Like many things in Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fact that Captain America 3 is actually the huge crossover, Civil War, is totally Bucky’s fault. If his last movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, hadn’t been so good, maybe things would’ve been simpler. But, alas, when trying to come up with something to top The Winter Soldier, only one thing was up to the task: Civil War.
Opening May 6, Captain America: Civil War is exceedingly dense compared to other Marvel movies. Primarily, it continues the story told in Winter Soldier of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) trying to find and save his friend Bucky, aka, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). But that story becomes a seed for something much bigger, a battle of ethics and wills between Rogers and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that divides Earth’s Mightiest Heroes down the middle. It introduces new heroes (Black Panther, Spider-Man), new villains (Baron Zemo), and it will radically change the dynamics of everything you thought you knew about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But that wasn’t always the plan. In fact, the idea for Captain America 3 to become Civil War was more serendipitous than anything else.
“We developed Captain America 3 knowing we wanted to continue the Bucky story,” producer Kevin Feige told io9. “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? And [writers] Chris [Markus] and Steve [McFeely] came up with a number of cool plots that could’ve worked, but none of them were feeling worthy of a follow up to Winter Soldier.”
“Even before Civil War came down the pike, we were already working on the Bucky part of it all,” said co-writer Stephen McFeely. His partner, Christopher Markus added, “Do you put [Bucky] away for a while? Do you bring him back? And how do you not tread the same ground? It would be very easy to bring Winter Soldier back and fight him again. 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.”
Tiptoeing around spoilers, those connections are where the first ideas for Civil War began to percolate.
“I thought, if we’re going to do Civil War, which I always wanted to do, this is the time to do it,” said Feige “All we have to get is this this, this and this. ‘Okay, well the odds of that are very slim.’ ‘Okay, but if we could, what would it be?’ Chris and Steve started to chart out various versions of the movie. [Versions] without Iron Man, [versions] without Spider-Man—but we’re very lucky we got to make the whole one. The one we really wanted do.”
Adding Spider-Man was a a big issue by itself. However, it was the equally ambitious decision to add Iron Man that truly turned Captain America 3 into Civil War. Once you commit to writing that character into the film, you’re also adding one of the most famous actors on the planet, Robert Downey Jr. And he can’t be just some minor cameo.
“It was not an easy path to get this film to the screen,” said co-director Joe Russo. “There were a lot of things on this movie we [needed], to will it into existence. [One was] Downey.”
But they got him, and everything fell into place.
“Then you’re like, well, we should call this thing Civil War,” said Markus. “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’.”
“So it was a great gift,” said McFeely. “Oh? Really? Civil War? Sure. We’ll try not to fuck that up.”