Recently I rewatched Captain America: Civil War in preparation for the next Black Panther movie coming out this weekend, since Black Panther (a.k.a. T’Challa) made his first appearance in the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) in Civil War. Yet, I had trouble focusing on Black Panther and couldn’t help becoming frustrated by the actions of Captain America (a.k.a. Steve Rogers) in this movie, and how Iron Man (a.k.a. Tony Stark) was posed as the antagonist.
But first, some background. It’s the evening of December 16th, 1991. Howard and Maria Stark, Tony Stark’s parents, are killed by the Winter Soldier, a.k.a. James “Bucky” Barnes. Barnes was Rogers’ best friend, and they both fought together in WWII. Then, as Rogers was careening a ship carrying the Tesseract into the Arctic, Barnes (who was presumed dead) was being ‘saved’ by HYDRA, a terrorist organization based in Russia. HYDRA then brainwashed Barnes and turned him into the Winter Soldier.
Now we skip ahead by a few years later to 1995. Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Carol Danvers) meets Nick Fury (director of SHIELD: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division). After a crazy adventure, Danvers inspired Fury to create “The Avengers Initiative,” a team of heroes who would protect Earth from intergalactic threats.
Finally, skip ahead a few more years and a few more battles later, and we arrive to when Captain America: Civil War takes place. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are the main two members of the Avengers, which has outlasted SHEILD and has protected Earth from a trickster God, a horde of Aliens, terrorists, and an artificial intelligence takeover. Yet, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” are far from perfect. They have caused mass destruction at every turn during their fights in many significant locations, including New York, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Sokovia (a made-up European country in the MCU), and Lagos, Nigeria.
To make up for their arrogance and mass destruction, the United Nations has created a document for the Avengers to sign: The Sokovia Accords, which has been approved by 117 countries. The document states that the Avengers will now operate under the supervision of the United Nations panel and will only help fight against global threats when the panel allows them to.
Disagreements over the Accords within the Avengers is what starts the Civil War. Rogers, Falcon (a.k.a. Samuel “Sam” Wilson) and Wanda Maximoff (among others) think that the Avengers should not sign the document because the panel may not allow them to help fight against a threat that the police can’t handle, and because they fear they could be sent to jail if they step out of line. On the other hand, Stark, Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff), War Machine (a.k.a. James Rhodes), and Vision (among others) think that the Avengers should sign the Accords. I could explain why, but instead, I’ll let Vision do it for me: “In the eight years since Tony Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number known enhanced persons has grown exponentially. During the same period, the number of potentially world-ending events has risen at a commensurate rate… Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict breeds catastrophe. Oversight is not an idea that can be dismissed out of hand.” In other words, while Rogers’ team’s values lie in the freedom of the Avengers, Stark’s team’s values lie in the safety of civilians.
I still feel incredulous when I think back to when I watched Civil War for the first time and was on team Captain America, back when I was a naïve tween. I find it unbelievable that Rogers is the main character of this movie and that he is seen as the hero when he’s literally on the wrong side. How can someone who cares more about his small team of heroes more than the lives of millions of others be considered a hero?
Because of the significance of the Accords and a lack of agreement, the Avengers pick sides, and a civil war has commenced. Both sides gather back-up. During this time, Rogers learns that his old love from WWII, Peggy Carter, has died. Instead of mourning for her death properly, guess what he does? He goes and kisses Carter’s niece, Sharon. Disgusting. I know it’s not technically illegal, but it seems terribly wrong.
Alright, I’m getting bored so let’s jump ahead a bit. Blah, blah, blah, Rogers reconnects with Bucky and tries to help him… blah, blah, blah… Rogers, Wilson, and T’Challa get arrested… blah, blah blah… ok, here we go! Bucky gets brain-washed again by the real villain of the story, Helmun Zemo. Zemo is Sokovian, and he lost his wife and children because of the mass destruction that the Avengers caused while defeating Ultron in Sokovia. Now Zemo seeks to destroy the Avengers by secretly informing Stark of the real cause of the death of his parents. He knew that if Stark found out Barnes killed his parents, Stark would seek revenge, but Rogers would protect Barnes, causing the Avengers to attack each other and destroy themselves. And Zemo was right. After a big fight between all the Avengers over the Accords, Stark eventually found out and fought Barnes and Rogers.
If you’re a casual Marvel fan, this might seem like an interesting, in-depth plot with an epic finale fight scene. But let me help you out with some perspective, just to prove how messed up this all is: not only is the fight uneven because it’s two versus one, but it’s uneven because it’s two superhuman individuals against a regular guy- albeit a genius- covered in metal.
I love Marvel, but I’ve always found that this movie is low on my list regarding the actions of its characters. The movie itself is great and is always fun to watch, but my enjoyment usually gets adulterated by the poor choices and opinions of Steve Rogers, the so-called “protagonist” of Civil War. Not only does he choose the Avengers over the United Nations, but he protects Barnes against a grieving Stark instead of figuring out that Zemo is the cause of their conflict and fighting Zemo together with Stark and Barnes. All characters are flawed, but Captain America is a role model to both Americans and civilians world-wide, who is supposed to represent classic American values. But I guess that’s the problem, isn’t it? Since when do all Americans care more about the lives of others than their own freedoms and values?