Captain America: Civil War has had us waiting on the edges of our seats for the better part of so many months. Opening internationally this Wednesday, April 27, the third installment to Marvel Studio’s Captain America franchise finds the Avengers split over whether they should heed to the world government’s demands that a system of accountability must be set in place for super-powered individuals.
Before we hit the theaters, though, it might be interesting to do some quick speculations on which side each hero has taken, and possible reasons why their contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe narrative add up to why they’ve cast their lot there.
#TEAMCAP: Steve Rogers
Choice and the right of an individual to make his or her own decisions has always been a huge part of Steve’s narrative. From agreeing to become Erskine’s test subject for the Super Soldier Formula in light of being deemed unfit to enlist for WWII to the decision to take up the mantle of Captain America because standing by wasn’t an option, Steve is a man who firmly believes that civil liberties must be upheld.
It’s a rather poetic take on “you can take the soldier out of WWII, but you can’t take that historical experience out of the soldier.” Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to see why he feels strongly about standing against the proposal. “We may not be perfect,” he tells Tony, “but the safest hands are still our own.”
It’s an echo of his comics version’s stand. He believes that it’s not arrogance on their part, but a sense that as Avengers, the responsibility of their actions falls to them alone. Becoming accountable to a panel whose decisions may be determined by political agendas will diminish the good that they can do.
One such intervention concerns saving one James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes from what is likely the waiving of the rights of an individual who has been deemed a terrorist threat. It won’t matter that Bucky was brainwashed into a killing machine. All records of HYDRA’s involvement has thus far been wiped from existence, and no proof will be enough given that the parties responsible for it are all dead. The fall-out after the Winter Soldier and HYDRA fiasco frames things so that Steve cannot, in good conscience, trust any world government enough with turning the Avengers into their para-military force. He trusts the “soldiers” he fights with, many of whom happen to be his friends. But not any world government.
#TEAMIRONMAN: Tony Stark
On the flipside, Tony counters with his own comic counterpart’s stand of accountability and the implementation of what looks to possibly be a Superhero Registration Act. If anything, Tony’s sense of bravado comes from the firm belief that fail-safes must be taken into account for all superheroes — including himself. Tracing back Iron Man’s own narrative in the MCU, this may stem from Tony’s own inability to trusts himself in light of Ultron and the incident with Sokovia.
On the personal front, it’s definitely been played up in the clip up there that Tony is also doing this to look out for his friends and comrades. He acknowledges the need for liability and accountability, and as such, he knows that if they don’t sign the Accords, it is inevitable that the Avengers will be branded as fugitives to be hunted and brought down.
The Stark narrative has always been one of deep involvement with research and development for government and military means. The references to Stark Tech falling into terrorist hands is clearly one that haunts him, as is the fear of just anybody gaining power and building their own super-weapons from the second and third installments of the Iron Man franchise.
Tony stopped building weapons by the end of Iron Man 1 and refocused his brilliance and talent towards the pursuit of building systems that were meant to aid in defending the very people they’re supposed to protect — only to realize that his project spiraled out of control to become a megalomaniac AI intent on eradicating the Avengers “threat”.
#TEAMCAP: Sam Wilson
Outside of the fact that Sam is a good man who believes so strongly in Cap, his MCU incarnation is more than the social worker that his counterpart was in the comics. A post-trauma speaker for veterans and a former Special Ops paratrooper, Sam is a first responder: you go where and when you’re needed. You make the call and take responsibility for it, because that is the burden that you should willingly bear.
His shift from a man who decided to depart from the military to an Avenger was born from his own realization that he didn’t just want to take orders anymore, because he couldn’t. He wanted to do some good on his own steam, even if that meant stepping away from the front lines. That said, having since come back onto the front lines as an Avenger, he likely shares Cap’s view that they do good well enough on their own without the interference of bureaucrats who might tie them down.
#TEAMIRONMAN: James Rhodes
And that brings us to James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Tony’s right hand man and occasional conscience. In contrast to Sam, Rhodey has always believed in command structure and command responsibility.
From Rhodey’s vantage point, allowing the Avengers to continue their operations without something to check and balance their actions is arrogant. The aftermath of Sokovia and Ultron probably struck a nerve, because the Avengers, for all their abilities and super powers, could not prevent the disaster that happened.
Ironically (or not), it is possible that off-screen, as Tony’s closest and longest friend and ally, he’s had to deal with the fall-out of Tony’s own realized fears — that there will be incidents where the good they strive to do brings more harm.
He can likely see things from the perspective of all these world leaders. There is after all, a growing need to address the existence of individuals who have access to abilities, powers and resources that go beyond what counts as mundane. A need to ensure that they — and others like them who may eventually come out of the woodwork — are held accountable for the kind of impact that they may have precisely because of what they are capable of.
#TEAMCAP: Clint Barton
Clint Barton is a simple man with a not-so-simple job. An assassin with a unique set of skills, and once an agent with close ties to the former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he’s unlikely to have much good press with the world government. Honestly, the Avengers are probably the only people left that he’s inclined to trust.
The main drawback of the team he was once (and still is?) part of being held accountable by a governing body, is the heightened likelihood that his relative anonymity will be put at risk. He’s worked too hard to keep his family safe from his line of work and the only people who can vouch for him are the very people who are now under scrutiny.
While he’s not visible in the clip where the rest of the Avengers decide whether they are for or against signing the Accords, it’s possible that he steps back in the picture once the fireworks start going off.
#TEAMIRONMAN: Natasha Romanoff
While Natasha is shown as decidedly standing alongside the rest of #TeamTony, I’m still getting the nagging sense that for a character that’s been known to be the double agent, things might not be as cut and dry for her as the teasers and the trailers might seem.
While Tony might have the full support of Rhodey, and Cap has Sam backing him up, Natasha’s clips so far have been to caution each side to consider what the other is saying. While she’s telling Steve not to get involved with the Bucky issue since it does hit close to home, she’s also warning Tony that she’s not actually the one who “has to watch her back”.
She does see Tony’s point in the team having accountability to someone other than themselves, since the Avengers have been operating on high-risk missions with controversial fall-outs in the wake of them. If we also follow her development thus far, the Black Widow has gone from the assassin looking to wipe the red from her ledger to a black ops agent treading the fine line between getting what is necessary done all the while under the cover of not technically existing.
She’s an agent of Russia who is now working for one of the most powerful countries on the planet, and her backstory hasn’t even been fully explored for us to know what she’s about beyond being an Avenger.
On a less likely note, but one that’s been on my mind because I’m still quietly praying that we get more Nat: What is up with that clip of her up against Bucky and saying “can’t you at least recognize me?” It’s a fool’s hope, but if there’s even a chance that Marvel will explore the Bucky and Natasha angle as two trained agents from Mother Russia — I WANT IT.
#TEAMCAP: Wanda Maximoff
There’s been very little talk about Scarlet Witch and I’m inclined to think that it’s because as one of the younger, more inexperienced members of the team, Wanda may have actually screwed up in a way that put hot eyes on the Avengers. As the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige have been quoted to say that while the events in MCU are much different, the essence of the material they are sourcing Civil War from remains the same.
For those unfamiliar with the 2006-2007 run by Mark Millar, Civil War did not just explode because the government got it in their minds to police the very heroes that have been keeping the streets and skies clear for the rest of the regular folk. The trigger was the infamous Stamford Incident, wherein 600 people were murdered on camera by the villain Nitro and what the public deemed to be the inability of two-bit superheroes to keep those people safe.
So much attention in the trailers has been given to the argument that the world can no longer tolerate the Avengers operating without some kind of accountability. We are treated to shots of New York, Washington and Sokovia — but if these incidents had been dealt with and the press for damage control has already been released, why then would the government come down hard on our heroes.
True, the death of Wanda’s brother may still be fresh, but interviews with Elizabeth Olsen have hinted at Wanda’s narrative being one of finding her comfort zone with her powers, as well as leaning on the team as the only family she has left. Is it possible that one other aspect of the team butting heads is that one of their own drew the attention of the world?
#TEAMIRONMAN: The Vision
Let’s run with the idea that the Sokovia Accords goes hand in hand with a registration act for all super-powered individuals so that when shit hits the fan, at least people know that they can hold someone accountable. It’s entirely within what we’ve seen so far of the Vision to agree with Tony Stark’s stand of accountability, barring the fact that the god-like being born from the events of Ultron started out as an AI known as JARVIS.
The way I see it, Vision’s possible line of reasoning is: “I am a god. If I do not register, I am feared by all. If I register, I show that I am accountable to them.” The Avengers are all such powerful figures. They have taken down a god of chaos, aliens streaming in from a different dimension, and mechanical megalomaniac monsters intent on the idea of being the iron armor for the world. With all that power, it’s no wonder people are afraid; and as a compromise to put everyone at ease, backing the demands of the world’s leaders would seem best.
After all, breaking away from the system and being independent amidst the protests of the general public, how are they any better than what Ultron stood for.
#TEAMCAP: Scott Lang
Outside of the fact that it’s great to see Scott Lang making his debut as an Avenger(?) in this film, it’s exciting to consider why in the world Team Cap would actually need this particular new recruit.
Scott’s comic book counterpart wasn’t a part of the Civil War crossover event, because in comicverse he wasn’t around for pretty legitimate reasons. Ant-Man joining ranks with #TeamCap is the complete opposite of what Hank Pym did in the books, since Pym was on Tony’s side of things. MCU’s incarnation of Pym has also declared himself staunchly anti-Stark, so there’s the possibility that Scott’s backer is alright with him tossing in with the dissenting party. After all, sticking to Cap and the rest almost ensures that the Ant-Man technology stays well out of the reach of Tony Stark and a government body that may decide to use it for their own purposes.
On the other hand, it seems that Clint is the one responsible for dragging Mr. Lang along. It might mean actually have nothing to do with the back-end politics of genius inventors and more to do with the particular set of skills that Scott has to offer, and the usefulness of these to the team.
Eitherway, Scott’s no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law, and if helping his fellow super-powered comrades is what he can do, it looks like he’s going to do it.
Out of all the players on the board for Civil War, T’challa’s introduction has prompted some interesting speculations. In a piece from July of last year via Birth.Movies.Death, Kevin Feige was quoted to say that the move to include T’Challa was due to a need for fresh eyes from someone “who wasn’t embedded with the Avengers and who has a very different point of view than either Tony or Steve.”
The most plausible angle given the speculations that have gone around previously, is that Marvel will go for a backdoor introduction of T’Challa as out to learn about the world outside of Wakanda following what took place in Age of Ultron, where mention of the sovereign nation first came up. As for why he’s thrown in with Tony, T’Challa has the unique position of being more than just a superhero, but also the king — or perhaps at this point, the heir apparent — of his own country.
The government, or whatever ruling body is in charge has the burden of responsibility of protecting its people — and with half the Avengers taking a dissenting stance, his interests would best align with Iron Man’s camp.
The other rumor that circulated (though there’s been no confirmation as of yet on whether it’s true or fan speculation) was that T’Challa is somehow on the hunt for the Winter Soldier. While there is a teaser confirming #TeamTony does end up trading blows with Bucky, this could just very well be the alluded man-hunt for the man who’s committed war crimes in the name of HYDRA.
All these maybes aside, there are so many things to poke around and wonder about for this film. We’ve touched on the main players, but what about Spidey? He obviously seems to have a stake in this. And what about Sharon Carter, whose actress has been hinting that Agent 13 might have much bigger place in the scheme of things?
Disney and Marvel are notorious with red herrings, and they’ve done an amazing job with weaving in the groundwork for future storylines. I’ll be honest that for all that I could turn around whatever I know about the source material, Civil War in MCU is an altogether different animal, and I honestly can’t wait to park my butt in the closest theater to see what they’ve got in store.