Spencer’s Soapbox: Don’t Worry About Captain America: Civil War’s Giant Cast

(Author’s note: Spencer’s Soapbox is a weekly column here on SHH where yours truly tries to spur a conversation on specific topics. Dive in to the latest installment below and check out the previous ones by clicking here.)

Marvel Studios made a surprise announcement this week about the in-production Captain America: Civil War and revealed not only a bustling cast list but a synopsis for the film. This drew some criticisms for the film which, much like the film that almost opened against it, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was called overstuffed by concerned fans. Despite his name being in the title, could a film with a cast so large actually be about Captain America they wondered, and rightfully so, because it is seemingly shaping up to be another “Avengers” movie. The large cast however isn’t the thing that raises my eyebrow about “Civil War,” which could still sacrifice story in favor of a stepping stone.

Earlier this week, Steve Rogers himself, Chris Evans, said the following about the film: “It’s to jump off into the next Avengers, Infinity War. So Cap 3 is going to be the set-up of the real battle, so there are a lot of people.” That is far more worrisome to me than a giant cast. Arguably the weakest parts of the Marvel films is the ham-fisted set-up of other films, even Avengers: Age of Ultron suffered from its set-up of “Infinity War,” and an entire film that is just a stepping stone to the next one does not sound fun. This is where critics of the whole MCU say that each film is just a set-up for the next one, which is simply not true. Most of the Marvel Studios films function at a base level as their own story, which manages to expand the horizon of the MCU by planting seeds for its future without compromising the structure or pace of the movie. This isn’t always the case though, but it’s something that has to occur when you have a slate of over ten movies on the horizon.

Admittedly, my worries for Captain America: Civil War are slim in the long run of things. I just don’t have time to worry if a movie a year away from release will be good or bad; however, my worry for this movie’s potential pratfalls is overcome by the fact that Marvel Studios knows what they’re doing. There’s also another huge factor at work which is that “Civil War” has the exact same creative team as Avengers: Infinity War. With all three of these films being made almost back-to-back-to-back, the Russo brothers, along with Marcus and McFeely, will know exactly the beats that need to be hit in one film to set-up the next and how to pay off those set-ups in the most satisfying ways. 

There’s also something about the “overstuffed” complaint I can’t track, because we saw the total inverse of it play out last year. After Captain America: The Winter Soldier, some of the observations from nitpickers boiled down to “Why didn’t Iron Man/Thor/Hulk/etc help take down Hydra?” Despite going against the very nature of movie storytelling, it’s a fair point for a world who continues to beat the “it’s all connected” drum. “Civil War” is now eager to address that by putting every major available player back in action, but that’s still not good enough apparently. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, it was easy to think of the individual character movies as their own franchise and The Avengers as the special treat combining them, but it’s evolved. The nature of the MCU is different now, it’s not multiple franchises it’s all one juggernaut, and the connection between all the characters is what holds it together. There’s no reason that all these characters shouldn’t be appearing in each other’s movies and we’ve already seen them shifting towards this dynamic with Bruce Banner in Iron Man 3 and the expanded cast of “Winter Soldier.”

I get the frustrations, the “Captain America” movies are among the best the MCU has to offer and I want to see more character work by Evans. Seeing Steve hit story beats that we’ve seen on the page but realized on the big screen was especially satisfying in “Winter Soldier,” and I need more of it in his solo movie. From the outside perspective, it’s easy to assume that this movie will sacrifice all of that for big screen spectacle, for other characters, and for setting up future movies, but it’s just as easy to have hope that a team that has delivered more often than not can deliver again. None of us have had a Tony Stark-like vision of a bleak future, so don’t throw in the towel on a movie you won’t see for a year, Steve Rogers certainly wouldn’t.