It's finally here! Captain America Civil War is out in theaters. The movie is based off of a series of comics entitled Civil War (not Captain America Civil War) that came out from 2006 - 2007 as a 7 volume series. Both the comics and the movie are about tension caused by government-led superhero regulations. Two factions emerge, one headed by Captain America (anti-regulation) and the other headed by Iron Man (pro-regulation). Keep reading for my TOP 10 changes between the book and the movie.
You can also check out my video on the same topic here:
Careful for spoilers if you don't want to know what happens in the movie or the comics.
1. Why the Public Demands Regulation in the First Place
It’s the same reason in both the comics and the movie. Civilians are done being collateral damage in superhero wars. The incident that causes the boiling point just happens differently.
In the comics, there’s a group of young superheroes called the New Warriors (essentially teenage wanna-be Avengers). New Warriors:Avengers::X-Force:X-Men Anyway (Do you remember these things from English class? Anyway...)The New Warriors have a reality TV show, and in an attempt to boost their ratings they film themselves going after a group of recently escaped supervillains. The New Warriors get in way over their heads and things blow up, literally.
The New Warriors make the newbie mistake of being unaware of their surroundings and where they are taking their fight. One of New Warriors fights Nitro near a park where a lot of children are playing. The villain Nitro (unfortunately for the new warriors) has the superpower of being a human bomb, and he blows up. Over 600 civilians die, including a lot of children. On the comics this is the incident (known as the Stamford incident) that causes public anger towards superhumans to boil over.
In the movie, it’s new Avenger Scarlet Witch who accidentally kills a large number of civilians. She, along with other Avengers, is trying to stop Crossbones from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Nigeria. Crossbones commits suicide with a bomb; Wanda tries to displace the blast into the sky but it devastates a nearby building, killing a large number of Nigerian humanitarian workers.
2. Overall Cast Reduction
In the movie, there are 16 superheros/supervillains. In the comics, there are 278 across all 7 volumes. This isn't a complaint about the movie. The comic series was meant to be a mash up of tons of MCU comic characters, which for a movie just isn’t reasonable. The movie did introduce some new characters, like Black Panther, Spiderman, arguable Thunderblot, but the movie obviously can’t introduce over 200 new characters. I appreciated the movie taking the time to do character development, it was already a little full.
Thor is a character that plays a fairly important role in the comics but is cut out of the movie. The movie could have included Thor easily enough since he is an established character. In the comics, Thor fights on Ironman's side. At this point in the comic story, Thor was presumed dead, so everyone was surprised to see him show up. Thor isn't really operating of his own volition. He seems to be controlled by SHIELD. It's unclear how much insight or consciousness Thor possessed at the time. Possibly none. SHIELD brings out Thor during the first major battle in the Civil War, and he makes the first kill. He kills Goliath. Goliath's dead is a turning point for some of the superhumans. They begin to question the war and if they want to continue to support the side they chose.
The Fantastic Four is another example of characters who were left out of the movie but could have been included easily enough, because the Fantastic Four standalone film just came out in 2015. The Fantastic Four are notable in the comics, because the split up. Originally the whole team is on Team Ironman, but Johnny and Susan leave to try and find Captain America.
This is the first example of a character arc where I thought the movie and the comic would somewhat align, but they didn't. In the comics, Spiderman initially sides with Iron Man, but once Spider man learns that all superhumans who do not agree to register are imprisoned indefinitely, Spiderman quits the pro-registration side and joins Captain America's underground movement.
In the movie, Spiderman is on team Iron Man the whole time. I was actually expecting him to switch over to team Cap. He's also younger in the movie, a little more impressionable like he's still trying to master his superpowers.
6. Regulation v. Registration
AKA regulating versus unmasking.... In both the comics and the movie, the superhumans are going to be regulated.The Registration Act of the comics (which forces heroes and villains to unmask and surrender to the government) is renamed as The Sokovia Accords in the movie. Remember the city of Sokovia, the one Ultron ripped the city off the ground and into into the sky to duplicate the effect of a meteor? Yeah, that Sokovia.
In the comics, unmasking heroes and revealing their true identity is a big deal. Especially to Perter Parker, who'd worked hard to conceal his identity. So it's a big deal in the comics when Iron Man convinces Spider Man to reveal his identity as Peter Parker. Rather than focusing on unmasking heroes, the Sokovia Accords wants to regulate the Avengers so they can't operate unilaterally, basically the Avengers would become accountable to the public. The Sokovia Accords is focused on the Avengers while The Registration Act is for all superhumans (this goes back #2, the overall scope of the civil war)
5. Tony Stark / Iron Man
I thought both the movie and the comics did a good job of presenting Iron Man's perspective. I went into reading Civil War (and watching civil war) thinking I would be Team cap all the way. At the end of the comics, I was still team cap, but I respected Tony Stark and understood the guilt he felt for all the destruction that happened from initiatives he had funded.
At the end of the movie, I was no longer team cap (we'll get into that a little later) but my allegiance shifted to Team Ironman). Some things the movie added to Iron Man's story line that I really like was his concern for War Machine and funding his prosthetic. I thought including that friendship added depth to his character. And including the back story with the death of his parents. I also thought Robert Downey Jr's acting was incredible, he really sold the emotion he character was going through.
In the comics, Ironman comes off as more of a jerk. In the battle where Thor killed Goliath, that battle starts because Tony Stark has one of his own plants blown up to lure Captain America's team into attempting a rescue effort. Sure enough, Cap's team falls for the bait, but by the time they realize there aren't any civilians around the plant and this must be a trap, it's too late. At this point, Goliath is killed and it seems like Tony Stark is in over his head. The war snowballed beyond his control.
8. Bucky Barenes the Winter Soldier
Bucky is not in the comics. In a surprising turn of events, I ended up liking Bucky! So as expected, Bucky goes on some rampages. He bombs Vienna where the Sokovia accords are being signed into law, which kills King T'Chaka, Black Panther's Father. Security footage implicated Bucky, which tips Cap to go hunting for him. Cap learns that Helmut Zemo is actually responsible for the for the bombing, because he has brainwashed Bucky and can control him. Bucky's brain control is activated by certain Russian words.
At the end of the movie Bucky volunteers to go back into hypersleep for basically the benefit of society until a cure can be found to reverse his brainwashing, I thought that was really noble of him to volunteer. It's kind of like, gee Cap, why couldn't you have just done that in the first place, gotten your friend into hypersleep for his own stafey/the safey of the entire world? Anyway, I was impressed that Bucky had some insight to his own condition.
9. Captain America's motivation for heading up the resistance.
In both the comics and the movie, part of Cap's motivation is that he's intrinsically opposed to the Registration Act/Sokovia Accords. He believes superhumans should not be told when they can and cannot intervene, and in the comics he is also too put off by the idea of having to arrest other superhumans simply because they don't want to register.
In the movies, much like Iron Man, I think Captain America is also motivated by feelings of guilt. Tony Stark feels guilt over the damage his technologies have caused, while Captain America feels intense guilt over what happened to Bucky Barnes. Bucky, of course, used to be Captain America's best friend and crime-fighting partner until one fateful day when they went up against Zemo, who kidnapped and brainwashed Bucky. I think Captain America's guilt over not being able to protect Bucky is so extreme that seems to be his unwavering motivation throughout the movie.
In the comics, there is none of the Bucky business. Cap is more forced into his position because of violence used against him. Commander Hill has SHIELD attack Captain America as soon as he doesn't agree to spearhead efforts for the registration. Cap is attacked and nearly imprisoned the second he showed any dissent, which effectively forced him to go underground.
When Tony Stark setup the trap where he exploded one of his own plants to try to lure Captian America's team into a rescue effort, Captain America is further estranged from Iron Man and the pro-registration efforts, forcing him further into opposition.
#10 Captain America's overall character arc
This whole post has been sploiler-y so far, but this takes spoilers to a new level. If there's anyone still around who hasn't seen the movie and would like some surprises, this is your final warning to click away...
Still here? Great! ERRMGERD WOW, that was really different, and not what I was expecting. In addition to spiderman's character arc, I also thought the movie would take Captain America's character to a similar place, but they did NOT.
Cap abdicated in the movie because he didn't want anything to do with Stark. He didn't want to fight him anymore. In both the movie ant hte comic there's a final spic fight between Cap and Ironman, and Cap effectively wins in both. BUT in the comic, Cap beat Tony Stark to almost within an inch of his life, is tackled by rescue workers, and at this point Cap has a moment of realization. He looks around him and sees how much destruction the war has caused, in terms of civilian and superhuman causalities and injuries. The city is wrecked. At this point, Cap kind of comes to see Tony's point, superhumans can crush those beneath them, and one another. Cap is devastated by the destruction the war (which he had a large part of) has caused. He unmasks and turns himself in.
Cap does get his stiff broken in the comic. So on both accounts he's without a shield.
In the follow-up comic to Civil War, entitled "The Death of Captain America." Brig shocker, Captain America dies. He's assassinated while being taken to his arraignment at the federal courthouse. I actually thought the movie might do something similar. I thought it was possible that Cap might die at the end of the movie. I didn't think he'd die forever, just in a comic-booky way where he's back in a few episodes. But I did for sure think the movie would still have that epiphany or character growth moment where Captain America fully realizes the harm the Civil War has caused for both civillians and superhumans and the emotional weight of that overwhelms him. That never happened.
Infinity War is coming up, and how Tony Stark will ever work with Steve Rogers ever again I have no idea. I don't even know how Stark and Rogers could stand to be in the same room. We'll See.
So those were my top change changes from Captain America Civil War and the original source material.
Thanks for reading!