Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe won't be officially concluded Ant-Man opens in theaters, but already people are looking ahead to the beginning of Phase III, with Captain America: Civil War. Most of the conversation thus far has revolved around the superheroes who will be included in Civil War, be it returning players (Captain America, Iron Man) or new additions (Black Panther and, possibly, Spider-Man).
However, the film will include some key everyday human characters (read: the kind that neither wear special armor/costumes and/or were onetime S.H.I.E.L.D. agents) too, seeing as the story is about the government seeking to better regulate the various superheroes of the world. It would appear that fan-favorite Martin Freeman is going to be playing one such non-Avenger/non-Agent in the movie, most likely.
Freeman's casting in Civil War has been officially announced by Marvel Studios. Here's the statement from head producer Kevin Feige:
"From his roles as Bilbo Baggins and Doctor Watson to Tim in 'The Office,' Martin's range from the dramatic to the comedic has consistently impressed us. We couldn't be more honored or excited to have such a talented actor join the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
No doubt many fans have already noted that Freeman will join the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same year as his Sherlock and The Hobbit costar, Benedict Cumberbatch - with the latter to appear as Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange, almost exactly six months after Civil War opens in theaters.
It's not clear yet who Freeman will be playing in the film version of Civil War - be they an original character or someone from the Marvel comic books. However, Freeman will certainly bring a certain screen gravitas with him to his role in the film; though, of course, not as much screen history as Robert Redford did back when he played the key role of Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Maybe Freeman will play a seemingly ordinary government bureaucrat who is responsible for initiating the stricter regulations for superheroes - but, like Redford's character in Winter Soldier, Freeman might have darker (and secret) motives for initiating a schism within the Avenger community. Daniel Brühl has confirmed that he will costar in Civil War as Baron Zemo, a villain who (based on his comics lineage) could have ties to Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) history in the film; and thus, may help to orchestrate a plan to weaken The First Avenger and his kind - in collaboration with Freeman? (If you're not sure about Freeman's ability to play evil, just watch him play the corruptible Lester on Fargo.)
Then again, Freeman could be a government ally to Cap and his kind, or some other type of character altogether. Best to not get ahead of ourselves with speculation. There are still a number of unknown factors in play here, what with Captain America 1 & 2 scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely adapting the Civil War comic book storyline (by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven) - in part to expand the infrastructure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the rest of Phase III.
Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo raised the bar in the MCU with The Winter Soldier in 2014, and the hope is the duo will be able to manage a similar feat with the beginning installment in Phase III. The third Captain America movie, for instance, will be even less of a solo film than Winter Soldier - pitting Steve Rogers against Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) figuratively and literally, in a feature that will include many other Avengers in pivotal roles. That alone sets a precedent for things to be very different in Phase III.
Likewise, Civil War will no doubt provide the same fun action and humor as previous Marvel Studios films, but it has the potential to be a real creative accomplishment too. Such a development would be all the more impactful at this stage, if Marvel wants to refute criticisms that its movies are becoming more product than pop art (see: our SR Underground Podcast crew's critique of Avengers: Age of Ultron).
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is now in theaters; Ant-Man arrives on July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Black Panther - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - May 3, 2019; Inhumans - July 12, 2019.