Marvel’s Civil War Would Make a Terrible Movie
There seems to be a popular fan request and general hope that one of the Avengers movies will adapt the Civil War storyline from the comic. The basic reasoning is that the fans want to see Captain America and Iron Man fighting over a morally grey issue with a story that makes Cap’s side right while having Iron Man be as out of character as possible to justify his evil actions. Mainly they just want a basic excuse for heroes to fight each other. I have no love for this comic story and it does make me wince seeing fan made posters and comments about a potential movie based on it. Honestly I just don’t think it would be a good idea for a movie and wouldn’t work in the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hopefully I can illustrate why in this post.
To start with there’s no way they could adapt the story. The comic, made in 2006/2007, is about a superhero fight causing the villain Nitro to explode and destroy a school accidentally. So a new law is drafted to make superheroes register their identities and lives with the government or else they’ll be arrested, with deadly prejudice, and thrown in secret prisons with no due process by the armoured “Capekiller” unit made by Tony Stark. Captain America thinks it’s a crazy law and starts a rebel hero team to take down Iron Man when he sends the Capekillers after Cap. This, eventually, ends with a giant battle in a New York neighbourhood between all the heroes and Cap ends up surrendering when he’s tackled by a fireman, an EMT, and a police officer, and told fighting in a residential neighbourhood is a dumb thing to do. Also Tony clone’s Thor, gets him to kill a few of his friends, and hires supervillains to kill even more of his friends, because he needed to be even more transparently evil in the story.
The comic itself is a heavy handed political commentary on Bush-ear America, written by Mark Millar. The writer of Kick-Ass, Wanted, Nemesis, Superman Red Son, several Sonic The Comic issues, and much more, isn’t known for his subtlety. So everything in the comic is transparent, everything Cap says is meant to be right and everything Iron Man does is meant to be wrong and look evil. The actual complexity of the issue of superheroes being above the law with no way to hold them accountable for their actions is not to be found here, only touched on in some token effort. There is a good story idea nestled in here, but it’s lost by the writer’s shortcomings and being very editorial mandated. It’s just a mess of a comic that proved popular enough that now every year we must get a big event comic of equal or worse quality.
Ignoring whether the story was good or not the basic reason why Civil War can’t be adapted is that there’s not enough heroes to have a civil war over. There’s Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, War Machine/Iron Patriot, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision (depending on how Avengers 2 plays out.) That’s more of a Civil Skirmish than a war. Also given their movie characterisation only War Machine would be pro-registration, and that’s because he’s working for the government as Iron Patriot in Iron Man 3, I’m not totally sure he’d be for it either. Tony would not side with the government controlling their hero lives, iron Man 2 started with him fighting against just that. Thor wouldn’t care, he’d do what he wants regardless of what the government says. Hulk wants to be left alone. Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon, would side with Cap. Don’t known about Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, or the Vision, but given what’s been set up for them I doubt they’d want anyone controlling their lives again. We’ve already seen what Cap would do with the Winter Soldier film.
That Winter Soldier film is probably a better Civil War story than Civil War was, or at least what Civil War was trying to be at least. It had Cap fighting the government with other heroes on his side, going underground and being hunted, friend fighting against friend. There was also the political commentary running throughout it that would feel like a retread if they tried to do similar commentary again with Civil War. So all of the political commentary would have to be scrapped or reworked to make the story possible. Which would be for the best anyway.
To do Civil War means doing a seismic shift on the entire landscape of the films. Every Marvel film afterwards would be tied to the baggage of Civil War. It’s a bit hard to do solo hero adventures if they were just fighting their friends one movie ago. The next movies afterwards would have to do clean up for what happened next, much more so than Iron Man 3, which fans complained was too connected to the Avengers. The follow-up to the registration act, how the world has changed now, and what’s going on with the rest of the Avengers would have the continuity aspect be a lot more prominent for audiences than it ever was before. The movies should have the ability to stand on their own and tell their own stories rather than needing to be a direct follow-up to entirely different films.
Even if it was just a straight hero vs hero film with any flimsy justification for it, it still wouldn’t work. In order for it to have weight and actual meaning there would have to be a fundamental change for the characters involved (let’s just say it’ll be Steve and Tony since that seems to be the main conflict fans want). If it is resolved in the space of a film then it’ll become a joke, so that would have to be followed upon in the next Marvel movies. Even removing all the plot surrounding the reasons why they’re fighting it would still be an albatross around the necks of the batch of movies afterwards. Ignoring all of that that I could see movie Steve and Tony fighting each other, but I can’t see what the reason could be that’d require a full movie. There can be a clash of ideals and butting heads, but not over the government stuff from the comic. It would have to be a fairly big thing to cause a schism enough to justify the giant verses fight between the two. In the end would it even be worth it setting up such flimsy justification just to see Iron Man and Captain America punch each other for two hours, because I don’t think so. Just like I don’t want to see Batman and Superman punch each other for three hours, but we’re getting that film anyway.
I do wish fans would stop asking Marvel to adapt the terrible event comics of recent years like Civil War, Avengers Vs X-Men, World War Hulk, Fear Itself, or Avengers Disassembled. The only one I can think of that’d make a good storyline for the movies is Secret Invasion, and that’s just if they took the concept of ‘shapeshifting aliens have replaced several key figures in the Marvel Universe and no one knows who to trust’ and nothing else. That’ll be something that could stretch over several movies without overtaking any of the main plots in them. Though it’s obvious anyone with their own movie coming out wouldn’t be replaced so Marvel would have to think of a clever way around that to still keep the tension.
Even then there’s still countless stories and concepts that can be done with these characters and this setting that isn’t “hero fights another hero for dumb boring reasons.” Most of these event books are horrible stories just to satisfy the lowest common denominator reader, just like the Transformers movies, and I’d rather marvel just kept making great creative movies than stoop to that level of film-making.