The Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially launched Phase 3 with Captain America: Civil War now in theaters. Moving beyond simple worldbuilding, this film is one of the most ambitious stories we’ve seen Marvel tackle on the big screen, with stakes that are both intensely personal and have long term political ramifications. The film also set the stage for numerous other MCU films, introducing T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and our newest Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Holland has immediately received praise for his energetic performance as Parker, and the mentee/mentor relationship between the fledgling superhero and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) injected some levity in the battle scenes. Viewers who watch all of the MCU properties, on both the large and small screen, may have been left wondering why Stark would recruit an inexperienced high schooler to fight alongside him, when there are so many other powerful superheroes now in the public eye.
In an interview with IGN (via ComicBookMovie) writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely address why Stark brought Parker into the war, but not the well-known vigilante superhero Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), who was just around the corner in Hell’s Kitchen. Markus first jokes that “Tony doesn’t have a television, so he doesn’t know about [Daredevil],” before quipping about how Daredevil is “so violent!” He then addresses how integrating Parker into the fold is Stark’s own way of coping with his guilt for the people he has inadvertently killed.
“I think he has been keeping tabs on the world and he knows about this one kid. In some ways there’s a motivation, having been accused of killing a young kid earlier in the movie to, ‘Maybe I can rebuild karmically something that I’ve lost by helping this kid along.’ And he’s there, and he’s available, and Tony’s desperate!”
McFeely also touches on the similarities between the two impacting his choice saying:
“He probably sees some of himself in this kid. Remember, when you meet this kid, he’s clearly a budding scientist, but doesn’t have the resources that Tony Stark does.”
While these rationalizations make sense on some level, it still seems a shame to pass up on a possibly game-changing ally in the interest of a karmic balance. Of course, the more obvious reason why Parker was chosen over Murdock is that Iron Man and Spider Man will be teaming up again for Spiderman: Homecoming, and they wanted a way to set up that relationship in advance of the film.
While executives are eager to continue this character overlap throughout the Marvel movies, there hasn’t been that same drive to connect the television universe to that of the films. The Avengers exist within the same canonical universe as the heroes on Netflix, but they are only referenced in passing, as a small bit of world building. ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has closer ties, with the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier impacting major plot points of the show, and occasional cameos by Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) – among other connections – however, the last Avengers film had a minimal impact on the show, and it remains to be seen how Civil War will impact S.H.I.E.L.D.
The universes are becoming increasingly separated as both Netflix and ABC build up their own network of crossovers, and while this shift makes sense narratively – having to explain the background of each new character would certainly be time consuming – it does reduce the options for some truly entertaining team up possibilities. That said, the MCU shows no sign of slowing down, so it is possible that more television to film crossover events may still come in the future.
Captain America: Civil War is now playing in theaters, Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.