‘Captain America: Civil War’ Writers On The Challenges Of Writing A Superhero Movie With So Many Characters

So, let’s put it this way: In the first Avengers film, Joss Whedon and Zak Penn were tasked with bringing together seven superhero characters – all of whom who were introduced in prior films – into something that seemed cohesive. (And, yes, as we all know they pulled it off.) With Captain America: Civil War, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had to incorporate twelve main superhero characters and give them all some semblance of an arc. Not to mention, two of these superheroes – Black Panther and Spider-Man – haven’t appeared in prior Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Ahead, the duo explains the greatest challenges and what they wanted to accomplish with both Spider-Man and Black Panther before handing them off to other directors for their first proper full MCU films.

(As always, there will be minor spoilers ahead. We saved some more major spoilers for after the film is released in theaters in the Unites States.)

Any movie that references The Empire Strikes Back earns a lot of points with me.

McFeely: You’re welcome. And you can blame the Russos. The made sure that one happened.

Oh, I assumed it was you two.

Markus: No, but we had Spider-Man doing the maneuver, though. We are always a little leery of that, referencing popular culture.

McFeely: You picked the one thing where we were like, “We don’t know if this will work.” So, we’re not going to pretend to take credit for it.

When I write this up, I’ll give you two full credit.

McFeely: There you go.

Markus: Thank you for the credit, sir.

There’s a scene where Hawkeye keeps mockingly calling Tony Stark “The Futurist.” Robert Downey, Jr. had an album called The Futurist.

Markus: Yes! Yes he did.

There’s something here because you know what I’m talking about.

Markus: But I don’t think we’re the first people to say “futurist” in the MCU. I think it’s proof that Robert is a futurist that, before he became Iron Man, he made an album called The Futurist. It’s all very deserving.

So this is intentional?

McFeely: It’s not even a joke! In the comics, he really does consider himself a guy who can see four steps ahead. We really weren’t trying to tweak Robert, it just really was part of the character.

With all the characters, was this a tougher film to write than Winter Soldier?

McFeely: I guess I would say it’s tougher. We had a tighter script earlier on Winter Soldier. So it was in good shape when the brothers came on: Then they just made us test everything and made everything better, came up with stuff, and put a Brian De Palma spin on it. Because there’s so many people, because you want to give everybody an arc appropriate to their contribution to the story – it’s just not easy and takes a lot of drafts.

Markus: And it takes individual passes.

McFeely: Where it’s like, “This is an ‘addition’ pass.”

Markus: Yeah, “We’re going to go through this and make sure Vision is the character.”

Speaking of Vision, he’s very domesticated. He wears sweaters. It reminds of Vision from the ‘80s Avengers comics.

McFeely: We wanted to do things that are interesting about him. And the Pinocchio story, almost parts of that are too easy, so we didn’t want to hit that too hard.

You have to introduce two very important characters, Black Panther and Spider-Man, who are getting their own full movies soon. Is that a lot of pressure, setting it up for those directors and writers?

McFeely: Oh, let me tell you, it only gets worse in Infinity War. We definitely didn’t want to eat anybody’s lunch before they got a chance to sit down.

Tony learns about the death of Alfre Woodard’s character’s son, which the Avengers caused and affects his decisions. Then he brings Spider-Man into the fight…

Markus: He’s feeling responsible for killing one woman’s son early in the movie, and here’s a young boy a little younger than that kid, and he meets the aunt-mother figure and the boy – and yet he’s making a decision to bring him into that. It’s a weird, conflicted sort of moment.

Speaking of, is Alfre Woodard playing the same character she plays in Luke Cage?

McFeely: No.

Markus: We can tell you “no.”

McFeely: She was in our movie first, then they cast her. In our movie, she plays a mother who lost her son and works at the state department in human resources.

Black Panther means a lot to a lot of people.

Markus: The most important thing was to have him have a legit place in the narrative of the movie. So it didn’t feel like we were wedging him in as product placement for the next movie. So that T’Challa, T’Chaka and Wakanda were in the movie before Black Panther was – it was part of the worldview of the Avengers and their effect on the world.

McFeely: You want various people to come into the story for different reasons. So, T’Challa comes in because he’s a guy whose only agenda is based on events of the story. Spider-Man comes in and Ant-Man comes in and they don’t have a preconceived agenda, and that’s why they pop so much as comic relief. They’re less invested, and T’Challa is far more invested, but not as a team member. That’s the thing, when you have so many characters, you can’t treat them all the same. They all have to have a different point of view that you have to explore in just a few beats.

Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.