Why Marvel’s Civil War Is a Debate on Morality
I want to start off by saying that I am not a big fan of the Avengers simply because, to be quite honest, every Avengers movie is an “Iron Man and Friends” movie. This same reasoning made me skeptical about Captain America: Civil War, and while in many ways Steve Rogers was not the absolute leading man in his own movie, at least his ideals were.
Superhero movies are always a tale of justice. It is easy to empathize with a vigilante that risks his or her life to protect others, even more so when the vigilantes turn into a band of likeable people with superpowers. Yet, Civil War seized the opportunity to present what actual people are like once they leave the herd mentality.
Captain America’s Perspective
© Marvel 2016
Steve, perceived as one of my friends as an anarchist, was once a government pawn. While I do not think he seeks to incite the chaos of anarchy, given that he wants to keep his team together, he is still troubled by the idea of a controlling entity. Perhaps because of his first-hand experience, he prefers to advocate for retaining the right to decide.
“If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.” – Captain America
This stance brings up the question of morality, rather than the existence of it. What happens to moral people in a world where others (governments) have immoral agendas? This is part of the equation Tony Stark misses.
Iron Man’s Perspective
© Marvel 2016
Tony, burdened by the knowledge that their mission took the life of Charles Spencer, precipitously sides with the UN Panel. He then proceeds to dismiss Steve’s opinion, stating that regardless of what he might prefer, the bottom line is that the Avengers’ missions have and will continue to have casualties.
“There’s no decision-making process here. We need to be put in check! Whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re bounder-less. We’re no better than the bad guys.” – Iron Man
While it is true that ignoring boundaries has negative consequences, it is important to note that the Avengers could have set their own limits as opposed to agreeing to have a government entity set limitations for them. Tony Stark, once a manufacturer of mass destruction weapons, makes the fallacious (slippery slope) argument that the Avengers needed to be put in check by an outside overseer based on the assumption that casualties only occur when the Avengers make the decision to take action.
Vision vs. Scarlet Witch
© Marvel 2016
While Vision and Scarlet Witch were not main characters per se, they were the embodiments of Captain America and Iron Man’s dispute. Wanda, who was the war’s catalyst, is initially accepting of her confinement. Yet, when Vision imposes his moral code, one that is in agreement with Iron Man, Wanda becomes defensive.
“Our very strength incites challenge, challenge incites conflict, and conflict breeds catastrophe. Supervision is not something to be dismissed out-of-hand.” – Vision
Thanks to Vision’s eloquence, Tony’s point is finally made. By the time the airport battle scene starts, the audience already understands that, although Steve’s point of view might be the right one, it simply doesn’t fit the society in which he now lives. It is also understood that when Bucky Barnes is added into the equation, Steve’s opinions can be perceived as biased. Nonetheless, when Vision accidentally hurts War Machine (ironic) he not only proves his own point, but also understands that catastrophe hits with or without real conflicts.
Spider-Man, Ant-Man, & The People
© Marvel 2016
This is the point best exemplified by Spider-Man, Ant Man, and the rest of us regular humans. Because catastrophe is bound to happen no matter what we do, the smartest thing is to control and prevent it to the best of our ability. While the Avengers did wreak havoc trying to stop even greater havoc, their plight is still one worth fighting for. In this sense, even though Peter and Scott are on different sides, neither of them “picked” to be there. Instead, they simply wanted to participate in something they believe in.
Black Panther vs. Baron Zemo
© Marvel 2016
Finally, Black Panther and Baron Zemo are both moved by the same force: vengeance. But then again, everybody else in this movie is an “avenger.” One of the most powerful scenes in this film is when Black Panther understands that there are better ways to avenge his father than committing the same atrocity that started the cycle in the first place.
“Vengeance has consumed you. It is consuming them. I am done letting it consume me.” – Black Panther
When Zemo tries to pull a Hemingway, the audience is relieved when Black Panther prevents it. In a way, most people would agree with the idea that a lifetime of forced repentance is better punishment than death, even if the death is inflicted in name of the victim. It is worth wondering which, if any, of these approaches are moral. What is safe to say is that Captain America’s side were the only ones prepared to try to answer that question from the very beginning.