Marvel’s Civil War: The Comics vs. The Movie
(WARNING: SPOILERS FOR “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”)
Captain America: Civil War was already one of the most popular and most hyped events in movie history before it even hit theaters, which is saying something considering we’re living in the age of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v. Superman.
As is the case with every comic adaptation that hits the silver screen, there’s bound to be a renewed surge of interest in the original source material, in this case being Mark Millar’s acclaimed mini-series that changed the Marvel Universe more than any comic that had come before it, Civil War.
No book-to-movie adaptation is perfect, especially when comic book storylines are remade for filmgoing audiences. A lot of sacrifices need to be made in order for stories on the page to be accessible in film form, and Captain America: Civil War is no different.
The following is just an overview of some of the many differences between Civil War on the page and Civil War on the screen:
The New Warriors, a group of young heroes who beat down villains in the name of higher ratings for their own reality TV show, raid a supervillain hideout in the suburbs of Stamford, Connecticut, leading to the villain Nitro causing an explosion that kills nearly 600 people in the surrounding area, including 60 children in a nearby school. Before this, the government had been calling for some degree of higher accountability within the superhero community after an increase in the number of deadly incidents caused by superhumans, and Stamford in the tipping point that calls for the passing of the Superhuman Registration Act, which states for all heroes to publicly reveal their identities and register for government service, or be branded as criminals.
After the widespread destruction of the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, a coalition of over 100 nations propose the Sokovia Accords, which demands that the Avengers, at the time privately-owned by Tony Stark, have to work under government jurisdiction. Tensions are risen even higher when the Avengers team, led by Captain America, tries to stop a terrorist attack in Lagos, Nigeria led by HYDRA agent Crossbones. After being defeated, Crossbones activates a suicide-bomb vest. Wanda Maximoff AKA The Scarlet Witch manages to use her telekinetic powers to redirect the blast away from the Avengers, but inadvertently destroys a nearby building, killing dozens, including a group of ambassadors from the reclusive African government of Wakanda.
Tony Stark sympathizes with victims of the Stamford Incident, and uses his celebrity status to become a figurehead for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the government. Teaming up with Reed Richards and Dr. Hank Pym, Stark leads a new team of government-aligned Avengers tasked with tracking down draft-dodging superheroes and criminals alike.
Feeling guilty for his involvement in the creation of Ultron and the subsequent destruction in the nation of Sokovia, Tony is easily-pressured by high-ranking military official General Thaddeus Ross into supporting the Sokovian Accords. Tony drags his feet when it comes to forcing the other Avengers to sign the Accords, though as Captain America’s resistance of the cause gets more violent, so do Stark’s own actions.
In the wake of Stamford, S.H.I.E.L.D. approaches Captain America to act as an enforcer for the Registration Act. Rather than fight against his friends and support a system that he sees as similar to the one he fought against in World War II, Steve goes underground to undermine the Registration Act, which inspires many other heroes to follow his example, and they slowly build their own army.
Steve Rogers is caught in the middle of an Avengers team that’s splitting itself apart over the Sokovia Accords, and is pushed over the edge into “vigilante” territory when his friend Bucky returns. Having spent the last 50+ years performing political assassinations for the organization HYRDA, under a state of brainwashing that he’s only just recovered from, Bucky is on the run from nearly every government on Earth. Steve vows to protect his oldest and closest friend and clear his name, though unfortunately that makes him and his allies just as much of a target as Bucky.
King T’Challa and his queen Ororo (AKA “Storm” of the X-Men) are touring the world in the name of diplomacy, and are generally unconcerned with the Registration Act until their stop in America is derailed when the government tries to force Storm to register. Even though he has diplomatic immunity on American soil, Black Panther sees the Act as unjust, and joins Captain America’s cause.
The death of Wakandan diplomats draws the normally-reclusive King T’Chaka and his prince/son/bodyguard T’Challa onto the political worldstage, which is just what Baron Zemo wanted to happen, leading to him bombing the press conference in Vienna and framing Bucky Barnes. Believing the Winter Soldier to be responsible, T’Challa dons the sacred Black Panther costume and leads a one-man hunt in the name of bloody vengeance. When Captain America protects Bucky, T’Challa sides with Iron Man and aids him in his fight against the anti-registration side.
Feeling that siding with his friend and mentor Tony Stark would be the best thing he could do for his family (including his wife Mary-Jane Watson), an adult Peter Parker reveals his secret identity on national television, and publically supports the Superhuman Registration Act. However, shortly after the first fight between anti-registration and pro-registration forces causes the death of the superhero Goliath, Spider-Man defects and goes underground to aid Captain America’s team of heroes.
15-year-old Peter Parker has been secretly leading a double-life as the super-powered vigilante Spider-Man for nearly a year when Tony Stark shows up at his doorstep, having deduced Peter’s identity after he became a YouTube phenomenon. Half-seriously threatening to reveal Peter’s identity to his aunt, Tony requests Peter’s help in tracking down an escaped Captain America and Winter Soldier. Though Peter proved to be an invaluable asset in the ensuing fight, Tony orders the young man to go home after the battle, as he’s still just a kid and the fighting was getting too dangerous.
After a series of tragic events in the recent past left both the X-Men and the mutant community at large in shambles, most students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters decide to stay neutral in the conflict, though a handful do get involved on both sides.
After a series of tragic business decisions left Marvel on the verge of bankruptcy, the company decided to sell the film rights for the X-Men characters to Fox Studios in the late 1990s, meaning that no X-Men characters could appear in the Avengers films and vice versa, though some asshole sitting behind me in the theater still asked why Deadpool wasn’t in the movie.
The son of the original Nazi super-scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo, Helmut Zemo was a constant enemy of Captain America and the Avengers. Originally following his father’s ideals, Helmut eventually rejected that ideology, vowing to take over the world for himself in the name of ultimately making Earth a better place. Helmut also ran several incarnations of a team of reformed supervillains called the Thunderbolts. During Civil War, Zemo and his Thunderbolts assisted Iron Man in combating anti-registration heroes and villains, though he ultimately aided his old enemy Captain America in escaping the government’s prison for superhumans.
Colonel Helmut Zemo was a high-ranking agent of the Sokovian Special Forces (who had an unknown degree of allegiance to the villainous organization HYDRA), who had all but put his violent past behind him when the climactic battle between the Avengers and Ultron destroyed the city and killed his family. Using his skills and determination, Helmut orchestrates the conflict between the government and the Avengers, and though he is later incarcerated, he is confident that he succeeded in his plan to divide the Avengers.
Captain America and Co. decisively defeat Iron Man and his forces in a climactic battle in the streets of New York City, though Captain America eventually surrenders to the government when he realizes that all of the fighting was just causing more harm to people caught in the crossfire and that the passing of the registration couldn’t be stopped.
The climactic battle between the heroes ends with most of Captain America’s forces (including Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man) being taken into custody, though the battle also sees James Rhodes AKA War Machine permanently disabled. Zemo leads Rogers, Stark, and Bucky to an abandoned HYDRA facility under the guise of awakening a secret army of replacement Winter Soldiers, though when they arrive they find that Zemo has actually killed them himself. In reality, he just wanted to further drive the Avengers apart, which he does by showing classified footage of Bucky killing Tony’s parents, which causes Tony to try to kill Bucky. Tony manages to severely injure Bucky, blowing off his cybernetic arm, though is ultimately defeated by Captain America. He does, however, manage to demoralize Steve, calling for the end of their friendship and convincing him to leave behind his shield, saying that he doesn’t deserve it.
Steve Rogers is taken into custody, though he is assassinated before he can stand trial. Tony Stark is made the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and continues to push the Registration Act throughout the country, building a new, government-aligned superhero community. Captain America’s forces continue to fight crime outside of government jurisdiction as the New Avengers.
Steve breaks the incarcerated Avengers out of prison before going underground. Tony is still working for the government and General Ross, though he cooperates as little as possible when it comes to tracking down additional superhumans. Confident now that Bucky didn’t kill his father, T’Challa allows him and Steve to hide from the U.S. government in Wakanda, where Bucky voluntarily goes into cryogenic sleep until he can overcome his HYDRA brainwashing.
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