"I am Iron Man." It’s not just the lyric to a classic Black Sabbath. It’s the final line in the very first movie of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe… and it might have predicted the future path of the MCU, all the way back in 2008.
As you likely recall, Jon Favreau decided to end the first Iron Man with billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) revealing his secret identity to the world via a gathered press corps. It was a bold, strange decision, as Marvel basically stated – through the action – that secret identities wouldn’t be a major factor in the formation of the key Marvel characters. Everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. The world knows that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is Captain America. Heck, even in The Incredible Hulk, the fact that Bruce Banner is Hulk wasn’t a mystery. The military just couldn’t do a thing to stop it. Masked identities haven’t been a major part of the MCU, which is why they will NOT be a driving force of next summer’s Captain America: Civil War.
If you read the comic books on which Civil War will be based, the secret identities of superheroes like Daredevil and Spider-Man were a driving force of the conflict between Cap and Iron Man. Birth.Movies.Death, though, is going on record to say that this will not be the case in the movie. The site reports that instead of a Superhero Registration Act, there will be Accords, or a global movement by the governing bodies of the world to limit, or police, these newly-formed superhero teams. Instead of Captain America and Iron Man being at odds over the need for masked superheroes to reveal their identities and register, it will be about superheroes giving over to larger political bodies who fear the power wielded by these new beings. Or, as BDM puts it, it will borrow from the extremely foreboding phrase of, "Who watches the watchmen?"
And in one sense, this can make sense in the bigger picture of the MCU. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), in the last Captain America movie, saw the organization that he trusted – S.H.I.E.L.D. – torn down from the inside by HYDRA. I can see him being hesitant to put his faith in any such governing body. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), meanwhile, is continuing to feel a pressure he voiced in Age of Ultron that we must defend this planet against a larger, looming threat. Tony still believes that the end game of this current battle takes place in space, and while Ultron failed as a planet-protecting program, you can be sure that he’s exploring new avenues in Civil War.
This does make me wonder how heroes who DO have a secret identity to protect will be treated in Civil War. We went out of our way to meet Hawkeye’s family in Age of Ultron, and you can bet he doesn’t want them to be found if the shit is going to start hitting the fan. Same goes for the newcomer to the fray, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). So much of Peter Parker’s journey was protecting those he loved by hiding his true identity behind a mask. Will that play into Civil War at all?
We will find out when Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6, 2016.