Civil War deals with some pretty heavy themes and touches on a lot of personal as well as ideological conflicts. I am not dealing with the very complex notions of revenge and justice in the movie that it deals with. Instead I am more interested in ideological questions the movie brings up. I am a huge fan of politics so it was impossible for me to miss the themes that both Stark and Cap lean on, and the beliefs that shine through. This will be very spoilery so if you don’t want the movie ruined just turn back now. You have been warned so no whining in the comments.
This had been building since Winter Soldier. The Avengers had been effectively acting as agents of SHIELD and that was legal framework most of the world accepted. With the destruction of SHIELD, the Avengers became free agents and promptly created Ultron. Granted it was Tony Stark and not the entire team, and they were able to stop it, but the fact remains, an Avenger nearly ended the world because he was working with zero oversight or accountability. Then … it finally comes to a head.
An Avengers team is tracking an agent of Hydra in Nigeria. While they stop him from stealing a bio-agent, Wanda redirects an explosion right into an office building. The result was a lot of civilian causalities. The moment is made even more cringe worthy by the team running through the streets of Lagos, getting into fire fights around terrified civilians and Falcon using a drone to track a Hydra agent. All of this leads to an international nightmare where the nations of the world want to put the Avengers under the authority of the United Nations.
WHY IRON MAN IS WRONG…
Before we go any further, I should tell you I was team Cap before this movie started, but was team Iron Man in the comics. I am a law and order kind of guy and that tends to override most other concerns for me. In the comics the idea of lawless superheros running around scared me to death, but in the MCU that concern was overridden by one thing…
The world created a law enforcement system designed to handle threats like Loki, and Ultron, only to have super Nazi’s take control of it. Had Cap, Black Widow and Falcon not worked outside the law the world would be controlled by Hydra. Not only does this support the idea of an independent Avengers but it’s a huge knock against having a military at all. This would be the largest failure of intelligence in human history and it was caused by normal humans. Hydra didn’t have superpowers and they nearly hijacked the world. I was so sure that Iron Man’s case would be overwhelmed by that, that he would come off as downright naive.
Furthermore, the nations of the world seemed to put Secretary of State Ross in charge of dealing with superheroes. I say this as seriously as I can, but the U.S. President in the MCU must be the biggest moron in that entire universe. Ross was the villain for most of Incredible Hulk. His single minded pursuit of Bruce Banner turned the University of Virginia in a shooting gallery, most likely caused an international incident with Brazil, and oh yeah…made this guy!
Which resulted in the Hulk having to get into a fist fight with that guy in the middle of Harlem! Ross caused Harlem to get trashed and the Hulk had to clean up his mess. Lets be clear…not Banner, but the Hulk, was more socially responsible than then General Ross. We haven’t even gotten into the notion of the United Nations being put in charge of superheros. This is a group not known for acting quickly or well. It is usually driven by the individual concerns of nation states and no one really worries about how this affects the rest of the world.
WHY CAP IS WRONG…
Boy does Cap have a strong case…I mean a really really strong case. A lot of time during the movie cap comes off as someone concerned with individual liberty, and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the right thing is done, but a lot of time he came of more like this guy…
The Avengers should be able to go anywhere, and do anything as long as it protects the world. We don’t care about your national borders and if there is collateral damage. Well, we are sorry, but that won’t change what we do. It is not a leap at all to see this movie devolving into Team America: World Police. All it needed was some puppets and we would’ve been there. If that doesn’t make you cringe, just imagine how you’d feel if Captain America was really Captain Russia … or China … or Iran. Everything else about him is exactly the same, but making that argument as someone who isn’t an American. I can promise you Tony Stark would make a lot more sense then and having some sort of oversight would be totally called for.
Having gone through all of this I would have to say I stand with team Iron Man now. His overarching point is much stronger, but is totally undermined by his allies and by how easy it was for him to let his personal feelings override his judgement. In short, the ideas he and Ross were putting forward were good, but they should not have been the ones to implement them. Both Cap and Stark made so many mistakes that its hard to say if either is right, but overall I’d side with Team Stark.
A good compromise would’ve been keeping the Avengers independent but they would need permission to enter a nation to operate. Also … fire Ross … and arrest him … that is freaking bonkers to let him anywhere near superhero policy. Heck or make an International body to oversee superheros but put Black Widow in charge of it. She is much more qualified for that than Stark or Cap anyway. The movie touches on a lot of political themes and it does a great job of outlining the shades of gray and dark places both sides can fall into. In short, this is how political themes should be handled in superhero movies. Well done guys!
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