This is a movie about division. An argument springs up that splits a group in two, pitting them against each other in a fight neither side can truly win. I’m talking of course about how my husband and I absolutely disagree about who was “right” in Captain America: Civil War, and it causes a lengthy discussion every time this movie gets brought up. Welcome back to MCU March! We’re in the endgame towards Avengers: Endgame as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially entered Phase Three.
After a mistake on a mission in Lagos results in a large number of casualties, the world governments decide that it’s time to rein in the Avengers. The Sokovia Accords are passed which would have the team taking orders from the United Nations. Iron Man thinks this is going to happen whether they want it to or not so signing now will make things easier, while Cap believes that taking orders from governments with their own agendas will lead to the team being forced to ignore situations they could help with. On top of all this the Winter Soldier is framed for bombing the UN, killing the king of Wakanda. The new king, T’Challa, AKA the Black Panther (rest in peace Chadwick Boseman), vows vengeance and a race between him and Cap to find Bucky begins. The three (and Falcon) are apprehended after a public fight, and that’s when Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl)–the man behind the bombing–makes his move by activating mental conditioning that makes the Winter Soldier a loyal servant. Cap eventually gets Bucky back in his right mind, the the damage has been done. The fight over the Accords and Bucky comes to a head at a German airport where Captain America, the Winter Soldier, Falcon, Hawkeye, Wanda, and Ant-Man face off against Iron Man, War Machine, Black Panther, Black Widow, Vision, and new hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland in his debut before his own movie). It’s all fun and beating your friends in the face until Vision, trying to stop Cap and Bucky from escaping, accidentally blasts War Machine with friendly fire, crippling Rhodey. Cap and Bucky go after Zemo, who they believe will restart Russia’s Winter Soldier program and use the mentally unstable super soldiers to topple world governments. Agreeing that this is the real fight, Iron Man shows up to help. Too bad that’s exactly what Zemo wants–he doesn’t want to topple governments, he wants to destroy the Avengers for letting his family die in Sokovia during Avengers: Age of Ultron. He reveals that while under Hydra control, the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents. A brutal fight breaks out between the heroes that sees Iron Man and Captain America no longer on speaking terms. Oh, and Black Panther captures Zemo, because someone had to be the adult in the room and realize vengeance shouldn’t be indulged.
The mid-credits scene shows Bucky secretly being put back on ice in Wakanda as the start of deprogramming him, teasing the Black Panther movie. The post-credits shows Spider-Man playing with the new tech Tony got him, teasing Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Both my husband and I are solidly on the side of Captain America in the Civil War comic event (more on that below), but we differ on this movie. I’m on Captain America’s side, arguing that Steve is rightfully wary of taking direct orders from governments after finding out that Hydra was a secret part of SHIELD. My husband favors Iron Man’s side, believing that oversight is necessary, especially when people who can crack the planet with their fists are involved. But even those arguments aren’t that simple. Due to the nature of the MCU and how we get at most three movies a year, we don’t know what the superheroes of non-American countries look like, or even if there are any. There’s Wakanda, sure, but we find out in Black Panther that the rest of the world has no idea what the country or the Black Panther is capable of. The situation would change if, say, China had its own state sanction superhero team that could take care of threats in that part of the world. Of course, just as not every country wants American agents operating in their borders, the hypothetical Chinese team would most likely face similar political hang-ups. The comics have room to show us plenty of foreign superheroes, but in the movies it’s heavily implied that the Avengers are the only team capable of doing what they’re doing. The fact that the vast majority are American citizens is kind of touched upon, but would absolutely color how the rest of the world sees the team, especially when one of the main members is Captain America.
The whole situation’s fucked, basically. Superheroes and politics get incredibly messy the more you think about it, so don’t think about it too hard!
COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! If you’ve been reading these Fun Facts, I’m so sorry; they were supposed to be short little tidbits but I just couldn’t help myself. Beyond that you may have noticed that I’ve mentioned the Civil War comic event several times. Kicking off with Civil War #1 (2006), a superhero-related disaster that killed a lot of people has the government institute the Superhuman Registration Act. Iron Man is for it, but Captain America is against it. People died, friendships were broken, and in the end Cap surrendered and the SRA became law. Now, there’s a lot of nuance to both sides, so it’s hard to say which side was ri–it was Cap. Cap was right, Iron Man was wrong. Tony basically said as much to Cap’s corpse in Civil War: The Confession #1 (2007), because oh yeah, the event led directly into the death of Captain America. I have friends who adore Iron Man, but even they admit that the only place during the event where he didn’t look like a villain was his own solo title. He helped make a flawed clone of Thor that killed another hero, he hired supervillains to brutally hunt down his old friends, and was a general dick about the whole thing. That certainly made picking a side on this film easy for me.
Next: Doctor Strange
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