So Captain America: Civil War is finally out at the cinemas, after what has seemed like an interminable wait. The hype machine has been in full swing for months, dropping tidbits of the story. Though very little was known about how the movie would unfold it was made very clear that a fight was going to go down between two of the most well-known and beloved of The Avengers and Marvel fans have been invited to make a choice. The choice of whether or not to lend their support to Steve Rogers AKA Captain America or to Tony Stark AKA Iron man.
Before seeing the movie I, like may others, had based my decision upon the characters as they have so far been portrayed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also upon what I knew of the Civil War comic storyline. I believed that I would be making the choice about whether or not to support the registration of all enhanced individuals and the curtailing of their rights as individuals, stripping away their anonymity and labeling them as a “human weapon of mass destruction” Being largely a supporter of free speech and free expression I had naturally assumed that I would be against this and as such that would put me firmly in the camp of Captain America, who leads the enhanced individuals in opposition, rather than Iron Man, who leads those in support.
You know what happens when you assume…?
However first things first, in my opinion Captain America: Civil War is a worthy successor to The Winter Soldier. I had worried that Civil War would be yet another tragic victim of the Hollywood Rule Of Three, if the first movie is good and the second movie is great then the third movie will invariably be a disappointment, but I am happy to say that this is largely not the case. It is clear that Civil War exists for the most part to introduce new characters and set things up for a new MCU storyline, though on the whole the movie doesn’t suffer because of it. Ant-Man and Spider-Man integrate wonderfully into their respective groups, managing to steal every scene they are in. For the most part Civil War manages to be both thrilling and thought provoking. The actions sequences are everything that we have come to expect from the series, tightly shot and well paced with stunning set pieces. That’s not to say the movie is perfect, the story doesn’t flow as well as The Winter Soldier and some threads of the plot that had great potential unfortunately lead to nowhere. Also I really didn’t like the design aesthetic of having the city names displayed in huge, bold, white lettering fully across the screen, a small complaint I know but in a movie that jumps around as much as Civil War this choice became more irritating as the movie progressed.
Civil War was also a surprise in that it has almost entirely disregarded the story from the comics, something that will disappoint fans. In Civil War the focus is very much on the collateral damage left in the wake of the events in New York and Sokovia and the subsequent events that occur both directly and indirectly as results of choices made by The Avengers. Public perception has been damaged and in the wake of these events The Avengers are ordered to sign a UN drafted document known as The Sokovia Accords, an internationally recognised legal agreement that will establish a system for how enhanced individuals are deployed, bringing them firmly under the control of a UN based panel and making them accountable to the tenets of international law.
Tony Stark is firmly in favour of the accords, feeling that the cost of intervention by The Avengers is often too high and that greater accountability is needed. Stark is still dealing with the trauma of New York and the guilt of Ultron and is clearly ready to leave behind the recklessness he has often displayed in the past, in favour of a more measured and controlled approach. Steve Rogers is against the accords, feeling that they dangerously limit the effectiveness of The Avengers and place them at the mercy of politicians who may have their own agenda. Since the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D, and the exposure of Hydra, Rogers has been wary of those in authority, afraid that The Avengers will become puppets of those that cannot be trusted.
The conflict here speaks as much about Rogers and Stark as characters as it does about the situation. Both Rogers and Stark see themselves as leaders and both trust their own judgement above that of anybody else. Even before his enhancement Rogers was not inclined to accept the decisions of others, believing his own judgement to have greater merit. He still attempts to get into the military a number of times despite being told that his medical issues and lack of strength would make him a danger to himself and to others. His perseverance is portrayed as endearing yet it also reveals a sizable ego and an underlying arrogance which could become dangerous if left unchecked. I would also say that when it comes to Bucky the judgement that Rogers relies upon is impaired, lacking any kind of impartiality. Rogers may be a good man but in actual fact he is a terrible soldier, often questioning or ignoring the judgments of his commanders. Stark has always held a resentment for Rogers, connecting with issues related to Stark’s relationship with his father. Yet Stark has a similarly high regard for his own judgement, in the clip below Stark claims that he made the choice to stop making weapons once he knew they were finding their way into the wrong hands, however this isn’t strictly true. After all, what is the Iron Man suit if not a weapon? Realistically all Stark did was decide to make weapons that only he himself, and others that he had judged worthy, could make use of. Civil War could very easily have become a dick measuring contest between Rogers and Stark, two men with giant egos each wanting to play best leader, but it doesn’t. The issues within the movie are managed well and given a surprising amount of depth for a comic book movie.
So, after seeing the movie and giving the themes some thought, it is time for me to make my choice and while I had assumed that I would empathise most with Captain America’s position it turns out that I was wrong. While it is true the UN panel system is at risk of abuse, and the approach of those proposing the accords is somewhat heavy handed, The Avengers and those like them don’t exist within a vacuum. The decisions and actions they take have consequences that directly affect the guilty and the innocent alike. For those caught in the crossfire of superhero battles it makes little difference whether those responsible for the destruction of their lives are acting for the ending of humanity or it’s protection. What good is it knowing the world is safe when everything that personally meant something to you is gone?
If The Avengers and other enhanced individuals claim to act on behalf of mankind, as protection from foreign and domestic threats on a global and even intergalactic or interdimensional scale, then they must allow themselves to be answerable to that mankind. Working with intergovernmental organisations may be tiresome and put a crimp in superheroes style but on the other hand the work that they do then comes with the backing of the systems that we as an aggressive but fair minded society have put in place to ensure accountability. Nobody should exist above the law, not even The Avengers. Sorry Captain America, I get where you’re coming from but I’m exercising my right to choose, and I choose Team Stark.