The next entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe following last month's Ant-Man, while a Captain America sequel in name, is really more like Avengers Two-And-A-Half. Based on a popular mid '00s limited series crossover storyline from Marvel Comics, Civil War tells the story of a catastrophe that prompts the U.S. government to create the Superhero Registration Act, a law that decrees all powered people must register their abilities and essentially serve as employed officers of the government rather than as freelance vigilantes. This splits the Avengers down the middle: half pro-Registration, half anti-Registration, leading to all-out war between the two sides. And now, thanks to new concept art, we know which sides the Avengers take in Captain America: Civil War.
The third Captain America film has the largest cast of a Marvel film outside of the two Avengers movies (heck, maybe even including the two Avengers movies) with Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine, Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Spider-Man all putting in appearances alongside the titular star-spangled hero. And that's not even counting villains Crossbones and Baron Zemo, and human characters like Sharon Carter, Thadeus Ross, and whoever Martin Freeman is playing.
Now that the concept art for the film has finally revealed exactly where the battle lines will be drawn for Civil War, some of the Avengers have picked surprising sides:
Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man leads the group of heroes who are on the side of the government. Perhaps his recent brush with disaster — having inadvertently fathered the robot known as Ultron, who almost destroyed the world — has led him to accept that people with his kind of power need oversight. It's not surprising to see his good pal, Don Cheadle's James Rhodes, aka War Machine, by his side. What is more surprising is the presence of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. She ended Age Of Ultron standing next to Captain America, preparing to help him train the new generation of Avengers... and yet something has apparently caused her to switch sides.
Given that we haven't even met Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther yet, it will be interesting to see how he's drawn into the conflict. And it's curious to see that Paul Bettany's Vision take sides at all, given that he's an android; what exactly causes him to take an interest in these petty human affairs?
Chris Evans' Captain America leads the group of superpowered individuals opposed to the government meddling in their lives. Just like Rhodey is sticking beside his pal Tony Stark, so is Anthony Mackie's Falcon sticking besides his pal Steve Rogers. (And he's got his own cool sidekick to boot: a robotic drone named Redwing.) The inclusion of Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye should create some delicious drama as he squares off against his erstwhile friend and colleague Black Widow.
Most intriguing is the presence of Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier. Last seen in the post-credits scene of Ant-Man, the villain of the second Captain America film looks like he'll be reformed into a sort of anti-hero for this outing. And Revenge's Emily VanCamp will be reprising her Winter Soldier role as Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter — direct descendant of S.H.I.E.L.D. Peggy Carter. Although she had a relatively minor part in the preceding film, it appears her role will be considerably beefed up for the sequel.
Look closely, and you'll notice that Captain America's team actually outnumbers Iron Man's — and no, I'm not talking about Redwing. Who's that perched on Hawkeye's shoulder? That's right: it's Paul Rudd's Ant-Man, drawn into the larger conflict immediately following his own small-scale introduction this summer.
Of course, this concept art leaves quite a few heroes unaccounted for. Mark Ruffalo's Hulk is still MIA after departing for parts unknown at the end of Age Of Ultron. Thor is presumably off gathering info on the mysterious Infinity Stones. For a film so centered around government oversight, Samuel L. Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury is conspicuously absent. Of the new group of Avengers established by the conclusion of Ultron, Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch is the only one missing from these images; does she refuse to take a side, perhaps still in mourning the loss of her brother, Quicksilver? And Disney is still keeping a tight lid on Tom Holland's Spider-Man... although his absence on either of the "teams" makes sense, since a pivotal aspect of the Civil War storyline is young Peter Parker getting caught in the middle of the escalating conflict.
How can we possibly choose sides here? This is Captain America's movie, so obviously we should be cheering for his team, right? I can't wait to see Sebastian Stan and Emily VanCamp in expanded roles, and it should be fun to watch Paul Rudd interact with the M.C.U.'s major players for the first time. But Iron Man's team is going to be hard to beat. Not only do you have Robert Downey, Jr., the most iconic face of the franchise, but you have Black Widow and Black Panther, the most kickass female character in the M.C.U. and the first hero of color to get his own solo film in the M.C.U. (coming in 2018); not to mention Vision, hands down the coolest new addition to the franchise in this summer's Age Of Ultron.
I just might have to flip a coin to decide where my allegiances lie. Civil War begins on May 6, 2016.
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures