Captain America: Civil War trailer breakdown

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The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War, one of 2016’s most eagerly-awaited movies, finally ventured forth online today. It was packed full of tantalising teases for the 13th Marvel movie, in which the budding enmity between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark finally explodes into full-blown war. There will be blood. There will be biting, scratching and super-powered wedgies.

As ever, we wanted to bring you a breakdown of the trailer’s twists, turns and teases, and to help us do it, we spoke to two people in the know: Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers who directed the last Captain America instalment, The Winter Soldier, hold the reins for this movie, and will next be directing the mammoth Avengers: Infinity War two-parter. Read on for their thoughts (and ours) on the trailer…

Hello Again, Cap (And Falcon. And Bucky.)

bucky captain america and falcon

The first shot is a reprise of the post-post-credits tag on Ant-Man, in which Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) seem to have finally completed their long search for Steve’s childhood friend, Bucky Barnes, AKA former Hydra assassin The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan); a search that began at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. So, by putting this upfront, does that indicate that the search for Bucky is wrapped up fairly quickly in Civil War?

“That’s not early in the film,” reveals Joe Russo. “But we felt like it was the cleanest way to draw a line and highlight that this is Captain America 3, and not Avengers 2 and a half.”

“There is a story about how Cap gets to Bucky,” says Anthony Russo, “and that’s fairly involved.” One thing that’s still to be resolved: why, exactly, Bucky has managed to get his metal arm trapped inside what looks like a giant vice. Silly Bucky.

Check Out The Big Brain On Buck

bucky barnes

“Do you remember me?” asks Steve. “Your mom’s name was Sarah,” replies Bucky. “You used to wear newspapers in your shoes.” So, despite being brainwashed by Hydra for the past half-century or so, it seems that The Winter Soldier’s memories of his childhood friendship with Steve are thawing.

“His memories are foggy,” says Joe Russo. “But he has them. He’s also different now. There’s a part of his personality that was under mind control, and he murdered a lot of people. So he’s got a very complicated history. Who is that person? How does that character move forward? He’s not Bucky Barnes anymore. He’s not the Winter Soldier anymore. He’s something inbetween.”

In The Frame


“You’re a wanted man,” says Steve. And now we see why – an explosion rips through an important-looking government building. Is Bucky responsible? “I don’t do that anymore,” he says. So, is he being set up?

“All we can say about that,” says Anthony Russo, “is certainly The Winter Soldier has a very complicated history as an assassin and a weapon of Hydra – and that history ends up pulling him into a new conflict.”

It seems clear that Bucky is being framed. But by whom?

Breaking Out

civil war troops

“Well, the people who think you did are coming right now,” says Cap, over shots of a heavily-armed SWAT team heading their way. “And they’re not planning on taking you alive.” We then see brief shots of Cap and Bucky fighting their way out. (Presumably by this point, Ant-Man has been called in to help free Bucky from the Vice Of Doom. Or a man from AA Roadside Assistance.)

The Buck Stops Here

bucky jumping

The final shot, before the Marvel logo flashes up, is of Bucky leaping off the roof of a building. It’s interesting that Bucky, not Cap, gets the big hero shot at this point. In the comics, both Bucky and The Falcon have become Captain America – is Civil War setting Bucky up for a similar succession?

Thunderbolt And Lightnin', Very Very Frightenin'

general ross

Next, we see an old – but largely-forgotten face – enter the scene: William Hurt as General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, nemesis of Bruce Banner and last seen in the neglected stepchild of the MCU, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. “The job is to tie all these films together,” says Joe Russo. “To be able to pull from The Hulk, which may have been forgotten about a little bit, and make it relevant again within the cinematic universe, is important to us.”

General Mayhem

captain america black widow civil war

So, what’s old Thunderbolt up to, then? “Captain, while a great many people see you as a hero, there are some who prefer the word, ‘vigilante’.” It would seem that he’s not on the side of the angels – in fact, it’s clear that Ross is a driving force behind the development that drives the film: superhero registration.

“We thought it would be interesting to take a character who had a fanatical anti-superhero point of view,” says Joe Russo of Ross, who once saw his prospective son-in-law turn big and green and mean. “Now he’s become much savvier and more political and has put himself in a position of power, not unlike a Colin Powell. He’s cornering the Avengers politically now, he’s out-manoeuvring them.”

With Great Power...

chris evans civil war

Here’s the rub. “You’ve operated with unlimited power and no supervision,” says Ross.

“You cannot have a character called Captain America without examining the politics of what that means, especially in this day and age,” says Joe Russo. “The heroes in this universe operate under their own auspices, not under the directive of a government, and that can cause a lot of problems. There’s a certain level of imperialism that we’re examining – what right do those that have power have to use that power, even if it’s to do good? How do you govern that kind of power?”

Ross, as it turns out, has a simple solution to that…

The Biggest Accords This Side Of A Honda Dealership

sokovia accounts

In the Ant-Man tag, Steve referred to the ‘accords’ at one point, leading to much feverish speculation about their exact nature. Now we know: the Sokovia Accords are the MCU’s version of the Superhuman Registration Act that powered Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War comic back in 2006. “We’re using the essence of what Civil War was about,” says Joe Russo. “The comic book isn’t applicable to the storytelling that we’ve structured up to this point, but the concept of registration, the notion that heroes need to be either monitored or controlled because their power can be scary, is applicable.”

Here, we can see a copy of the chunky doctrine being slid across a table to, judging from the black nail polish, rings, and uber-goth sleeves, The Scarlet Witch.

Collateral Damage

general ross sokovia accords

But what do the Accords have in store for our heroes? “The Accords are the world jointly trying to govern the Avengers moving forward,” continues Joe Russo. “It has to do with the effects of Ultron and Sokovia [the small city that Ultron tried to drop on the Earth from a great height at the end of Age Of Ultron], and New York City [roundly trashed at the end of The Avengers], and Washington D.C. [nearly devastated by falling helicarriers at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier]. Examining the third acts of all the Marvel movies, we’re saying, if you could point to the collateral damage in all those incidents, could you use that against the Avengers to control them?”

Cap Sizes It Up

steve rogers civil war

“That’s something the world can no longer tolerate,” says Ross, as we see Steve lost deep in thought. What’s he contemplating? In the comic book, his opposition to the idea of registration led him to go rogue. In the movie, he chooses a similar path, but for different reasons. For very personal reasons. “The challenge was, we’re doing the story of Civil War,” says Anthony Russo. “Which everybody knows is nominally about superhero registration. And in a lot of ways that can be a political issue, and we didn’t want the conflict of the movie to solely exist on that level. We wanted to figure out very personal reasons why everyone’s relationship to this idea of registration is going to become complicated. That’s what the relationship between Steve and Bucky allowed us to do, to get very personal in terms of why people would lean one way or the other.”

Ride, Bucky. Ride Like The Wind

bucky barnes civil war

“I know how much Bucky means to you,” says Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, as we see Bucky and his wild, flowing locks ride hard through an underground tunnel. “Stay out of this one.”

The Winter Soldier cemented the relationship between Steve and Natasha – two people who recognised that they were kindred spirits, co-opted by the government and turned into living weapons. Natasha, though, sees the world in shades of grey, and will find the events of Civil War pit her against Cap.

“We thought it would be interesting to take that relationship that was so strong in Winter Soldier, and test it,” says Joe Russo. “She sees that they have made mistakes, very public mistakes and she’s trying to convince Steve that it might not be as black and white as he sees it and maybe they have some culpability, and maybe they have to accept that culpability, and then find a way to work within the system so that the Avengers aren’t disbanded.”

Cap. With A Cap.

steve rogers disguise

To show how deep the schism is between Steve and Natasha, here we see them, as in Winter Soldier, out in the field, in ‘disguise’ (for Cap, one of the world’s most famous men, that means a baseball cap and sunglasses). This time, though, they’re on opposite sides, with Natasha trying to call Steve back before he can do more damage. “Please,” she says, “you’re only going to make this worse.” But Bucky is Steve’s blind spot – it seems that helping his old friend clear his name is the event that convinces Captain America to go rogue and butt heads with the country that gave him his name.

“The arc we’re tracking for Captain America, the thing we thought would be most interesting with this character when we came on board to direct Winter Soldier,” explains Anthony Russo, “was to take him from the most ra-ra company man that you could get, this character who was a somewhat willing propagandist, and by the end of the third film he’s an insurgent.”

Which is a pretty big step for a man who still wears the flag on a daily basis. In further shots, we see Steve challenge Natasha, “are you going to arrest me?” Followed by a sequence of shots that indicate that the answer is a big fat ‘yes’.

Captain America Versus The Suits

black widow civil war

“You have to pit him against the establishment, only this time it’s even graver consequences and even graver stakes than in Winter Soldier,” adds Anthony Russo. “In Winter Soldier, he was on the side of right because the establishment had been corrupted by a very evil organisation. In this movie, it’s just the establishment versus Captain America and he has to make a choice whether or not he can tolerate the establishment any longer.”

Captain America Versus The Suit

tony stark civil war

Enter the establishment… in the form of a very angry-looking, battered and bruised Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). “Captain, you seem a little defensive,” says Stark as he advances down a corridor towards Cap. “Well, it’s been a long day,” replies Rogers. It’s about to kick off.

The Civil War comic book was, of course, predicated on the conflict – ideological and physical - between Cap and Iron Man, and that is also the case here. From the moment they met in The Avengers, the relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark has always been strained, but they departed on good terms at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Yet, in the year or so that has passed since the events of that movie (“typically we like to use the amount of time inbetween films as the amount of time inbetween storytelling,” says Joe Russo), Tony – the billionaire genius playboy philanthropist who has looked out for number one throughout the MCU – has had a change of heart.

Tony Stark - A Changed Man?

iron man civil war

“Tony’s defining characteristic is his egomania, in a lot of ways,” adds Anthony Russo, “and we thought it would be interesting to bring him to a point in his life where he was willing to submit to an authority, where he felt it was the right thing to do.”

Tony is also driven by the ghosts of Age Of Ultron, by the vision he had there of the return of Thanos and the destruction of the Avengers and Earth. “He now has a guilty complex,” says Joe Russo, “and the guilt drives him to make very specific decisions.”

Captain America Vs Tim From The Office: Dawn Of Justice

martin freeman civil war

Over shots of a shield-less (and SHIELD-less) Steve and Sam being brought to stand before Martin Freeman’s as-yet unnamed character (and, it appears, Emily VanCamp’s Agent 13, AKA Sharon Carter), Tony says, ‘If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys’. To which Cap replies, “That’s not the way I see it.” Fight. Fight. Fight.

Pick A Side

captain america shield civil war

“When people leave the theatre, they’re going to be arguing about who was right in the movie, whether it was Tony, or whether it was Cap,” says Joe Russo. “Tony has a very legitimate argument in the movie that’s a very adult point of view, about culpability, about the Avengers’ responsibility to the world, and the world’s right to have some sort of control over the Avengers. It’s a very complicated emotional arc for Tony Stark in this movie. Downey is utterly amazing in the part. I think he’s taking this character he’s been crafting for years and goes to some very risky places in the movie with the character.”

Buck Shot

bucky civil war

Here we see Bucky and Cap loading up for, presumably, the final conflict. And Steve doesn’t look entirely happy about the course of action he’s taken.

Needling The Captain

tony stark

“Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth,” Tony – now suited and booted – tells a nonplussed Steve. And you can see why, according to the Russos. “Tony is a person who understands the grey as well as anybody,” says Joe Russo. “Cap is extremely black and white and there is a certain level of moral fibre and fortitude that a guy like Tony would perceive as being irritatingly perfect, and irritatingly obstinate. The notion of wanting to punch Cap in his perfect teeth is a way to express his frustration with Cap’s inability to conform to politics, and to compromise.”

Old Friends... Older Enemies?


Anthony Russo weighs in. “We also played with the history. By the time Tony Stark was born and grew up, Captain America was a legend. We’re tracing the history between these two characters. It’s very interesting. It’s a thick, complicated relationship.”

Does this hint at rumours that the contretemps between Tony and Steve might in some way be linked to Tony’s father, Howard? In the MCU, Howard Stark died (when he was in Gerard Sanders mode, not John Slattery or Dominic Cooper) in a car crash before the events of Iron Man. But what if Bucky, as the Winter Soldier, was responsible for his death? Would that give Tony grounds for wanting to smash Cap’s face into a bloody pulp?

The Falcon Takes Flight

falcon civil war

“I just want to make sure we’ve considered all our options,” says Mackie, as we see The Falcon dive off a building and take flight. “Those people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me too.” And so it proves. But what of Falcon’s arc in this movie?

“He’s deepening his relationship with Cap,” says Joe Russo. “It’s Falcon, Cap and Bucky – how is that dynamic going to work going forward? How does he feel about Bucky? How does it alter his relationship with Cap if Winter Soldier comes back into the picture?” We have a feeling the burgeoning Cap/Falcon/Bucky slashfiction industry is about to experience a major boom. After all, this could be seen as the greatest love triangle in the MCU.

Cut The Cheque!

mackie money shot

The Falcon has landed, in the latest Anthony Mackie ‘cut the cheque!’ moment. Does he now insist on the Russos inserting shots like this into their movies? “He does,” laughs Joe. “It’s a little bit of the tail wagging the dog.”


captain america jumping through window

Here, we see Cap leaping through a window at the IFID – the Institute for Infectious Diseases. This would seem to lend credence to suggestions that the film partially revolves around a deadly virus that might be unleashed upon the world.

The Big Showdown

avengers civil war

“When I was a kid, collecting comics,” says Joe Russo, “I would look at the great double panels, and study all the characters in battle with each other. Sometimes it’s referred to as a splash panel. This is our splash panel.”

Indeed. We’ve known for some time that Civil War would revolve around the Avengers splintering into two teams – one loyal to Cap, the other firmly behind Iron Man. But here we see the main event about to begin. On one side, Cap, Bucky, the Scarlet Witch and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, called out of retirement at his farmhouse to pick up the bow one last time. Just out of shot, we can presume, are The Falcon and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man.

In The Red, Gold, And Silver Corner

stark rhodes civil war

And on the other… Iron Man and his best friend, James Rhodes’ War Machine. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight, although we’d imagine it’ll get evened up fairly quickly.

“The way we went about it, it was about tracing what was going on with these characters,” says Anthony Russo, “and we would examine each character on a very personal level – how would they respond to the idea of registration? What stakes would they have in this issue? Why is it good or bad for them? That’s how we went about it.”

Falcon Hunting

rhodes stark civil war flying

Tony and Rhodey take off. Very possibly in pursuit of The Falcon.

Bucking Hell

bucky running

The showdown takes place at an airport. Here, Bucky realises he’s just forgotten his passport.

Running For Cover

civil war explosion

Missiles – presumably fired by War Machine – rain down on the airport as two small figures we believe to be Clint Barton and Wanda Maximoff run for cover.

Enter The Black Panther

black panther civil war

Enter the “wild card” – Chadwick Boseman as the newest superhero on the Marvel block, T’Challa, leader of the African country of Wakanda. We’ll come to know him best as the incredibly athletic, super-smart Black Panther. And that is one heck of a suit.

“It’s a combination of a practical costume and VFX. It’s a vibranium weave, a mesh, almost like a chainmail. Luminescence is something we have to do in post,” says Joe Russo. That the Black Panther’s suit is made out of vibranium should not come as a surprise – Age Of Ultron established that Wakanda is the MCU’s source of vibranium, the near-unbreakable metal out of which Cap’s shield is forged. Taking on a guy clad in that entire metal is going to be tricky.

And what of the Panther’s role in the movie? “He’s there for a very different reason which brings him into conflict with Cap and his team,” adds Joe. “His motivations are not their motivations.”

Team Cap Talks Tactics

civil war hero shot

“What do we do?” asks Sam. “We fight,” replies Cap. And we see his team of disassembled Avengers do just that. Ant-Man isn’t here – that we know of – but we expect him to be part of this showdown. And check out Wanda’s new nifty moves, using her energy beams to fly. She’s used the last year or so wisely.

Widow On The Move?

black widow fighting civil war

Here, Natasha gets to unleash a compilation of her favourite killer moves. This is a new location, though – obviously a hotter one. Is this Wakanda?

Cap Vs The Panther

black panther running civil war

Cap tries to chase down Black Panther (good luck with that) in the same orange-hued underground tunnel we saw Bucky ride through earlier. Yet Bucky also appears to be part of the same chase sequence (he’s the guy with the red shirt, running over a car roof). Is this part of the same sequence?

Catching A Flight

captain america helicopter

Just like Dejan Lovren, Steve Rogers represents the pinnacle of human physical prowess. Here, we see him being tested to the absolute limit – grabbing onto a helicopter that’s trying to take off.

“He’s hanging onto that helicopter for an extremely passionate reason,” says Joe Russo. “In stories you’ll read where a mother will lift a car off a child. There’s something very important happening in that scene and for us it really represented his struggle as a character, one man pitted against a helicopter that’s trying to take off. Can he stop it? And what are the limits of his strength? For us, it’s one of the most powerful shots in the movie and it’s Chris Evans, who works very hard to physically exemplify this character. On set, we had him straining against a crane holding this helicopter, and you have this fantastic shot of his muscles bulging and you can feel the pain and the energy and the determination as he tries to stop this thing.”

What does this mean, though? Could Bucky be in the helicopter?

The Widow Watches

black widow explosion

At the airport, Natasha surveys the mayhem. Is she undecided about choosing a side? “It’s a great position to put Natasha in in this movie,” says Anthony Russo. “In a way, her head is with Tony’s side of things, but her heart is with Cap in a lot of ways. It’s a really awesome spot for her as a character in the film.”

Here, we can see that the airport is Leipzig-Halle, in Germany. Is this the trailer’s only nod to Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who may be the closest thing the film has to an actual villain? “Zemo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not Zemo from the comics, and what’s interesting and surprising is that we don’t always honour the mythology from the books,” says Joe Russo, dancing around the question. “One, because it’s predictable and two, it’s not servicing the story in the way we want. So, if Zemo were in this movie, I think people should expect that it’s going to be something fresh and exciting.”

Iron Man Vs Iron Fist

bucky iron man fight

Here, Bucky and Tony clash. Which might explain why Tony has a black eye when we first see him in the trailer. On paper, this doesn’t seem like a fair fight. But just look at the rage in Bucky’s eyes. The Winter Soldier is bringing the pain. The frosty pain. Because of winter, you see.

Capping It All Off

captain america hospital

“I’m sorry, Tony,” says Steve as he runs through a series of explosions at a hospital (which may be the IFID)…

End Of The Rhodes?

tony rhodes civil war

Egads! Over a shot of a ticked-off Tony cradling a stricken Rhodey – we don't reckon he's dead; that's not usually the kind of thing given away in a trailer – we hear Steve’s voice. “You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice.” And then, after a quick shot of Bucky (just in case we didn’t get the hint): “but he’s my friend.”


tony stark crying

And now the crucial line of the trailer: Tony Stark, the first hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the man who bankrolled the Avengers, looking as upset as we’ve ever seen him, replies: “so was I”. And, from this line on, it seems that there may be no way back for the two superfriends. “The theme of the movie is betrayal and it’s a very powerful theme,” reveals Joe Russo. “The movie’s extremely emotional. It hinges on that emotion, and on a very personal level we didn’t want the movie to become about politics and people arguing about platitudes. The third act is built around a very personal moment between these characters.”

The stage is set for an almighty showdown…

Hot Three-Way Action

avengers fight

Seconds out. The main event gets underway, as Bucky and Cap – sharing the shield in a way that should further fuel the ‘Bucky is the new Cap’ rumours – go toe-to-toe with Tony. Again, it shouldn’t be a fair fight – but the trailer leaves us with the distinct possibility that Tony may be about to lose this not-so-civil war.

In The Shadows

captain america civil war fight

But it also leaves us with plenty of questions: where does this fight take place? (It’s against a backdrop of snowy mountains, which virtually screams HIDDEN HYDRA BASE) What’s happened to The Falcon, and the rest of The Avengers? When will we see Zemo, or Frank Grillo’s Crossbones? All in good time. There is still much to be revealed. “It was important for us to make sure that you very clearly understood that this is a companion to Winter Soldier,” says Joe Russo. “It’s not a companion to Age Of Ultron, this is not a companion to Infinity War…”

Captain America: Civil War is out on April 29.