Nobody ever wants to admit that they are wrong.
When faced with a moment of truth, one always wants to believe that they are on the right side of history…that they are thinking with their head, and not their heart or their guts. To really be on the right side, one has to be willing to face enormous pressure that will only mount with every passing day.
One has to be willing to take a beating in the name of the truth.
CAPTAIN AMERICA : CIVIL WAR begins in Lagos, where four of The Avengers are on a mission to stop a Hydra agent from an act of terrorism. During the operation, a bomb goes off despite the heroes’ best efforts and innocent lives are lost. Back in America, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is basking in the afterglow of bequeathing a series of grants to students at MIT when he is approached by a woman whose son died in Sokovia (the small nation The Avengers tried to protect in AGE OF ULTRON, to middling results).
Between the botched op in Lagos, and Tony’s sudden sense of guilt, the groundwork is laid for The Sokovia Accord.
Presented to The Avengers by U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), the accord is an attempt to put The Avengers under a United Nations panel. It will sanction and oversee the team, adding a measure of oversight to their seemingly reckless do-gooding.
When the restrictions are presented to the group, the team disagrees on whether to accept it. Stark obviously is in favour. Likewise, Black Widow, War Machine, and Vision (Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, and Paul Bettany) agree with the measures. Captain America (Chris Evans) isn’t so sure. His dissent is echoed by Scarlett With and Falcon (Elizabeth Olsen and Anthony Mackie).
However, a can of gasoline is about to get poured on to the fire and its name is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). “The Winter Soldier” is still at-large after his role in the Washington D.C. attack in the last Captain America film. He appears to all to be a loose cannon – all, that is, except Cap. Steve Rogers believes there is still good in him, even after Bucky is suspected of bombing a U.N. summit and killing the father of Wakandan delegate, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
The bombing is the last straw, and the team is finally split in-two, with the capture of BUcky now at the centre of the fight. As other heroes join the fray – including T’Challa himself as a Vibranium-wielding hero called The Black Panther, the stage is set for The Avenger to assemble…and settle this matter as only they can.
If one were to go by the ads, they would believe that this film was all about the smackdown the heroes get into at the end of the second act. While that certainly helps get butts into the seats, the fact of the matter is that CIVIL WAR isn’t about that – it was never about that. If it were, this film would be called ROGERS V STARK. It’s not, it’s called CIVIL WAR…and it’s as much about the civil as it is about the war.
It all comes back to the team once again having to confront their shortcomings. When Tony is approached by a random parent, his conscience takes over. Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, if there’s anything worse than Tony Stark running on ego, it’s Tony Stark falling prey to a brief moment of conscience. The Sokovia Accord might be brought to the team by Secretary Ross, but it arrives with Tony’s endorsement. As such, the team has a choice to make.
Anyone who’s ever been part of a group dynamic where the prevailing opinion is split knows how hard it can be to find common ground when the room is at odds. Add in personal feelings (as Cap obviously has), and things get infinitely worse. Nobody wants to admit they could be wrong. Nobody wants to consider the other side. It’s as much about ego as it is genuine belief in the matter at hand. In any conflict, there has to be a loser, and nobody wants to wear that distinction…least of all, any of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The film even goes so far as to frame The Sokovia Accord as sanctions presented by The United Nations, painting Steve Rogers as an insubordinate by going against a highly recognized intergovernmental organization. One could say that with the UN against him, Captain America (and by extension, everyone on “Team Cap”) is fully in the wrong whenever they step on to the battlefield. However, The First Avenger recognizes something that his opponents – and many of us – do not. He recognizes that governing bodies – even those as respected as The United Nations – are just as fallible as The Avengers themselves.
Like it or not, our leaders have agendas, they have biases. Our officials are prone to poor decisions or abuses of power. They are often driven more by feelings of fear and false security than they are by a desire to uncover the truth. Should our heroes be put in-check by their contemporaries in the room, they would likely find that acceptable. But if they are to cede control to governing bodies (remember S.H.I.E.L.D. was already infiltrated), or powerful individuals (recall Ross already mistakenly hunted one of their own), then they may find their wings clipped at the moment they are needed most.
This is what Steve Rogers and his group want to impress upon their teammates, and us. That in times of great crisis, it is even more imperative to think the situation through and get to the truth. Arriving at the truth requires patience, diligence, and a willingness to take all manner of abuse. It’s a requirement that Tony Stark and T’Challa might not possess when considering the actions of James Buchanan Barnes…but a requirement that is essential when seeking out the truth.
That’s the crux of this, one of the better movies Marvel Studios has unleashed to date. Not the fighting (which is good-but-not-great), but what comes after. When the ceasefire has been called, and the treaties have been signed, how does a nation rebuild?
How does a family reunite?