That screeching sound you heard last night was the internet grinding to a halt when Variety broke the news: Robert Downey, Jr. was in final negotiations to star in Captain America 3, aka the movie that made the Justice League blink. Now you might be wondering, why is it still a Captain America movie if Robert Downey, Jr. is in it and not, say, Avengers 2.5? Well, I’m glad you asked!
If all the rumors turn out to be true, the casting of Downey essentially confirms that the popular “Civil War” storyline from the comics is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a move that fans have been clamoring for ever since Stark and Cap almost came to blows in the first Avengers flick.
Needless to say, the internet is freaking out about this development. And why shouldn’t they be? No one plays a better long game than Marvel, and like I said earlier, they’ve been planting the seeds for “Civil War” ever since Downey and Chris Evans stepped on set together. Believe it or not, Marvel Studios is even huger now than it was in 2012 when it launched the first Avengers phenomenon. After the one-two punch of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy this year — not to mention the box office behemoth that will be Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer — Marvel Studios can seemingly do no wrong. Not to mention the fact that anticipation for the next Cap movie was already at an all-time high.
By adding Iron Man (arguably the biggest and most popular MCU character) to the mix, Marvel and Disney just solidified the fact that Cap 3 is going to be 2016’s biggest movie to feature beloved superheroes facing off against one another. But wait, isn’t there another superhero face-off planned for the same summer?
Up until last night, the only superhero vs. superhero showdown scheduled for 2016 was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And just in case you weren’t aware, the studio went and put it in the title for you. Spinning out of the events of Man of Steel, this installment not only pits Ben Affleck’s Batman against Henry Cavill’s Superman, it’s also going to introduce the first live action Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and a completely new take on Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). It was basically, Warner/DC’s attempt to graft onto the Marvel template by expanding its movie universe. There’s just one problem.
No one seems to care about what WB/DC is planning. Meanwhile, fanboys are all atwitter at the mere thought of Downey signing on to a Captain America movie. So what’s the difference?
Your feelings about how great a story arc “Civil War” was in the comics aside, you can’t deny that the announcement of its live action adaptation has at least gotten folks excited. The reasons why are laid out pretty succinctly in this Forbes article by Scott Mendelson.
Marvel has shelled out the money (at least $40m but back-end treats to get Downey Jr. back) for arguably the one “versus” that could in-fact trump the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader. The reason is familiarity. This isn’t just a Superman we saw once and frankly weren’t all that thrilled with pitted against a Batman who we are being introduced to along with a brand new Wonder Woman and brand-new Lex Luthor on the sidelines. This is Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man that we (by 2016) will have spent eight years with pitted against Chris Evans’s Captain America whom we have been following for five years in a film that turns Marvel’s flagship hero into a villain. You don’t get more “added value element” than that, folks.
That point about familiarity is key. Basically, Warner/DC is putting all of their chips onto a rebooted Batman, a less-than-well-recieved Superman, and an unknown Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, the reason that the MCU movies work so well is because it’s a universe that has been built up over many years.
I’ve already made the case for shared cinematic universes before, and the point still stands. We are interested in the people playing these characters just as much — if not moreso — than the iconic characters themselves. This is the reason folks get so upset at the notion of a reboot. Nerds especially appreciate continuity in seeing the same actors cast to portray their favorite characters. It’s why no matter how terrible the Hobbit movies are, we can’t help but smile each time Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is on screen1.
This is the main reason why I advocated for the blending of the Man of Steel and Dark Knight universes. Not only were they already tonally similar, but a lot of the heavy lifting that will be required of the BvS script — such as injecting an older Batman into the world — will have already been done. That said, the movie would still be over-stuffed since is will have the task of introducing all the other heroes as well. Speaking of which, on the same day, it was revealed that Wonder Woman’s origin would mirror her New 52 one — Diana is the illegitimate offspring of Zeus and Hippolyta — which landed on the internet with a thud.
If you look at my archive of posts on this blog, you might think I’m a DC hater. The irony is that I’m anything but. I’ve considered myself a dyed-in-the-wool DC fan for as long as I can remember. No one wants to see Dawn of Justice succeed more than I do. But I also have to admit that it feels like every choice the folks at DC make is the wrong one; whereas, everything Marvel touches turns to gold2.
- Admittedly, nerd love of continuity can also be a hindrance since characters like Galadriel and Legolas were shoehorned into the Hobbit films for the same reason. The same can be said for the way Leonard Nimoy has been inserted into the rebooted Star Trek movies. ↩
- As for the next Captain America sequel, my only question is whether or not Downey gets top billing in the flick. Personally, I feel like Chris Evans has more than earned the right to topline his own movie. But weirder things have happened. ↩
- I made a joke in my Arrow recap that the eventual Justice League movie needs the CW shows more than the other way around. I’m starting to think that kind of announcement might be the only way to engender any kind of goodwill for the DCU! ↩