What connects Marvel comics with Martin Luther King Jr? The answer: Anthony Mackie, the up and coming American film and stage actor who is currently portraying superhero Sam Wilson, better known as current Avenger Falcon, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Mackie debuted in his Marvel role last year in the critically acclaimed [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973), and has since appeared briefly both in [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) and Ant-Man, setting up his appearance in next year's Captain America: Civil War as a fully fledged member of the Avengers team. Mackie is also set to take on the role of the iconic civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in HBO's All the Way, and his real-life political stance has been widely publicised just as much as those of the characters he plays on-screen.
Mackie spoke to Comic Book Resources a few days back about accepting the Martin Luther King Jr. role and, more importantly in terms of this article, what we can expect from the highly anticipated [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409).
According to Mackie, the political debacle we'll be watching unfold in Captain America: Civil War will be one that is relevant to and aligned with the current political state (presumably that of America).
"I feel like "Captain America" is all about the ups and downs of the society that we live in today. It's really genius how Marvel can take fictional characters -- superheroes at that -- and then take the politics of today and wrap them all together and make you believe and buy into it."
This makes a lot of sense, given both the source material from which Captain America: Civil War is drawing from and the past work of directors Anthony and Joe Russo (commonly known as the Russo brothers), namely the last iteration in the Captain America franchise, The Winter Soldier.
The Winter Soldier's Influence
The Winter Soldier remains one of the best received films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was praised for its handling of Cold War paranoia and government corruption themes into what was still a massively successful action blockbuster.
So it was no surprise when the Russo brothers were brought back on board for Civil War, a film that draws heavily from the [Marvel: Civil War](tag:2346746) comic books and their political slant.
The Politics of Civil War
Civil War is a huge, if polarising, event in the Marvel universe, encompassing many individuals and superhero groups coming together and breaking apart on opposing sides over an issue which had long been brewing in narrative tensions and collateral damage.
We already know Captain America: Civil War will involve Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) having a bit of a falling out, diving the Avengers on opposing sides of what is essentially an ideological and political issue.
In the comics Tony Stark choses the registration side out of guilt after being confronted by a grieving mother, whereas in the MCU it's likely that the events of Age of Ultron (which were essentially his fault) will have a bearing on why Stark chooses his particular side. Steve Rogers opposes him out of a belief that super-powered beings should not be used to fulfil governmental purposes, as their power can be abused for political favour:
"Don't play politics with me, Hill. Super heroes need to stay above that stuff or Washington starts telling us who the super-villains are." Captain America (Civil War)
Funnily enough a number of the public comments on the CBR transcript of Mackie's interview were largely negative about the fact that politics would be a central facet of Captain America: Civil War, which is fairly amusing when you consider both the massive success of The Winter Soldier with it's political themes and the fact that the storyline that Marvel is adapting into the MCU is absolutely a political one, albeit with a lot of superheroes punching each other, which is always fun.
I understand the fear that politics can often bog down a fun action narrative, which is what the MCU has become famed for, but with the Russo brothers at the helm here's to hoping we'll get both. It also fair to point out that Civil War wasn't a universally well received narrative in the comics - just as many Marvel fans hated Civil War as loved it and opinion on it remains fairly polarising. Here's hoping that the upcoming film will be more consistently received when it releases next May.