When it was first announced that the third outing in the well received Captain America franchise was in fact going to be an adaptation of the polarising Civil War comic book arc, it was already an ambitious, and perhaps troubling, start for the film.
Whilst tackling this complex plotline perhaps made sense when looked at in relation to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it perhaps wasn't the most obvious when looked at as a follow on for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the aftermath of the Project Insight disaster.
First and foremost Civil War was a tricky one as it sought to bring together nearly every earthbound MCU superhero we've met so far, whilst balancing multiple narratives and introducing several new characters. And then of course along came a Spider(-Man) and added another fairly hefty layer to Civil War. How do you fit that many overlapping narratives, and characters both old and new into a feature length time slot?
For a moment we feared Civil War might collapse under its own weight. But advance reviews have all been overwhelmingly positive (suspiciously so...) and we won't have to wait much longer until we find out for ourselves, with the film a mere week and a half from release now. But [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) almost wasn't Civil War and, like most things in Steve Rogers' life, it all comes back to Bucky Barnes.
The Winter Soldier
There's a reason Civil War is a Captain America movie rather than an Avengers: Age of Ultron follow on. Because, despite the politics, the Sokovia Accords and the ideological clashes that form the backbone of the narrative, the story is foremost a follow on to directors Anthony and Joe Russo's critically adored [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973), and a continuation of the story of Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
We've known this ever since the first trailer dropped way back when, but Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige and the Civil War team spoke to io9 recently about just how important Bucky is to the upcoming film. In fact, it's all his fault we ended up here in the first place.
Because according to Feige, Captain America 3 was always going to be about Bucky:
Feige: We developed 'Captain America 3' knowing we wanted to continue the Bucky story. Is Bucky going to get his mind back? What is Bucky struggling with, after the tag scene on Winter Soldier, and how does Steve’s desire to save Bucky bring him into conflict with something else, thinking about how do the sins of his past sort of affect him?
The idea to develop the Civil War narrative into the MCU arose quite organically, occuring during the process of pitching and scripting ideas all focused around the central issues arising when Bucky was reintroduced to the game in The Winter Soldier. Writers Christopher Markus and Steve McFeely juggled a lot of different ideas on that topic, but none they felt worthy of following up The Winter Soldier.
The Road To 'Civil War'
Christopher Markus: We plotted out a movie that wasn’t 'Civil War', but that had sort of the central spine that you still see, with Zemo and Bucky and a couple of the set pieces. And the further you probe into the effects of the Winter Soldier on the [Marvel Cinematic Universe], by not bringing in other people, we’re actually ignoring content.
So Bucky's mere existence in the MCU raised a lot of questions for the writing team, and external influences pressed in around them too. The decision to introduce Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) was the big one, and the one which turned Captain America 3 from a purely Bucky / Steve centric endeavour into the upcoming Civil War.
According to the io9 interview, this decision stemmed from the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is now "one of the most famous actors on the planet", and thus couldn't appear as a mere cameo or a lesser player in the drama. Indeed Iron Man is one of the big hits of the MCU, and his presence is such that he commands screentime regardless of whatever else is going on in the movie.
Feige had always wanted to do a Civil War adaptation, and having both Chris Evan's Captain America and Downey Jr.'s Iron Man seemed like the best time to take the plunge. As Markus said:
Markus: Then you’re like, well, we should call this thing 'Civil War'. Because we just brought the two biggest MCU characters into conflict. You don’t want to blow it off in a scene and [have them] go 'One day'.
It wasn't without difficulties though, as many different versions of the script were penned by Markus and McFeely, some without Iron Man, some without Spider-Man. But in the end, everything came together around the central spine, and Civil War was born, and Feige describes it as the version they really wanted to do.
Bringing The Story Together
And in the end, all the various threads of drama either originated from or were drawn in around the reappearance of the Winter Soldier into the world. This is illustrated perhaps best by the introduction of Black Panther / T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) into the MCU via the personal agenda he has with Bucky.
As T'Challa comes after Steve's best friend he too is drawn into a larger fight, and the MCU equivalent of the Civil War springs forth just as much from Bucky as it does from the differing ideologies the various superheroes have regarding the Accords.
Joe Russo told io9, "it was not an easy path to get this film to the screen", but all the threads were pulled together and the tapestry of the war laid out, becoming Captain America 3 and the centerpiece of Phase 3. Where it will leave us is still anyone's guess, but Joe Russo has promised that we're never going to forget it:
Joe Russo: "There will be a long lasting fallout from the events of this movie. It will significantly alter the psychology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward."