The Marvel Cinematic Universe is almost a decade old and comprises over a dozen films, TV shows and Netflix series that are all designed to add up into a singular cohesive world. But as the bold experiment in continuity grows older and expands to cover ever more characters and storylines, some audiences have found it increasingly challenging to stay abreast of every detail and connection; and while there are no shortage of resources to help out (like our own Chronological History of The Marvel Cinematic Universe), there’s always the potential for confusion if the audience walks into a new Marvel feature “cold” and the film doesn’t pause to catch them up.
The advice to such audiences from Captain America: Civil War screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely? Simple: Do your homework.
Speaking to The Wrap on the subject of the ever more dense MCU mythology, McFeely stated matter-of-factly that taking the time to remind audiences of who every character was, their relationship to each other and their personal histories just wasn’t feasible for a film with so much of its own ground to cover like Civil War:
“We had to make a decision early that we were OK losing virgin audience members. If you don’t know some of these movies before you walk in you might be lost, but hopefully you’ll still be entertained. We can’t do a ‘previously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,’ because it will take 25 minutes.”
While Civil War is primarily concerned with continuing the story of Captain America’s attempts to reconnect with his WWII-era best friend Bucky Barnes, who was discovered to be brainwashed and transformed against his will into a cyborg assassin by HYDRA in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the presence of the other Avengers adds multiple continuing plot threads to the secondary narrative. Tony Stark’s ongoing attempts at retirement from Avenging (and his troubled childhood), the unknown whereabouts of The Hulk, the destruction of Sokovia, Cap’s unrequited wartime romance with Peggy Carter, the nature of the Infinity Stone occupying Vision’s forehead, Ant-Man’s brawl with The Falcon and Black Widow’s mass-release of S.H.I.E.L.D. secure files all get namechecked to varying degrees. While the necessary information for understanding all of it is (for the most part) included, it’s often in the form of quick lines of dialogue as opposed to a full-blown refresher course.
On the one hand, the MCU reaching this point was fairly inevitable given the way that longform narratives tend to progress. And while it would be ill-advised for every filmmaking entity to expect this level of preparation from an audience, in this particular instance we’re talking about a series of the most widely seen popular films of the last decade. So while it’s entirely possible that oblique references to Scarlet Witch’s origin story or the exact nature of Vision’s powers may have some in the audience straining to recall some of the specifics, it’s hard to imagine many folks going to see the third Captain America movie not already understanding the basics of Steve Rogers’ relationship to Iron Man and The Winter Soldier.
On the other hand, prospective audiences for future installments worrying that they might begin to feel left out potentially have a point: Even the most dedicated fan is going to forget a detail here or there, and it may be asking a bit much to expect audiences to remember a plot detail from, say, Thor: The Dark World to fully appreciate a reveal in Guardians of The Galaxy 2 several years later. By most accounts, Captain America: Civil War has managed admirably to balance audience familiarity with necessary new information – but it remains to be seen if subsequent Marvel screenwriters will learn the correct lessons and continue to craft narratives that appeal to both experienced and newly-minted fans.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – 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.
Source: The Wrap