Marvel: Civil War is arguably one of the biggest and most beloved story arcs to ever be written in Marvel’s history, if not the history of comic books themselves. The seven issue series, penned by Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Wanted, Ultimate Fantastic Four), seen the Marvel Universe at war with itself over the Superhero Registration Act enforced by the US Government. Avenger fought Avenger, Iron Man vs Captain America, in a battle over whether superhumans should be forced to unmask and register themselves to answer to a higher power, or to continue as they always have, keeping their identities secret to protect themselves and ones they love as they protect the world.
But could this event be brought to the big screen? As things stand, no. Not with the rights to important characters in the Marvel Universe being held by different film studios. Spiderman by Sony, X-Men & Fantastic Four by Fox, and Avengers by Marvel/Disney. This prevents Spiderman teaming up with Iron Man, or Wolverine fighting Venom, or Dr. Doom launching an attack on Asgard. While this happens all too often in the comic books, the only way for these scenarios to happen on film would be for the studios holding the rights to team up, or for the rights to revert back to Marvel due to inactivity on Sony/Fox part .
Note: There are some exceptions to the rule, with Quicksilver (played by two different actors) set to appear in both X-Men: Days of Future Past AND Avengers: Age of Ultron, alongside his sister, Scarlet Witch in the latter. However, this comes with certain criteria like how they cannot be called “Mutants” in the Avengers, or be referenced as Magneto’s children, while nowhere in the X-Men can Quicksilver be acknowledged as an “Avenger”, or reference any other “Avengers”.
Now, with franchises like the X-Men, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, they’re way too valuable as properties to their respective studios to let them go back home to Marvel. This much can be seen in how quick Sony were to reboot the Spiderman films into “The Amazing Spider-Man” after Sam Raimi & Tobey Maguire’s trilogy came to an end (thankfully, some might say), and how Fox rushed to put a Fantastic Four reboot into production before the deadline passed where the rights would revert back to Marvel. They’re guaranteed money-makers in terms of box office takings, merchandise, video-game adaptations and so on and so forth. Thus making it unlikely the rights to these particular franchises will ever revert to Marvel anytime soon. Another unlikely scenario would be for Marvel to attempt to purchase back the rights, but this would cost a colossal amount of money, more than even Marvel/Disney can afford all at once.
The most realistic and possible scenario is for a studio team-up. So, what if the major players holding these rights were to sit down and try and make a Marvel: Civil War film saga? Considering what each studio has planned for their franchises for next few years, and with Marvel’s Phase plan taking them right up to 2021 & the end of Phase 3, this obviously would not happen straight away.
Marvel’s schedule is chockablock up until at least 2021, with Kevin Feige stating he has a road map on his wall projecting as far as 2028! Alongside two Avengers movies, the third instalments of Captain America & Thor, Ant-Man and a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, there’s also plans in progress for Dr. Strange, Black Panther and several more TV shows. Aside from Marvel, at Fox there are major plans afoot for X-Men Apocalypse (sequel to Days of Future Past), a Wolverine sequel, a possible X-Force movie (Deadpool & Cable, anyone?) and the re-establishment of the Fantastic Four. While at Sony they’ve planned as far ahead as The Amazing Spider-Man 5 with spin-offs featuring the Sinister Six and Venom in development. But what’s to say, after all of this, a Phase: Civil War couldn’t happen?
Let me set the scene. Marvel’s Phase 3 is going to end with The Avengers 3. You can hazard a fairly good guess that the villain in this film may be Thanos (introduced in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers). Assuming that in this Avengers 3, Thanos will lead an alien invasion to take over the Earth after getting his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove that gives him god-like power through the six “Soul Gems”, two of which are the Tesseract and the Aether. Remember them? It’s more than probable that the rest of Phase 2 & Phase 3 will focus on Thanos collecting the remaining 4 Soul Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet all in the background to the events happening on the forefront of the universe. Thanos then attempts to invade Earth with an army consisting of Skrull and Kree (two Alien species in the Marvel comics) and is defeated by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But the kicker is in the famous Marvel end-credits scenes…
Cut to a secret location in Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa and kingdom of the Black Panther, one week after Thanos’ invasion of Earth. Sitting round a table is Marvel’s “Illuminati”, a self-appointed secret society who gather to discuss super-human issues and policy. The camera pans around the room to each person present. Tony Stark, Dr. Strange (movie in development), Professor Xavier, Reed Richards, Black Bolt of The Inhumans, Namor of Atlantis and Black Panther. A creative discussion ensues over the creation of this little secret club in the aim of preventing another alien invasion of the planet. They agree to meet privately, in the same group, where what’s discussed among them stays among them. The Black Panther tells them to end this, stating “What happens when you disagree? When one of these Earth-changing moments finds you all at odds with each other, here in a secret meeting? What happens then?” The final credits roll and as they finish we cut again, this time to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC. Here we see, simply, a file being placed on the President’s desk, emblazoned with the S.H.I.E.L.D logo and titled Superhuman Registration Act.
From here on in, the Civil War begins. Each major player within the Civil War has their own story to tell, whether it be Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Wolverine or Fantastic Four. Each character’s or group’s own movie would be dedicated to showing their side of things in the war. Iron Man: Civil War, Captain America: Civil War and so on and so forth, each telling that character’s involvement and points of view throughout the 7-comic run and tie-in issues. Important points such as Tony Stark’s enforcement of the Act, Captain America’s Resistance and Spider-Man’s conflict of what side he takes would all need significant screen time to be told appropriately. Hence receiving their own movie, all while crossing over into others. This could all conclude in Avengers: Civil War, where we could potentially see one of the biggest superhero battles ever, witnessed on the big screen. Other aspects of the story arc could also be told through TV series, such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or other future TV and web series Marvel have in development. One massive interconnected universe all leading up to a dramatic conclusion and fallout.
It could be argued that it would be difficult to make happen, that so many major characters would be impossible to give a proper portrayal of the story on film. The same arguments were made of The Avengers, which many said shouldn’t have ever worked, but it worked amazingly. One billion Dollars at the box office amazing.
While it may not ever happen, I’m sure there are many comic-book fans out there hoping that one day Civil War makes it to the big screen. It would be a shame if one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told didn’t make it into its movie universe in some shape or form, however it would not be the end of the world. The future is very bright for fans of comics and comic book movies, and it is most definitely only the beginning for a rich, material-loaded genre which will surely continue long into the future and continue to dominate our cinemas and TV screens.
This article was written by Robbie Henry.