Thoughts on the Captain America: Civil War Trailer

The Civil War trailer was released late Tuesday night (if you were on the East Coast, anyway), and the Marvel fandom wasted no time in proceeding to completely and utterly lose their shit.

NB: I do not exempt myself. Within two minutes of the trailer dropping, I had texted my best friend and hopped into the “bucky barnes” Tumblr tag to await the gifsets, speculation, and histrionics with baited breath. I had planned an early night, but I didn’t get to bed until well after five in the morning. And I have no regrets.

The trailer was surprisingly Bucky-centric, to the delight of Tumblr, but—as is typical of Marvel trailers—light on plot details. Essentially, Marvel hasn’t told us anything we didn’t know already: a new regulatory law is going to put Captain America and Iron Man on opposite sides of an ideological divide, and Steve’s quest to find Bucky is going to complicate matters at some point.

Here are some of my observations.

When viewing a trailer like this, it’s important to remember that it hides much more than it reveals. I’m certain that there is a lot of misdirection at work: a lot of unrelated sequences cut together to make them seem related, a lot of voice-over conversations using dialogue between characters who don’t actually say said lines to each other in the film (1). I suspect that a lot of Natasha’s dialogue, for example, which is made to seem as if it is directed at Steve, is actually directed at other characters in the film like Hawkeye or even possibly Iron Man. I also suspect that many of the scenes of Bucky running in his ubiquitous (and soon to be Tumblr-famous) red shirt may actually involve Bucky running from Steve as much as he’s running from anyone else.

So the trailer begins with a continuation (or an expansion) of the post-credits sequence from Ant-Man: Bucky is restrained with his prosthetic arm caught in a vise; he wears the red shirt. In the trailer, the focus of this scene is Steve attempting to ascertain if there’s anything of his Bucky left in the body of the man he knew. By contrast, in the post-credits version of the scene, the focus was on the conversation between Steve and Sam, with a particularly emphasis on the mention of something called “The Accords,” which will complicate their handling of Bucky. Now the trailer gives us an idea of what “The Accords” are. We see the presentation of a document called the “Sokovia Accords” to the Avengers. This suggests that the post-credits scene from Ant-Man actually represents at least a mid-point of Civil War. (This tallies with Joe Russo’s contention that it is the third act of the film that focuses on the emotional dimension of the characters’ arcs.) This leads me to hypothesize that much of the action footage we see—the big fights, the majority of the explosions, the personal debates between Steve and Tony—actually come from the second half of the film. If that’s the case, there’s a lot of stuff we just aren’t seeing (and may never see until the film comes to theaters).

Here’s some of what we’re not seeing. Civil War features two major villains: Brock Rumlow, who returns as Crossbones, and Baron Zemo—a brand new antagonist. Though there is a split-second glimpse of Crossbones in one scene, there’s neither hide nor hair of Zemo. This film also introduces two prominent superheroes: Black Panther, who we saw involved quite heavily in Bucky’s story arc; and Spider-Man, who—like Zemo—is nowhere to be found. And the trailer doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the Avengers who are not Natasha or Falcon, or on Sharon Carter, or on Martin Freeman—whose character hasn’t actually been revealed yet, though smart money is on Henry Peter Gyrich. All of this indicates a highly complicated plot that cannot be boiled down to a fight over Bucky, although a fight over Bucky does seem to be a significant complicating factor in the broader disagreement and the trailer certainly went out of its was to hype that aspect of it.

Bottom line, for all that this trailer revealed, there’s a heck of a lot it didn’t. And while I’m not above speculation (2), this is still pretty much anybody’s ballgame.

Notes:
1) This is a trick they pulled with The Winter Solider as well. In that trailer, there were a number of voice-overs featuring Alexander Pierce that were made to seem like they were directed at Steve, when they were—in fact—directed at either Bucky or Natasha in the film.
2) My speculation tends to look something like this: Whoa… the sequence of Bucky fighting Tony and trying to tear out his arc reactor strongly suggests a raging grief-induced attack brought on by something happening to Steve—OMG does something happen to Steve?!? Are they gonna do “The Death of Captain America” here? I’m not sure I could take that. And didn’t Chris Evans say he was down to extend his contract for more Marvel movies anyway? Are we gonna have Cap caught in an infinite loop of his own timeline now? And HOLY SHIT is Rhodey dead? Rhodey cannot be dead. Protect Rhodey 2K16. You know, honestly guys, I just cannot see them giving up a major character death in the first trailer. They put a fake CGI sheet over Nick Fury’s body in the Cap 2 trailers so we wouldn’t know it was him, and he wasn’t even actually dead! But still. No hurt Rhodey. Rhodey safe. Rhodey too pure, too good for this world. No hurt Rhodey. No.

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