong side and still be beloved by audiences? Really? It would be great to see the character take on more meaning and depth, and challenge the actor in a way he hasn't been challenged yet in the role.
So that leaves Chris Evans. He's famously gone on record as saying that he wants to quit being in front of the camera when his contract expires to focus on being behind it. However, a scant few months ago he retracted his statement, saying clearly that he would be open continuing to act in order to do more Marvel films and that we shouldn't take the shield away from him yet.
Which leads me to believe that at some point, he had a talk with Marvel execs who explained the plans they had in store and he realized that he had the opportunity to be a part of something pretty incredible if he stuck with it for just a few more films. There is no other reason an actor who had originally wanted out as badly as he did (and remember, he was also the one original Avenger actor to be extremely wary of signing to long-term contract from the start) would change his mind. It's either money, and lots of it, or he's seen future plans for Cap's character and his fire has been rekindled.
My guess? He exits the story the way he does in the comic books. If you're a Marvel fan or have read Civil War, you know what comes next...
Captain America is assassinated. Not in Captain America 3, and probably not even Avengers 3, but in a fourth Captain America or Avengers film (though it could happen earlier). All the major players are already there, save Doctor Faustus. Hydra operatives are already in full force, and Crossbones and Sharon Carter were already put into play in The Winter Soldier, as were Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Iron Man and Black Widow, of course, are solidly established.
So the movies follow the comic books, the battles of the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually mean something for once (it's hard to feel true emotion when you know the heroes are all going to make it out unscathed), and Chris Evans gets to end his Marvel contract in a blaze of glory and what would have the potential to become a truly iconic scene in movie history. Everyone wins.
I truly don't think we have to worry about Downey and Evans leaving any time soon. Marvel has a good thing going, with plans far too epic, for the two to walk away from right now.
As with all these MCU pieces I write, some of this will require a bit of faith on your part in the fact that though it's speculation, these are logical hypotheses I write based on what we already know for a fact, what I know of the industry, and, yes, sometimes just a gut feeling. So far, this combination has't failed me. So I ask you to bear with me a bit longer.
We know we'll have the room. We know we'll have the time. We know we'll have the characters. And we know the most pivotal characters of all will probably stick around.
Is there any further reason to think we won't find ourselves in a Civil War?