It could safely be said that in recent years, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in Iron Man (2008) single-handedly carried Marvel Studios into being the hugely popular brand it is today. Prior to it they churned out the original Spiderman and X-Men trilogies, which were lackluster at best and disappointing at worst. Downey’s career, too, was revitalized by his debut Marvel performance: although he’s been acting since as early as 1970 and did appear in a few notable films such as Chaplin (1992) and A Scanner Darkly (2006), none were as kick-ass as Iron Man (2008).
With the recent rumors that RDJ will most likely play Iron Man in Captain America 3, this hugely successful partnership has no sign of ending anytime soon. What is intriguing about this news is what it signifies: could Marvel be bringing Civil War into this universe? In this plot arc, which was originally released as a comic book series in 2006, the U.S. government passes a bill called the Superhero Registration Act which forces every superhero to openly reveal their identities and only allows them to act under specific regulations that strongly resemble those of police officers. The superhero/mutant community divides almost evenly into two halves: the pro-registration group lead by Iron Man and the anti-registration group lead by Captin America.
Where this possibility falters, however, is the simple fact that Marvel doesn’t own all of the key characters in this storyline. The bill is passed in the first place due to the X-Men and mass anti-mutant hysteria, the Fantastic Four are powerful pro-registration fighters, and Iron Man convinces Spiderman to reveal his true identity. All of them are central to the Civil War plot – and none of their movie rights are owned by Marvel. 20th Century Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four while Sony has Spiderman.
There are many options that Marvel could take from here. Marvel never hesitated to rewrite comic book plots for film, so I’m sure the scriptwriters aren’t too bummed about the copyright issues. One would be to shift the focus onto the Hulk, whose chaotic rampage across Las Vegas contributes to the passing of the SRA. His past standalone films have varied in quality and his role in The Avengers is quite minor, so Marvel could take advantage of this opportunity to make him play a more significant role in the Marvel universe. Personally I think the Hulk as a character generally lacks depth, but this is still a viable option.
Another would be to narrow down the Civil War plot to its core characters instead of incorporating most of the Marvel universe. Frank Grillo will most likely return to play Crossbones so a more straightforward hero vs villain film as opposed to a universe-wide catastrophe would be both more practical and comprehensible. Grillo is good at what he does and as a bonus, Crossbones plays an important and can’t-be-spoiled role in the original plot.
Captain America 3 is tentatively scheduled for a 2016 release.
By William Park