Captain America 3’s story wasn’t always going to be Civil War, and here’s what it could have been if Robert Downey Jr. did not return as Iron Man.
Captain America: Civil War almost did not happen due to Robert Downey Jr.’s contract, meaning that an alternative Captain America 3 could have looked very different. The first film in Phase 3 evolved to be one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest films and an instrumental building block for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The movie split the MCU’s Avengers apart as heroes chose to side with Captain America (Chris Evans) or Iron Man over the Sokovia Accords. Captain America: Civil War allowed Marvel Studios to do a loose adaptation of the comic event from 2006, but this was not always meant to be the plot of Evans’ third solo film.
The idea to turn Captain America 3 into a Civil War The movie came from Kevin Feige during the development of the film’s script, which Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely returned to write. However, they began working on the script in 2013, before Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released and the idea for the movie to tackle the iconic comic story came. Even though Kevin Feige had the idea for Captain America: Civil War‘s story, it was not a guarantee that this would ultimately be what the movie was about. Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel contract expired after Avengers: Age of Ultron, which meant Feige and the Russo brothers had to convince him to return as Tony Stark. After all, without Iron Man’s role in the movie, Captain America: Civil War would feel even less like the comic’s version of the story.
Just as Captain America: Civil War‘s script had different versions just in case the Sony deal for Spider-Man did not happen, the earlier stages of development did not account for Iron Man’s role in Captain America 3. As hard as it is to imagine what the movie would be like without Tony Stark and Steve Rogers going to war, there are plenty of hints about what Marvel’s original plan was. From another Captain America to more Winter Soldiers, here’s what Captain America 3‘s story would have been without Iron Man’s Civil War.
Steve & Bucky’s Relationship Would Take Center Stage
One of the major throughlines for Captain America 3‘s story was always going to be Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes’ (Sebastian Stan) relationship. Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s ending saw Bucky save Steve from drowning and the post-credits showed him learning more about his past. Their friendship is still a major part of Captain America: Civil War, as Steve risks everything to defend Bucky and keep him safe. There are no known details about what their arc would be together, but the movie likely would’ve still shown Bucky and Steve rekindling the friendship they had decades ago. The duo would not be alone for the entirety of Captain America 3, though, as Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) would still appear based on the setup that he was helping Steve look for Bucky. Emily VanCamp was also meant to return as Sharon Carter in some capacity.
Baron Zemo Was Still Captain America 3’s Villain
The original Captain America 3 story still included Baron Zemo as the main villain. Stephen McFeely confirmed this during a 2016 interview leading up to Captain America: Civil War‘s release. He said that the way Baron Zemo operates is from the original iteration of the movie, even if parts of his story evolved to fit within the Civil War adaptation. It is unclear if the Sokovia origin for Zemo would’ve been used in Captain America 3 without Downey Jr.’s return, but the villain still would’ve operated more in the shadows it appears. Zemo’s feud with Captain America would have remained but his overall plan would change based on other details. There is also no word on if he would’ve worn his purple mask in this version of the movie.
Captain America 3 Would Use Marvel’s Madbomb
Instead of a story revolving around the Avengers being split apart, Captain America 3‘s big threat was originally meant to be a concept from the comics known as the Madbomb. Created by Jack Kirby in 1975 and uses as the centerpiece of a memorable Captain America and Falcon arc, the Madbomb was a sonic device that caused people to go insane when it was activated. The Russo brothers confirmed the presence of the Madbomb during various interviews. The decision to go with the Madbomb as the big threat Captain America, Falcon, and Bucky had to stop came from an interest in the heroes having to fight off hoards of almost zombified civilians. It was also teased that Captain America 3Madbomb could have infected some other MCU heroes, allowing the movie to have Captain America fight his friends in some form.
Hydra’s Other Winter Soldiers Had Bigger Roles
Captain America 3‘s original story potentially included an even bigger role for Hydra’s other Winter Soldiers too. The super-soldier assassins were used as a massive piece of misdirection in Captain America: Civil War, as Baron Zemo killed them before they could fight Captain America, Iron Man, and Bucky. The twist helped set up a more personal finale for Civil War, but that does not appear to always have been the case. Actor and stuntman Scott Adkins revealed in 2018 that he met with the Russos about playing one of the Hydra Winter Soldiers when they were meant to have a bigger role. It’s unclear if this was after the movie’s story switched to Civil War or if this was before. These super soldiers could have been Captain America 3‘s original way of having a massive battle, as Hydra’s other super-soldiers could go crazy due to the Madbomb and become even bigger threats to Steve and company.
Captain America 3 Could’ve Included Another Cap
The original Captain America 3 story also seemingly included plans to introduce another version of Captain America. Prior to Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s release, Christopher Markus teased that their plans for the sequel included a “Psychotic 1950s Cap.” Even though a name was not said, it appears Markus was teasing the debut of William Burnside, the fourth Captain America in the comics. Burnside became Cap when Steve Rogers took a break, but he was driven insane due to an improper amount of super-soldier serum. No further details on how this other Captain America would factor into Captain America 3‘s story ever came. It would’ve been quite surprising to see Steve Rogers lose the mantle (even if just temporarily), but Burnside also could’ve been reimagined as a Hydra super soldier instead. In any case, William Burnside potentially may have become the MCU’s dark Captain America replacement years before John Walker’s role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Crossbones Likely Would’ve Had A Larger Role
Crossbones is one character who received the short end of the stick due to Captain America 3‘s story turning into Civil War after Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man joined the project. Frank Grillo appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Brock Rumlow and the movie’s ending teased a great future for the Captain America villain. In reality, he was only used for one sequence in the final movie and killed off early on. This was not going to happen in the original plan for Captain America 3. Grillo teased that he and the Russos repeatedly discusses a bigger future where Crossbones is elevated as a villain. There were even reports that Crossbones was going to be the movie’s main villain. After having a building dropped on him and losing Hydra, Captain America 3 was the right place to give Frank Grillo’s character more to do. While the details of his original role are not known, it is easy to imagine him fitting into the Madbomb storyline and possibly even being the one interested in releasing it – much like his mission to steal a bioweapon in Captain America: Civil War‘s opening.
Would The Serpent Society Be Involved?
Something that has never been clear about Captain America 3 is if the Serpent Society was ever meant to appear. Marvel Studios famously named the movie Captain America: Serpent Society at the 2014 Phase 3 slate unveiling event before revealing the real title was Captain America: Civil War. The Serpent Society is a group of Marvel villains that all have serpent-related names and abilities. Neither the Russos nor Markus and McFeely have ever indicated that the villain team was meant to appear in Captain America 3even if Marvel Studios joked that they would be the main villains.
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