Although Captain America: Civil War’s main conflict will be between the heroes feuding on whether they should be regulated by the government, the movie won’t be without its own clear-cut antagonist. It’s been said repeatedly this year that Inglorious Basterds star Daniel Brühl will play longtime Captain America nemesis Baron Helmut Zemo, though Marvel has yet to officially state this. Regardless, fans should know that the Zemo we’ll see in the 2016 blockbuster will be much different than he is in the comics, and not just because he won’t be wearing his trademark purple mask.
Despite being unwilling to directly confirm that Zemo is in the movie, half of the directing duo Joe Russo told Empire that they decided to alter the character for Captain America: Civil War so that he can provide something new for the MCU. As Russo put it:
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. 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.
Marvel is known to make changes to certain characters in the MCU, from The Abomination’s altered background and look in The Incredible Hulk to Ben Kingsley being only a faux Mandarin in Iron Man 3, so hearing Zemo is going to be changed for Captain America: Civil War isn’t terribly surprising. His purple getup was already destined to never make it to live action, but going off Russo’s comments, it sounds like he may not be quite the terrorist he is in the comics. Despite him having moments of heroism leading the Thunderbolts on the printed page, Helmut Zemo has primarily just continued the villainous legacy inherited from his father Heinrich, the man responsible for Bucky Barnes’ presumed death and Steve Rogers ending up in suspended animation.
Despite this new information, we’re still in the dark on how Zemo fits into Captain America: Civil War. Our only clue is when Elizabeth Olsen, returning as Scarlet Witch, described Brühl earlier this year as playing the "main villain." While that still doesn’t quite narrow down what he’s up to, it’s possible that Zemo will play a key role (either in the shadows or in public) in getting the Sokovia Accords drafted so the world’s superheroes will be officially policed. This would then allow him to enact his own nefarious plans unimpeded…until a certain Star Spangled Avenger shows up to foil them, that is.
Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6, 2016.