We have just over a week until Captain America: Civil War releases. As the title suggests, and the trailers have shown, Captain America: Civil War is going to split the Avengers right down the middle, with half seemingly taking Captain America’s side, and half taking Iron Man’s side. But what is the issue? And who is right?
From what we have seen so far, (note this article only deals with the trailers—I have no inside knowledge as to what actually happens in the movie) the issue at hand seems to be the sovereignty that these new superheroes, the Avengers, should have. We have two opposing opinions within the Avengers—that of Steve Rogers and that of Iron Man of what that should entail.
Captain America’s Side
From the trailers for Captain America: Civil War, and past experiences with Captain America in his previous movies, he seems to be of the mindset that he should be able to save people how and when he wants. He doesn’t want to be hamstrung by bureaucracy of government officials. On top of that, Captain America is worried about corruption in the government leading to his abilities being used for the wrong reasons. These reasons are illustrated very well in the Captain America movies.
Captain America: The First Avenger
In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers, even before his super-soldier serum, shows himself to be a pretty selfless, altruistic, idealist, and wants to do nothing more than serve his country to take down the “bully” known as the Nazis. Dr. Erskine recognizes his good heart, which is the reason why Steve Rogers is chosen for the Super Soldier program. The man threw himself onto a grenade to save his comrades in the movie! It was just a test to see who was brave by his commanding officer, Colonel Phillips, but still—it showed that Steve Rogers will put everything on the line for what he believes is right.
But his altruistic side has caused him to be at odds with the “establishment”. In The First Avenger he makes a few decisions that, while good in nature, directly conflict with the very nation he is trying to protect. His first “offense” is a relatively minor one—he had been using false identifications to try to get his draft card through, so he could participate in the war. The second one is a pretty big deal though. He goes against a direct order from his commanding officer—and attempts to rescue the allied soldiers that had been captured by the Red Skull/HYDRA.
Captain America is successful in this attempt, making him a hero, saving hundreds of soldiers. He also dealt a pretty hard blow to HYDRA and the Nazis. But he did disobey an officer. What if his heroics did not go as well as he had hoped? People would be looking at Captain America in a very different light then. He would be considered reckless, and not thought of so heroically.
There is no denying that fact that he is a selfless hero though. He sacrificed himself in order to save New York at the end of the film. He is then put on ice for a good 60 years, when he awakens just before the Avengers form…
Captain America as a part of The Avengers
While Captain America will do what he thinks he is right, even if it involves circumventing the government, he still seems to have an innate sense of duty to his country. He willingly joins up with SHIELD, even though the first interactions he has with the organization is them trying to fool him into staying within his faux hospital quarters, thinking it is still the 1940s.
This is when Captain America is thrust into joining up with the other heroes, beginning the formation of the Avengers, all led by Nick Fury, a man known for his secrets. At first, he is the one guy who seems to trust Fury. Stark and Bruce Banner, on the other hand, think there is more going on—to the point that Stark hacks into the SHIELD system. Captain America does eventually get curious himself and finds weapons—very similar to the ones HYDRA used against him back in the 40s, being made by SHIELD. I think this moment is the tipping point in which Steve Rogers goes from simply being a rebellious hero into that of a distrusting hero. The very government (SHIELD is a government agency in the movie universe) Steve is trying to protect is producing weapons that he was trying to stop. On top of that, they are being made in secret, making Captain America even more distrustful.
Putting another nail in the coffin of Captain America’s trust for the government is the fact that the World Security Council launched a nuke to essentially destroy New York as a means to halt the Chitauri army. Again, this was all done cloak-and-dagger like, with the Avengers having no say in the matter.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
While the events of The Avengers were a tipping point for Captain America, The Winter Soldier pushed Steve over the edge. In The Avengers, at least the argument could be made that these cloak-and-dagger moves were being made for the safety of the United States and the world. But in the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there are more nefarious things happening.
Nick Fury, the man that Captain America has thrown his shield in the ring for, has been using him as a pawn—tricked into raiding a pirate ship, just so that Black Widow could retrieve some encrypted data. And that is from the “good guy” side. The “bad guy” side has HYDRA infiltrating SHIELD, and apparently SHIELD has been infiltrated since its inception. The organization that Captain America was a part of in the 40s, the Strategic Scientific Reserve, is the basis of SHIELD, so it is no wonder that Captain America would take it personally when he finds out SHIELD is lined with dozens to hundreds of HYDRA agents.
Compounding these feelings with Steve Rogers learning his best friend has been taken by HYDRA/SHIELD and been brainwashed to be a deadly assassin, it is no wonder that Steve feels betrayed, and more importantly, feels the only person he feels he can trust is himself when it comes down to deciding the right actions to take.
Captain America in Age of Ultron
In the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, this is where the government backlash begins to really ramp up against the team. The events of Sokovia really put the US Government and other governments on edge, which we will see more of the result of in Captain America: Civil War. But it isn’t too hard to see why the governments would have a concern—the Avengers are partially to blame for the destruction of Sokovia. Ultron was a direct result of work Bruce Banner and Tony Stark were working on. But it is no wonder why Captain America and the government might be at odds after all of this build up, starting with Captain America: The First Avenger, leading all the way up to the events in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Now for the flip-side–Iron Man.
Iron Man’s Side
With Iron Man, the events of Iron Man 1 & 2 do not have significant bearing on Civil War’s storyline. But there are a couple note-worthy things to bring up in showing us who Tony Stark is as a person. It is not all sunshine and rainbows though. Tony has a pretty shady past.
Iron Man 1 and 2
In Iron Man 1, Stark has had a lot of dealings with the US government—and various other governments, we can assume, since he was effectively an arms dealer. This is certainly a reason for possible distrust of Tony Stark—he is responsible for assisting some of the war efforts in many wars, likely on many sides of these wars. But after the events that lead to Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, Tony seems to do a pretty big 180 on his government deals after seeing firsthand what devastating effects his weapons can have. In Iron Man 2 we see that Tony has a bit of a confrontation with the government, as he has a hearing in which the government demands he turns over his technology, and Tony refuses. Eventually we see that Tony does allow the government to keep Iron Patriot, but I think this might be more of a favor to Colonel Rhodes than to the US Government.
In The Avengers, Tony seems to take a pretty harsh stance against Nick Fury and SHIELD. He has always been hesitant to join this Avengers group, and SHIELD/Nick Fury was nervous about bringing Tony on board. We learn this when Tony makes a comment referencing his mental status might not make him the best fit for the team, according to his evaluation. As discussed with Captain America, Tony doesn’t trust SHIELD at this point, and does some hacker-y to see what Nick and the gang are up to. It is also worth noting that this is one of the many times that Tony clashes with Steve.
A big turning point for Tony is in The Avengers, when Tony diverts the nuclear warhead into space. One thing that Tony learns is that while some of the government is certainly working against him, Nick and SHIELD are trying to work with him. More importantly though, Tony learns firsthand about what is out there, beyond Earth, in space, and what is a danger to humanity and Earth. This actually sends Tony into a spiral in Iron Man 3.
Tony’s PTSD in Iron Man 3
In the third Iron Man movie, we have a very different Tony Stark. He still has his quips and sarcasm, but he also has something else–his anxiety attacks. Tony has a few of these through the film, which he acknowledges are a direct result of the events of his brief time-space travel, witnessing the giant Chitauri army. On top of that, he has buried himself in his work, developing suit after suit, as a defense mechanism. This is actually a theme that carries through to The Avengers: Age of Ultron. While at the end of Iron Man 3, Tony seems to have come to grips with his PTSD, he ultimately still has the goal of saving the world as his end game.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Tony’s End Game
Ultimately, Tony is certainly somewhat to blame for the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Opening the movie, we see that Tony and Bruce are working on artificial intelligence. We learn why too–Tony explains that he is hoping to come up with an army that will remove the need for the Avengers. Captain America ultimately has a problem with this, but ideally, Tony’s plan does make sense. What doesn’t make sense about his plan though, is the fact that he has been doing these things unchecked. No one is monitoring his actions when he is creating this being. And ultimately, this leads down to the path of the creation of Ultron.
Tony’s ambition is heightened even more after Scarlet Witch makes him have the hallucination where he sees all of the Avengers dead. I am curious to know how long these visions affect the mind though–was Tony’s drive to complete Ultron a result of Scarlet Witch’s visions? Or did the visions merely just add another reinforcement to something Tony was already heading towards anyway? Regardless, Tony’s plan was a noble one, but again, he was left unchecked, and the results of his actions had some terrible consequences for the world.
Another big factor that likely influenced Tony’s decision to work with the government was his fight with the Hulk. His and Hulk’s actions devastated New York, and again, Tony saw the destruction first hand, which was caused by the very heroes that were supposed to be protecting the world.
Why I Have Sided with Iron Man
On paper, Captain America seems like the clear choice to back. From the beginning of his introduction to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), he has shown himself to be pure of heart in his intentions, which is to be a hero. He has quite often chosen to make the “right” decision, when others have told him to wait, or even told him that a decision he wants to make is not the correct one.
Therein lies the problem—should a “superhero” or an “enhanced” as they are beginning to be called, be given the ability to make whatever decisions they want, when they want? We clearly know that not all “enhanced” people are heroes. We also know that not all “good” heroes make the right decision. Should these heroes answer to no one? Captain America will probably make the right decision when he is given a choice to make. But not every hero is Captain America. Some situations might not have a “right” answer, and only the better of two “wrong” answers. Is this decision left to just one person to make?
In fact, in the trailers, from what we have seen so far, Captain America has been making some questionable decisions. It is obviously hard to know exactly what is going on, but we have seen Bucky attempt to shoot Tony Stark in the face, and take on several Avengers. All the while, Captain America seemingly is trying to keep Bucky out of custody. There is probably a lot more going on than what we are seeing in the trailers, but at the moment, I can certainly see why bringing Bucky in is the best option, rather than trying to go rogue and handle the issue alone. Captain America has no idea how the brainwashing thing works with Bucky. Can it can be turned on and off by a handler? Does he have a handler? Is he just rogue now, and a little nuts because his mind is spaghetti? There are so many unknowns, how is Captain America the person to choose what happens to Bucky?
I am not saying Bucky should be convicted of any crimes, but he cannot be free to roam as he pleases. He has been brainwashed for 60 years. Something like that doesn’t leave your head in the matter of a few days. I would imagine, that if it were even possible to fix, it would take years to undo the psychological damage caused by the brainwashing.
So far, according to the MCU Wiki, the only details we have for the Sokovia Accords are that they are regulating the military use of the Avengers. This makes sense. With the heroes we have been presented with in the MCU, while they possess extraordinary abilities, they also possess very human-like emotions: senses of duty, loyalty, of what is right. But when you look at humans you have to look at everything—including the “dark side”: Selfishness, greed, jealously. It could be argued that Captain America is acting selfishly in his attempt to save Bucky Barnes. I think he has a sense of guilt when Bucky fell from the train, and now Captain America is trying to save Bucky as a way to clear that guilt from himself. Should he be allowed to do that just because he wants to?
Tony knows better than most that great power can lead to wrong decisions. Tony tried to save the world—forever, by introducing a robotic police force. This plan being a huge failure, and nearly having catastrophic effects on the world, Tony has seen that he should not be able to make these decisions without consulting anyone. It could be argued that it is up to the individual to bring their ideas or actions to a group before acting, but if no one is forced to do so, why would anyone? Tony Stark was absolutely sure he was making the right decision. It turns out he wasn’t. This wasn’t the first time the heroes made a bad decision, and it certainly would not be the last.
Why I Can See Captain America’s Side
The debate/fight between Captain America and Iron Man is by no means an easy decision to make. When you start talking about regulating a specific group of people, it gets a little scary. There are plenty of times in history when this was introduced as a way to protect people, but it was clearly trampling civil liberties.
What is important to know with these Sokovia Accords, is exactly how the Avengers would be monitored, and if the Avengers have some say in the regulations that would be applied to them. This should not be a case where a government—whether it is a country-based or world-based entity — has full control over the Avengers. There should be checks and balances for both sides—that way Avengers have a say in which missions they go on. For example, the Avengers should not be forced to go take down a leader of a country just because a council tells them.
Corruption is something that is a concern when it comes to government entities, and I can certainly see individuals trying to leverage the Avengers for their own personal gain. We saw that happen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I would think this is the main crux of Captain America not wanting to have any part of the Sokovia Accords. He has had a number of issues come up where the government has hesitated to act or even worse, has been corrupt. It would be hard to trust a group of individuals to monitor your actions, when you have already had several entities working against you.
What I am trying to say is this: Captain America is not a perfect hero, and Iron Man is not a perfect hero. Because these heroes, and all heroes for that matter, are not perfect, and decisions for how matters involving the entire world should not be left for one person to make on a whim. The “regular” people of Earth should not be at the mercy of how one man decides he wants to handle a situation.
In the end, I have a feeling in Captain America: Civil War, the government will have some sort of conniving plan motivating the Sokovia Accords being ratified. This is a Captain America movie, so I am sure that he is going to be considered the “good guy” of the movie. I hope that Iron Man gets a fair shake though. I think Tony Stark is trying to do what is right, learning from the mistakes he has made in the past. Captain America doesn’t have a whole lot of mistakes yet, but he certainly is not immune to making a few himself.
Violet Picks a Side
If you know me, you know that I avoid conflict at all costs. I don’t like picking sides. I am Team Switzerland. That’s a thing, right? I can pick that, right? Especially in this situation, where I haven’t seen the Captain America: Civil War yet, where I don’t have all the facts, I don’t feel like I’m in a position where I can accurately pick who I would want to side with if forced. However, in the interest of this article, I will put aside my qualms, and base my decision on the facts that we do know so far, from the previous movies and from the trailers, which Josh has laid out above.
While I can see both sides, I’m going to have to go with Iron Man. This may be due to my inherent nature of always obeying authority, and the fact that I am a member of the State Bar of California, so I tend to gravitate more toward law and order. Although Captain America is an honorable guy, that doesn’t give him the right to do anything that he wants to do, without any regard to the consequences, without any safeguards in place. Of all superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America is one who is inarguably known for doing the “right” thing. However, Captain America is not the only superhero out there, nor is he the only person out there with superpowers. They can’t all be trusted to do the “right” thing. Oftentimes, villains don’t consider themselves villains because think they are doing the “right” thing, though the right thing to them might not actually be what is universally considered the right thing.
Of course, then the question comes up, who gets to decide what the “right” thing is? The government? What if the government is corrupt, as we’ve already seen happen, and could potentially happen again? I would think that those who are being regulated would have a say in these matters. There should be some sort of agreement as to what these people with super powers can and cannot do, rather than have them remain unchecked, free to do anything they want to do. It is possible that these terms of the agreement are the bone of contention in Captain America: Civil War, so I am looking forward to seeing the movie, and finding out what exactly the argument is.