There's a ton of great aspects to discuss when talking about [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409), from the excellent juggling of multiple heroes, villains, and narratives, to that surprising ending which changes the dynamic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.
But if you're expecting to see an adaptation which plays out anything like the comic book from which Civil War takes its name, you might wind up a little bit disappointed. And as it turns out, the lack of close adaptation is actually the best thing the filmmakers could've done for Captain America's third solo titled movie.
The Adaptation Process
Comic book adaptations are rarely entirely faithful to their source material because cinema and comic strips are very different media requiring a great deal of translation between them. This isn't a problem unique to Civil War, every book adaptation hits this roadblock — comics perhaps most of all — but it is well highlighted in the difference between the two media here.
A huge part of the reason Civil War has become so iconic a narrative is because it builds upon decades of comic book history and overlapping relationships concerning multiple characters beyond just the main Avengers team — Civil War is a complex Marvel Comic Universe-wide event.
This just isn't possible in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not least because many key members of the comic are missing from the cinematic MCU: the Fantastic Four, Goliath, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, Ragnarok, Tigra, Hulking, Punisher, the New Warriors, the Thunderbolts, and more. Some characters are absent due to rights issues, some are tied up with the Marvel TV shows, and some just haven't been introduced to the MCU yet.
The mode of media is very different too — while an artist can produce a splash panel detailing whatever fantastical feats they desire over a matter of days at very little financial cost, recreating scenes like that on screen takes weeks and costs thousands. Storytelling methods differ vastly between comic book panels and movie scripts too, and there's not always an easy method by which to differentiate between them.
Bringing Civil War Together
Civil War was always going to be an ambitious narrative to adapt, as the MCU is missing the years of burning tensions and the vast character list needed to make the conflict work in a meaningful way. But directors Anthony and Joe Russo and the screenwriting team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have managed to pull it off admirably.
By taking certain elements from Mark Millar's Civil War comic book and translating them to fit the narrative of the MCU, the Russos, Markus, and McFeely bring together multiple narratives from various different sources to create an excellent Marvel outing.
The Superhero Registration Act becomes the Sokovia Accords; Nitro's inciting role and the martyring of Goliath are distributed to other characters; the Project 42 Negative Zone prison becomes the Raft; and Vision's big panel scene from the comics is translated across very interestingly, given that he's on the opposite side of the debate this time around.
Captain America: Civil War takes all these elements into play, but in the end the narrative and the big reveal are all neatly tied back not just to [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973), but to Avengers: Age of Ultron too.
The Captain America series of films have long been concerned with the relationship between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Captain America 3 manages to wrap all the Civil War and Age of Ultron threads neatly together with this central, motivating context, and somehow it works incredibly well. Bringing all those very different elements together is no mean feat, but it's a feat which has been achieved here.
Captain America: Civil War is by no means a fantastic comic book adaptation. But it is a fantastic MCU film, and it's all the better for not sticking too closely to the pages of the polarizing comics from which it was adapted.
Captain America: Civil War releases May 6, 2016 in the US.