Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: Civil War is overflowing with characters seen in previous Marvel Studios films, but two of the biggest highlights of the movie are the heroes being newly introduced: Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. What’s interesting about these two heroes is that the blockbuster doesn’t craft big origin stories for them, instead showing them deep into their respective heroes’ journeys… but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, it was the web-slinger moving in and out of the script that eventually convinced the writers to just have Black Panther exist in the MCU instead of showing how Prince T’Challa wound up wearing his special Vibranium costume.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely during the Captain America: Civil War press day in Los Angeles, and it was during our conversation that they revealed how the characterization of Black Panther in the movie was affected by Spider-Man. As it turns out, the writers were toying around with putting the wall-crawler in the film long before Marvel finalized their deal with Sony Pictures for the character, and it was in preparation for things going south that they started playing with T’Challa’s place in the story and how far along he would be into the costumed hero game. Markus explained,
Originally, T'Challa and T'Chaka were just the representatives of Wakanda, sort of the voice of other countries in the world going, ‘You people are out of control,’ and then to be aggrieved by possible Bucky actions. Frankly, just not have him be Black Panther yet. He's getting his own movie, you know. He's the prince of a country! That's pretty good for a movie. Maybe we get to play with Spider-Man and all that. When things maybe looked like we weren’t going to get Spider-Man, it was like, ‘Let's put the costume on that guy!’ And then he became so integral to the story as it evolved that once Spider-Man came back, we didn't take him out. So, it was a problem that created a really nice situation.
Having seen Captain America: Civil War (and not wanting to give anything too big away), I can tell you that the integration of Black Panther winds up being seamless. Admittedly they do change some very minor details from the comics, but the immediate introduction to the superhero character works perfectly in the context of the film, and the secrecy of Wakanda as a nation provides a totally reasonable explanation as to why we’re only now hearing about him now, in the 13th film of theMarvel Cinematic Universe.
Later this year we will see the release of Doctor Strange, which will tell the origin story of the titular Master of the Mystic Arts, but Captain America: Civil War definitely suggests that comic book movies could eventually move forward and leave this kind of set-up storytelling behind – trusting audience’s to grasp who a character is without two hours of exposition and backstory. Beyond 2016, it’s possible that we’ll also see an origin established for Captain Marvel when her movie comes out in 2018, but James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming, Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, Peyton Reed's Ant-Man And The Wasp, and the Russo brothers' two-part Infinity War will all be beyond that first step.
Captain America: Civil War will be in theaters on May 6th.