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With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely successfully made what many would say is the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date. It made sense that they would be asked back to write Captain America: Civil War. However, if the pair thought they had a challenge in front of them the first time around, that was boosted by an order of magnitude for the new film. The pair say that writing Civil War was significantly harder, because they wanted to give each character the proper amount of attention, and there are so many characters.
While not a proper Avengers film, Captain America: Civil War has just as many heroes in it as those films have ever had, including two, Black Panther and Spider-Man, who have never been part of the MCU before. Uproxx asked Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus if this made writing the movie more difficult than it had been for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. According to McFeely, writing for that many characters required going through many more drafts of the script.
We had a tighter script earlier on Winter Soldier. So it was in good shape when the brothers came on. Then they just made us test everything and made everything better, came up with stuff, and put a Brian De Palma spin on it. Because there’s so many people [in Civil War], because you want to give everybody an arc appropriate to their contribution to the story – it’s just not easy, and takes a lot of drafts.
Apparently, the pair would go through the script multiple times, each time focusing on only one character, and what they did in the film. This helped them focus on the arc for each character and make sure that it worked. With 12 separate heroes to deal with, that meant going through the same script at least a dozen times to make sure each character was properly represented. If they found a need to add or subtract something for one character, one would expect that it would have an impact on other characters as well, meaning their arcs would then need to be reviewed again. They don’t say exactly how many drafts Captain America: Civil War actually went through. We can only imagine. The scriptwriters were spinning plates here, and they had 12 they had to keep spinning at once.
As somebody who has now seen Captain America: Civil War (no spoilers, promise) I have to say that the film succeeds admirably at balancing all of these characters. With so much going on at once in the film, it would have been easy to miss a step. The fact that it doesn’t is one of Civil War’s greatest strengths.