The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest (and frankly, biggest) entry in it’s epic superhero saga is less than a week away from hitting U.S. theaters. Captain America: Civil War is the conclusion (but absolutely not the end) to a story that began in Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), continued in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), but really had its seeds planted all the way back in Iron Man (2008). It’s the culmination of years spent developing characters and the world they live in, so these characters, these superheroes can all come together (unless they’re the Hulk, Thor, or any of the Guardians of the Galaxy) not so they can face a common foe, but so they can fight each other.
We completely understand if anyone who isn’t a massive comic book nerd or a hardcore film geek feels a bit lost. We also understand understand if anyone who is a massive comic book nerd or a hardcore film geek doesn’t have the time or wants to put in the effort to watch twelve films and memorize every person and plot element within feels a bit lost. So for anyone not caught up, we’ve created a little guide to all the major players involved in Civil War.
Iron Man’s Avengers
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Billionaire genius Stark has been at the superhero game longer than any other Avenger, and he has seen some s*!%. Still troubled over the threat of otherworldly invasions (see: The Avengers), and feeling guilty about creating a psychotic genocidal robot (see: Avengers: Age of Ultron), Stark backs government actions that some heroes find less than savory. His clash of ideals with friend and fellow Avengers Steve Rogers leads to a divide in the team.
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
A founding member of the Avengers, Romanoff has also helped Stark take down Justin Hammer (Iron Man 2), and assisted Rogers in his fight against a rogue faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Captain America: the Winter Soldier). Though she chooses Stark’s side in the schism, her past loyalty and respect for Rogers could come into play.
Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine
There was really no doubt regarding where the Air Force Colonel-turned superhero’s loyalties would lie. “Rhodey” has been a close friend and ally to Stark before either of them ever donned a suit of armor. However, considering the film’s trailers have hinted at Rhodey’s demise, he may come to regret his decision.
Paul Bettany as The Vision
The result of a Frankensteinian science project that merged Tony Stark’s personal A.I. assistant, J.A.R.V.I.S. with a synthetic body originally meant Ultron and one of the Infinity Stones (one of six McGuffins Avengers: Infinity War is being built around). One interesting note for comic book nerds: in the comics, Vision is involved in a long and intense romance with fellow Avenger Scarlet Witch (see below), yet all the marketing for Civil War pits them literally and figuratively agains one another. Could a potential reconciliation lead to love?
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Leader of the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda, not much has been revealed regarding Prince T’Challa’s motives for getting involved in the Avengers’ conflict, nor for siding with Iron Man over Captain America. Still, Black Panther’s presence makes way for the opportunity to showcase superheroics on a more global scale.
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Similar to the Wakandan Prince, it hasn’t been made clear why the MCU’s version of the web-slinger has chosen Stark’s side. Still, if the youngest Avengers member mirrors his comic book counterpart during the Civil War storyline, don’t be surprised if he switches sides by the movie’s end.
Captain America’s Avengers
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
The unfrozen WW2-era soldier had some less than stellar dealings with government agencies during the course of Winter Soldier (i.e. witnessing it get infiltrated by a decades old terrorsit organization). Thus Rogers is wary of the proposed goverment regulation of superhero activities. His dissolution with the American government, plus a reunion with his old army buddy turned Hydra assassin, Bucky Barnes is the perfect volatile cocktail of circumstances needed to send Rogers onto a collision course with Avenger co-leader, Tony Stark. Cap just better hope he gets out of the mess in better condition than his comic book self.
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Proud American soldier, Bucky Barnes was brainwashed into becoming the robot-armed relentless killer known as the Winter Soldier by the nefarious Nazi-splinter group, Hydra, but through the course of the film that bares his moniker, he regained his identity and seems a to wracked with guilt over his actions. Unfortunately, governments of the world may not accept the mind-control defense, and are out for Bucky’s head. His old friend Steve Roger’s attempts to protect him, inadvertently lead to a superhero war.
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Steve Roger’s first real modern day friend, Wilson helped the Cap and Black Widow take down the corrupt branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. and earned himself a pair of working robot wings for his trouble. In Civil War he’ll be adding a personal robot assistant to his arsenal (a modern day take on Falcon’s pet bird, Redwing from the comics). In Ant-Man, Wilson had a brief (but memorable) scuffle with the titular hero, so there may be some tension between the two when they find themselves on the same team.
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
The arrow-wielding S.H.I.E.L.D. agent’s camaraderie with Black widow was consistently reinforced throughout the two Avengers films, as well as his loyalty to the secret organization. What could have caused him to side against his compatriot and his agency?
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
The telepathic/telekinetic former Hydra agent and Ultron lackey has plenty of cause to side against anything related to Tony Stark, considering she partially blames him and his company for manufacturing the weapons that killed her parents. Let’s see how joining up with Cap affects her young superhero career and her relationship with former teammate Vision (see above).
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Expert thief turned size-altering hero Scott Lang has never had the best of relationships with the law, so joining the “anti-establishment” Avengers seems like a no brainer for him. Always quick with the sarcasm and wisecracks, Lang could add some levity to some otherwise grim and serious proceedings.
Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo
Probably the greatest unknown element in Civil War, some may question why a villain is even necessary in a story that revolves around heroes versus heroes. In all likelihood, frequent Captain America nemesis Zemo might be around only to set up future MCU films. The comic book Zemo (which admittedly, this one will be taking some departures from) has ties to Captain Marvel (a future MCU property) and has led villainous groups like the Masters of Evil and the Thunderbolts, so fans have good reasons to get excited about this.
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones
When we last saw former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Brock Rumlow, he was finishing up a hearty round of betraying his agency for Hydra and getting burned alive after fighting Captain America. Now back with a proper villain name and attire, if Crossbones is lurking around, things don’t look good for Captain America (hint: the comics involve Rumlow, Cap, and a bullet).
William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross
Last seen in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, General Thaddeus Ross is taking a break from hunting giant green rage monsters, and getting into a much seedier business: politics. Ross seems to be the driving force behind a bill that will put all super powered crime fighters under government control and observation – you know, the thing that leads to this whole Civil War ruckus. Ross appearing in a non-Hulk film without the Hulk (plus Falcon’s cameo in Ant-Man) could be a sign that we’ll be seeing even more supporting characters showing up in future MCU films that aren’t part of their particular franchise.
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13
First introduced as Captain America’s somewhat flirty neighbor, then revealed to be his secret bodyguard assigned by S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent 13 helped Cap and co. take care of the whole Hydra takeover problem. 13 may be taking up the role of Steve Rogers’ love interest (like in the comics) but if things go very south during the war between heroes (like in the comics), she’s just setting herself up for heartbreak.
Martin Freeman as Everett Ross
Though it’s hard to say what immediate impact Everett Ross will have on Civil War‘s plot, given how chocked full the film already is with named comic book characters, there could still be a vital role for him in upcoming films – particularly the planned Black Panther franchise. In the comics, government employee Ross acts as a liaison between Prince T’Challa and the U.S. (and, in a broader sense, between the superhero world, and the regular world).
Captain America: Civil War releases in theaters May 6th, and is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo.