Captain America: Civil War will be released in North America this week and the film marks the 13th film and first step into Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The MCU began in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and since then, we’ve had 12 movies, four television series, and five short films added to the sprawling narrative. With two more films and a new television series premiering this year alone, we thought now would be a good time to stop and get caught up.
While there are definitely some people out there who have watched every single piece of this giant puzzle, the vast majority of movie-goers have probably only seen specific parts. Maybe you’ve seen every Iron Man and Captain America movie but none of the Thors. Maybe you’ve only watched the Netflix series (Daredevil and Jessica Jones, so far) but none of the films. Or maybe you’ve popped in for the big team-up Avengers films but not bothered with any of their solo adventures.
Whatever your commitment level to the series, I’ve compiled the best ways for you to get caught up/generally hyped up before seeing Captain America: Civil War.
Commitment Level Low: I Am Willing To Spend No More Than 10 Minutes Getting Caught Up
The fastest and easiest way to get caught up before watching Civil War is this seven-minute video summarizing everything Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have gone through since the series began. It does a great job of showing how these two characters (while fighting on the same side) have been moving in different directions for a while. And if Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice taught us anything, it’s that credibly explaining why your heroes are fighting each other is kind of important.
Commitment Level Medium: I Am Willing To Watch A Few Movies To Remember What’s Happened
That’s great! Some of these movies came out years ago and you may have forgotten certain things if you haven’t seen them since they were in theatres. We wouldn’t want any fun references to go over your head!
For just catching up, I suggest sticking to some key recent Phase Two films (Phase Two went from 2013 to 2015). Specifically, consider watching Captain America: The Winter Solider, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. Civil War is a direct sequel to CA: TWS and will likely deal with lots of the same themes. A: AoU was the last time we saw Cap and Iron Man together and the film sets up where they are now (as well as the characters that comprise the new Avengers team). Ant-Man was the last film released in this series and the titular character has been featured in a lot of the recent promo material. Thor apparently is not in this movie so you can skip Thor: The Dark World, and Tony’s PTSD and growing paranoia are covered pretty well in A: AoU so you don’t need to worry about Iron Man 3 either.
Commitment Level High: I Have Lots Of Time And Lots Of Interest In Catching Up
Look at you! Some people might refer to you as a nerd, but I prefer to think of you as being committed and passionate about the possibilities of long-form storytelling in major motion pictures.
For this level of time investment I suggest every movie in the MCU so far, except the two Thor films and Guardians of the Galaxy. Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Iron Man 3 will help remind you of Tony Stark’s penchant for making bad decisions. The Incredible Hulk features William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, who will be making his MCU return in Captain America: Civil War. The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron will set up how Steve and Tony have worked together so far, and where they left off with each other. And Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier will remind you just how far our Man Out Of Time has come. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have written all three Captain America movies, and I’m willing to bet that the consistency of creative input within that franchise is going to pay off in this new movie.
Commitment Level Stan Lee: None Of This Is Enough For Me, What Else Can I Do?
Oh wow. I mean, I’m assuming there has to be something else you can do with your time? No? Cool beans, here we go.
As for TV, the second and most recent season of Daredevil dealt a lot with issues around unregulated vigilantes, a key factor in the upcoming movie. And Jessica Jones shows the growing mistrust for powered people in the fourth episode, “AKA 99 Friends.” Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD usually ties into new films in the series, however it’s unclear whether there will be a direct connection just yet. Season 3, Episode 19, “Failed Experiments”, is the last episode before Civil War, so to be on the safe side, make sure you’re caught up!
And last but certainly not least, if you’re in total Civil War mode, go back to the comic book that started it all. The original story was published in 2006 and was a cross-title event that rippled throughout almost all the books Marvel was putting out at the time. The most important plot points are featured in Civil War volumes #1-7. The digital edition is even on sale at Marvel.com right now. They’ve clearly changed a lot for the new movie—for example, Black Panther and Vision were both on Captain America’s side in the comics, not so in the trailers for Civil War. But! There are sure to be more than a few similarities between this weekend’s blockbuster film and the source material (like Alfre Woodard’s character Miriam Sharpe, who was created for the original Civil War).
Phew. Now you’re prepped and ready for the big day. Be sure to come back and check out our Pop Cult Podcast episode on Captain America: Civil War on May 12th! Whose side are you on? Will it be the sleek but scarred #teamironman, or the morally superior do-gooder brigade of #teamcap?