How Captain America: Civil War Changes The MCU Forever

Captain America: Civil War - Team Cap

NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War


Captain America and Iron Man, in their own ways, kick-started the MCU, which makes it all the more appropriate that their conflict should redefine it. The marketing for the latest Marvel blockbuster played up the conflict within the ranks of the Avengers, pitching #TeamCap vs. #TeamIronMan in a big budget spectacle worthy of its title.

Captain America: Civil War didn't just end with a few broken bones and sour relationships. The entire status quo has been turned on its head, dropped off a building, repulsor-rayed right in the face and mashed to tiny bits with a metal arm until we're now left with broken pieces of what used to be.

Here's how Civil War, for better or worse, has changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

The Avengers 2012
Start Now

10 The Age of Heroes is Over (for now)

The Avengers 2012

Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, the MCU has been steadily populating itself with big-name superheroes who’ve made a name for themselves, become beloved icons and had action figures made in their likeness. The Avengers truly heralded the golden age of the super-person, with the team making their public debut and the world mostly embracing their efforts.

And now, it’s all gone. Before Ultron, it looked like we were heading for the traditional Marvel universe depiction of any superpowered Joe donning a pair of tights and being given a cutesy nickname by the press. Heroes were adored, admired and held up as symbols of justice. Then Sokovia happened, the Civil War ended up wrecking a perfectly good airport and now, things are right back to the beginning. Public opinions of superheroes have hit rock bottom, and many of the world’s most famous heroes have been reduced to either physical/emotional wrecks or outright criminals. The age of the heroes is truly over… for now. It’s going to take something very massive and public to undo the damage. Something like, say, a despotic alien invading Earth with his collection of magic jewels.

9 The Avengers Are Finished

Avengers attack formation

Speaking of which, the collapse of the public support for heroes has left the Avengers in a sorry state, which is kind of a shame since we barely even saw them officially in action. We saw the original team on one official mission (routing Von Strucker’s Hydra base in Age of Ultron) before disbanding. The New Avengers fared even worse, with one on-screen mission during which the Vision and War Machine apparently sat on the sidelines, quietly talking among themselves.

And what does Civil War leave us with once the credits start rolling? Tony is hanging out at the compound, but that doesn’t mean he’s a full-time member again. Vision is a confused mess, Rhodes is paralyzed, Romanoff is in the wind and Peter Parker is back to fighting street crime and worrying about calculus. All the other ‘enhanced’ people we know of are either wanted criminals, busy being the King of Wakanda or stuck learning magic in the mountains of totally-not-Tibet. With that German airport still smoldering, the Sokovia Accords have likely been amended from merely regulating super-powered types to something far worse and more stringent.

Put simply, the Avengers as we know them are finished. There’s no more S.H.I.E.L.D. to unite them, no public or military support. Undoubtedly, the Avengers will rise again (they have a couple more movies coming out that are named after their team, for one thing), but as for what causes them to rise from the ashes and take to the streets without being pelted with bottles and fruit? TBD.

(it’s totally Thanos, though)

8 People Can Die Now

The Sokovia Accords - What Marvel Movie Fans Need to Know

With all the buzz about who was going to die in Civil War, the movie eventually answered the question in a way that few expected: no one. No one dies. Or at least, no one with a name and any kind of fan clout outside of AoU's Quicksilver, who we barely knew in the first place.

Outside of this, however… there was death. Crossbones exploded his pretty face all over a building in Nigeria, killing several Wakandans. Cue General Ross waltzing in with a super-depressing power-point presentation that summed up all the deaths caused by various MCU events, or at least the ones where the Avengers can feasibly be expected to shoulder some blame.

Civil War painted a thorough picture of the collateral damage taking place in the background, while the Avengers were busy fighting aliens without mussing up their perfect hair. The Chitauri and the legion of Ultron-bots might not have invoked any tears, but the MCU is now a more sober place. Our heroes were trading quips while the beloved son of a single mother was being crushed to death under a building. Regardless of whose ‘fault’ this was, there have always been consequences, and going onwards from Civil War, this will always be on the heroes' minds.

7 The Supers Are Coming

Captain America: Civil War - Team Cap

The original Avengers were an even split between ordinary people with technology/insane gymnastics and those who were actually ‘enhanced.’ Even then, the super-folks were far from having regular powers; Cap was technically a normal guy at the peak of human potential, Thor is Asgardian and the Hulk is a nigh-uncontrollable force of destruction. There was barely a cape in sight, except for Thor’s impractical…cloak thing.

Age of Ultron brought the Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the latter of which didn’t even last one movie, and the New Avengers were mostly back to tech and crazy gymnastics once again. Now? The universe keeps getting bigger with the additions of Spider-Man and Black Panther, both very much superpowered, along with those like Ant-Man and the Winter Soldier; they might not have ‘powers,’ but with the things they’re able to pull off they might as well. Doctor Strange is looming on the horizon, the Netflix shows each feature a main character with enhanced abilities (except Danny Rand, who has magic punches, so whatever) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying its hardest to give us its own version of Mutants. The scales are tipping in the favor of superheroes with actual superpowers, and Civil War was where we really saw both the best and worst of the impact they’ll have on the MCU.

6 The Enemy is the People

Baron Zemo in Marvel Comics

Perhaps a change that may seem minor was the villain, Baron Zemo (or simply Helmut Zemo). While ex-military, Zemo was unlike most other MCU villains. He had no personal ties to the Avengers, he didn’t use a stolen super-suit or inject himself with a mysterious liquid and go on a destructive rampage. He wasn’t secretly a killer robot or an alien wanting to conquer Earth. Nope, it was just a really terrible twist of fortune that his family ended up being killed in the battle against Ultron, leading him to carry out a sinister revenge plot.

Sure, Daniel Brühl portrayed the guy as pretty shifty, but he subverted all our expectations about what a supervillain should be, not taking his chance to recruit an army of super-soldiers and not even physically tangling with any of the heroes at any point. He simply wanted Captain America and Iron Man to tear each other to shreds, and he almost got there. But if he could do it, why not others? The enemies aren’t in plain sight anymore; they could be anyone affected by the actions of the Avengers. And given that the world now holds them responsible for blowing up a city, bombing a building and trashing an airport, there are bound to be more people nursing grudges than ever.

5 Any Hero is Possible in the Future

Spider-Man in Civil War

It’s strange to think that, until not so long ago, Spider-Man (in film, at least) was the sole property of Sony, who would continue to use the name to churn out increasingly-terrible movies until he stopped making money. So probably never.

Fast-forward to today and the fans actually got their exact wish: Spidey is a part of the MCU, and what we’ve seen so far of the character has been stellar. What comes next? In a meta-sense, this means that anything could happen. No hero, or team of heroes, is off the table in terms of who could be suiting up with the Avengers next, even if Marvel doesn’t currently own their rights. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t a particularly great movie, but it still made Sony loads of money. Spider-Man made the leap to Marvel anyway. How long will the Fantastic Four languish in Fox-jail before the same thing happens, given their cinematic history bordering on ‘tragic’?

Even the X-Men, who are still critically beloved and extremely lucrative, aren’t completely out of the question (though yeah, still unlikely). There’s no box office return quite as sweet as a major MCU team-up, and there’s always time for Fox to broker some kind of deal that leads to them sharing their toys. Spider-Man has made this all possible, a flagship character if you will. So just like in the comics, basically.

4 No More Captain America

Chris Evans as Captain America

Not that many people besides a starstruck Scott Lang referred to him as ‘Captain America’ in this movie, but the events of Civil War might just have caused Steve Rogers to abandon the title altogether. After the fight with Iron Man, Steve leaves behind the iconic shield that accounts for a good chunk of his fighting style, a stark symbol of how he’s trying to get rid of his previous title.

Steve abandoned not only the object, but also the title and the prestige. The highly-publicized events of the movie dragged his name through the mud and led to him being cut off by the very institution he’d been fighting for. The next time we see Steve Rogers, he’s busting his friends out of prison in normal clothing and without any kind of equipment.

Captain America is finished, and considering that he was the first Avenger (it’s in the subtitle and everything!), this can’t mean anything good for the team. The world’s most beloved hero is now a disavowed criminal, which will be a major blow to public morale, as well as whoever makes those Captain America action figures. Seriously, like, massive recalls. So much wasted plastic.

3 Wakanda Makes its Debut

Captain America: Civil War set images show Wakanda

We’ve known for years that Wakanda would be making an appearance, eventually scoring a name-drop in AoU and appearing for real in the mid-credits scene of Civil War. True, we haven’t seen a great deal of the place- mostly just a really lush bit of jungle and a big cat statue- but it’s still a significant leap for a franchise that tends to jump back and forth between America and outer space.

Other settings on Earth have played their parts, such as London in Thor: The Dark World and… actually, that’s pretty much it. Unless you count Sokovia, which is unlikely to play any future role. Wakanda is a major location from the comics, being home to Black Panther, vibranium and many other wonderful things. Now that Cap and friends are holed up there, it makes the frenetic world of the MCU just that little bit bigger in a way that even a giant floating space skull just can't.

2 Heroes Are Back to Square One

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man2

When Tony Stark first built that gold-and-red Iron Man suit, he set in motion a massive chain of events that has led to alien invasions, robot invasions, dark elf invasions and eventually a civil war between the people responsible for repelling all these invasions. That’s not to say that it was all Tony’s fault, but the presence of the Avengers was a major catalyst. As Vision put it, their strength invites challenge, and that’s been clear from every movie thus far.

Now, we’re almost back to square one: no more Avengers, no more S.H.I.E.L.D., no more superheroes. The ignorance of the public has been replaced with fear, which means that heroes can no longer operate openly. Any reputation they had will have to be built back up, which all leads into a leaner, fresher MCU. Civil War wasn’t just a setback. It’s reset the entire status quo back to the beginning, only now most of the superheroes are either retired or known fugitives. Whatever the case, there are no rules or boundaries to what happens next; the slate is clean. Except for the whole ‘Infinity Stones’ thing. They probably need to address that at some point.

1 The MCU is Coming Together (kind of)

Hawkeye Netflix Series Jeremy Renner

Inhumans might have been ousted from Marvel’s official release schedule, but unless they choose to reboot the entire universe they’ve spent over ten years crafting, then the connections between the TV and movie worlds are fairly solid (if a bit one-sided at the moment).

It’s easy to read too much into single statements, but Civil War does feature a line from Vision where he states that the number of enhanced individuals has grown ‘exponentially.’ It’s a very specific word choice that doesn’t fit the movie universe at all, since at the time, he and Wanda were the only truly enhanced Avengers (on the current team). Pietro is dead, they didn’t yet know about Black Panther and Spider-Man was a blurry, urban YouTube legend swinging around in a onesie. That leaves Thor and Hulk, but that’s still only a handful of enhanced people, unless you count those using technology. Was Vision’s statement a reference to the TV shows?

Ehh…maybe? Daredevil isn’t widely known to have abilities beyond flashy parkour flip kicks, but Kilgrave went on a highly publicized rape-and-murder spree, with most of New York at least hearing about what he could do. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage weren’t exactly judicious about using their powers, while the biggest indicator is what’s happening on AoS: traces of terrigen crystals are igniting Inhuman powers all across the world. This should be a major event, and especially one that the Avengers should be the first to know about. Nothing is certain, but by all logic, this is what Vision is referring to.

So…good news for a unified MCU? We'll have to wait and see.


Any other major changes you can think of in the wake of Civil War? Let us know in the comments.

More in Lists