At a time when the cinemas seem saturated with superhero films, it can sometimes feel like we’re watching the same thing over and over again. Which is why I think MCU’s decision to use the Civil War arc was a great way to inject some freshness into the genre.
Given details of the collateral damage and casualties that the Avengers have caused in their fight for humanity, they are faced with the difficult decision of signing the Sokovia Accords, a contract that states that they must operate under the command of the UN, or risk becoming fugitives. Tony Stark agrees to these terms and pushes the other Avengers to sign too – unsurprising when we consider the guilt he feels for his previous days of weapons manufacturing, and for creating Ultron. Steve Rogers feels differently, considering the hands of the Avengers themselves to still be the most responsible.
This alone wouldn’t raise the stakes too much so, of course, further developments lead to Captain America helping his old buddy Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) clear his name for an explosion that he is framed for at the signing of the Accords. At the climax of the film, Tony learns that Bucky killed his parents while under the control of Hydra. This is his breaking point and he tries to kill Bucky. Together, Bucky and Cap stop him and escape. Cap assures Tony that should he ever need him, he’ll be there.
A great strength of Marvel’s films is its wide, and ever widening, cast. They strike the balance of being inclusive to all characters, but still providing them with a good amount of depth so that we care about them. In particular, I was happy to see General Thaddeus Ross return as the Secretary of State, and I’m looking forward to Mark Ruffalo’s Banner reacting to this development if they ever meet. I hope they do!
Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross: Tell me, Captain, do you know where Thor and Banner are right now? ‘Cause you can bet if I misplaced a couple of 30 megaton warheads, there’d be consequences.
– Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War pulled our heroes down to a dirtier level than we’re used to seeing. We saw Captain America keeping secrets from the team. We saw Tony Stark ready and willing to kill an innocent Bucky for revenge. We saw every other Avenger and small-time hero choose a side, making a political statement by doing so. I think this added a lot of necessary depth to these characters, and also to the general state of the Marvel universe. Without a clear-cut ‘good’ decision regarding the Sokovia Accords, it really provokes the audience to think about the consequences of both sides. Should the Avengers be left to their own devices, allowing innocent people to continue dying amidst their battles? Or should their powers be signed over to higher orders, allowing them to be used for the gain of whichever organisation runs them? It’s a tough question, though I love the juxtaposition of a hero named Captain America being the main antagonist to politicising superpowers.
As we look forward to Infinity War, I think the challenge of keeping up with the huge cast of heroes is going to be an interesting one. Spiderman and Black Panther were welcome surprises in Captain America: Civil War, and it would be great to see more of these. If the Guardians of the Galaxy are to play a part in the Infinity War, that would add a really interesting dynamic and I can’t wait to see how MCU decides to depict their interaction with the established Avengers.
For now, MCU is getting it just right, and keeping us hooked on superhero films. As long as they carry on in this fashion, I say bring on the next one.