When the trailer for the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War dropped last week something a little strange happened. Even those of us who hadn't read the comics from which the story takes its source knew well enough what the central conflict was going to be: the breakdown of the relationship between Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)
But, Shia Surprise! The trailer landed and tasted less of Iron Man and more of the Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
This is actually a very smart move from the Russo Brothers, because it's impossible to do a "true" adaptation of Civil War from page to screen. Not only is the Marvel Cinematic Universe missing the years of building tensions between superheroes, the government and the general public, it's also missing the vast majority of the playing characters.
Furthermore there's the fact that each character in the MCU operates on a different continuity from their comic book counterparts to take into account. Each character involved has a slightly different backstory and different personality traits where we find them now as opposed to how they appeared in the comic book version, and the relationship between Cap and Stark is no exception to this.
So instead of struggling through what would've been a half formed, incomplete take on the Civil War comic books the Anthony and Joe Russo have instead linked it up with the preceding Captain America film, The Winter Soldier, which makes a hell of a lot more sense at this juncture. Good going Russos, I knew we could count on you.
Joe Russo: "It was important for us to make sure that you very clearly understood that this is a companion to Winter Soldier. It’s not a companion to Age Of Ultron, this is not a companion to Infinity War…"
Can The Real Bucky Barnes Please Stand Up?
But who is Bucky Barnes now? The Russos have made it pretty clear that the Bucky in Civil War is going to be someone entirely unlike what we've seen before:
Joe Russo: "[Bucky's] memories are foggy, but he has them. He’s also different now. There’s a part of his personality that was under mind control, and he murdered a lot of people. So he’s got a very complicated history. Who is that person? How does that character move forward? He’s not Bucky Barnes anymore. He’s not the Winter Soldier anymore. He’s something in-between."
So Bucky Barnes is set to function as the central point of Captain America: Civil War, with his memories regained(ish), he is forced to go on the run from both the government and the Avengers themselves.
The trailer sets up a scenario in which Bucky appears to have been framed, wanted by the government for crimes new and old. A building explodes, people stream out into the street as Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) looks on. "You’re a wanted man." Steve says to Bucky via voiceover, aligning him with this incident. But he responds, "I don’t do that anymore."
So the government is sending soldiers after him, but best buddy Steve is having none of it and defies the accords handed down by General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) to stand with his friend. But how do we reconcile the Bucky Barnes of Captain America: The First Avenger with the Winter Soldier and the man he will become in Civil War? Who would stand to gain from framing Bucky for these crimes? And most importantly, how did he get his arm stuck in that vice?
Anthony Russo: "All we can say about that is certainly The Winter Soldier has a very complicated history as an assassin and a weapon of Hydra – and that history ends up pulling him into a new conflict."
Certainly it's going to be difficult to reconcile that particular psychic split, so we can expect to see Bucky experiencing a pretty intense inner struggle of character, something that the Russos have proven they're pretty good at handling.
As for Sebastian Stan himself, he gave us a small insight into what to expect from his character in Civil War, promising that the third Captain America film will answer the question of what Bucky has become, and where he goes from here:
"What have we gotten as a result of Bucky and the Winter Soldier... Here’s the guy when you merge the two. This is what came out. You know, he’s not entirely... to me it’s never really going to be Bucky Barnes again."
Whichever way Stan and the Russo Brothers handle it, it's clear that the Hydra demons are still going to be haunting Bucky's heels and will have a big effect on his character and how he interacts with the others around him.
We've seen Bucky Barnes, we've seen the Winter Soldier, but who will we see when Captain America: Civil War rolls around on May 6th 2016?