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Evan Waters said on May 18th, 2016 at 11:42 am

On top of this, one consistent thing in the MCU so far has been that the powers that be aren’t very trustworthy. SHIELD turned into a HYDRA front, you’ve got a mysterious council that thinks the best way to respond to an alien invasion of New York is launching a nuke, Iron Man 3 is all about the military industrial complex trying to cover its mistakes- Cap is right to be skeptical that any authority could actually make the right call.

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In the movie, Tony and Steve actually have the exact same position on government oversight. In theory it’s a good idea, but when push comes to shove, they’ll follow their individual conscience. The only difference is that Steve knows and admits this up front, while Tony is just lying to himself and everybody else.

The moment he decides the government is doing something wrong, Tony is instantly willing to jam the government’s surveillance to talk to Falcon, take off on an unauthorized mission to Siberia, and even attempt to murder Bucky purely for revenge rather than carrying out any sort of UN-authorized sanction. Tony’s signature on the Accords was worthless.

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So Alan Moore in Watchmen was right about a lot of things.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 18th, 2016 at 1:09 pm

And yet Steve never once trusts Tony enough to tell him his side of the Bucky conflict even though he has many, many chances to do so, and he shows nothing but moral contempt for someone who’s supposed to be one of his closest friends. For autonomous superheroes to operate as a team, there has to be an implicit trust in each others’ instincts, ability, and judgment. We saw that in Avengers 1. The vision of the Avengers Cap is fighting for in Civil War can’t exist because Cap is no longer capable of the kind of trust that his chosen profession demands after he lived through the events of Winter Soldier. This distrust is demonstrated again at the climax when Cap reveals he’s hidden the secret of Tony’s parents’ death from him out of some arbitrary moral imperative to look after Bucky’s interests over Tony’s. And it’s important to note that all that sea-gulag business comes about because Cap couldn’t be bothered to send Tony a text saying “hey, the psychologist brainwashed Bucky in the interrogation room, look into that guy.” Cap’s political position may be more defensible in the context of the MCU, but his personal actions in Civil War as a teammate and a friend (and, in his view, the personal and political are identical for a Steve Rogers who has bought into his own hype more than the perpetually self-aware Iron Man ever could) couldn’t be more disgusting.

Also, that stuff with Sharon and Peggy was gross in the original comics and its still super weird now. That has no bearing on anything, but I felt like I had to say it. Don’t date two generations of the same family, Cap, it’s really weird.

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“Tony actually admits in Casualties of War that his push for regulation is a half-measure intended to try to prevent the government from taking more drastic measures, such as the Sentinel program in the X-Men comics, which was intended to control citizens at the genetic level.”

And yet somehow in all his “register people!’ arguments he never mentions this. Because the writers thought of it at the last minute? Or because it makes the government, and by implication the pro-reg side, look that much worse?

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Alexander Hammil said on May 18th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

But they aren’t thrown into the raft because they refused to sign the Accords, they’re thrown into the raft because they TORE AN AIRPORT APART rather than take the time to convince anyone that they were doing anything other than haring off completely half-cocked. Which they were, incidentally – the Siberian threat was entirely in Steve’s head without more than a sheed of evidence to back it up. They could have just given the location to Russia or the UN and had them clean it up. All of the hundreds of millions of dollars of damage they caused were completely unjustified, and it was only quick thinking on Ross’s part that the airport had been evacuated. Everyone in the Raft deserved to be in prison!

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Ian Austin said on May 18th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Fraser – one of the few good parts of Civil War (comic) was Emma Frost telling Tony to fuck off when he broached the issue with her.

And man, Banner is going to be fucking pissed when he learns that Tony played ball with Thunderbolt Ross. I

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I persist in treating the “philosophy” of Civil War as marketing and basing my opinion of it on the story, and I think that’s totally fair. You can’t separate general principles from the context they’re invoked in.

In real life, both freedom and security are important. In real life, when someone says that a proposed law or regulation would erode one of those, we can actually see exactly how it would work. X people must file form Y by date Z, and if they don’t and they get caught, they’ll get hit with $AA fine. We can see how well the status quo is working and exactly what problems exist with it. We can compare one country that has that policy to one that doesn’t and see which is doing better. While we can never be totally certain about something in the future, we can often get a pretty good idea of how it compares to what we have now.

But I haven’t read the Sokovia Accords. I don’t know what the World Security Council’s or SHIELD’s mandate was, or their budget, or the number of personnel they had, I just know what named characters did on screen. I don’t know what happens to unsanctioned superpeople. (We see some people in the Raft for 2 minutes in Civil War, but they weren’t just unsanctioned superpeople, they broke other laws too.) I know how Bruce Banner spent three particular weeks (his own movie and the Avengers movies), but not how he spent the rest of the past eight years. And this isn’t nitpicking, these are basic details that we’d have at least some idea about if these things existed in the real world. If I were in Congress voting on ratifying the Sokovia Accords or whatever, I hope I’d vote nay if I couldn’t read them but I honestly have no idea how I’d vote if I could.

One problem (of many) with the Civil War comic series was that it was both incoherent and vague about this stuff. The pro side was just talking about minor, reasonable accountability and yet they built a gulag in the Negative Zone. The anti side rebelled out of deep-seated principles and yet they gave up the minute they faced popular disapproval. Both sides were idiots. I think the movie did a good job of avoiding these problems. Neither side did anything really beyond the pale, and in the end, the most intense conflict wasn’t over cheap philosophy at all, but over vengeance.

The plot of Civil War doesn’t vindicate either Tony’s or Steve’s position, because their positions aren’t what it was about to begin with.

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But Steve’s premises about what would and would not happen were also entirely wrong. He says “Bucky doesn’t do that anymore” AND YET, all it takes is a short series of nouns, and Bucky will do whatever the fuck you want.

Let’s just take the inciting incident — Lagos. Wanda blows up a chunk of office building and some Wakandans to save the market and a bunch of Nigerians. This is justifiable, she acted correctly. BUT SHE IS NOT MADE TO JUSTIFY IT. Steve’s argument is not “we made the hard, right choices” but instead “we make hard choices and therefore are exempt from oversight.”

Tony was blind to the Raft, and I would have liked to see more of what the proposed structure of the Sokovia Accords enforcement and review regime was going to be, but SOMETHING was needed. Did Cap bother coordinating with Lagos authorities? Did Cap hesitate to punch the shit out of some Romanian cops because he’s absolutely sure that the picture of Bucky (an acknowledged assassin) at the site of an assassination didn’t indicate his involvement? Did Cap NOT trash Bucharest?

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Very well said.

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The best part of Civil War in the comics was in Moon Knight, where Marc Specter goes “Okay sure I’ll register” then proceeds to investigate the person evaluating him for his license, finds out a bunch of terrible things, and blackmails him into giving Specter a class 5 license (do whatever you want without any oversight – this is the one Stark gives himself). It then turns into a PR nightmare for Shield as their hastily passed panic reaction bill had zero provisions for revoking such a license and Marc Specter is a brutal vigilante about a half step up from the Punisher.

That and the issue of Nova where he comes home for a break after the Annihilation Wave to find out about this petty bullshit.

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@JayDzed said on May 18th, 2016 at 8:31 pm

@Dasz: Yes, Rich’s response to the Civil War crap was epic and completely justified from someone that had just lived through the Annihilation War.

Pity no-one actually took the slightest bit of notice or had a moment of self-awareness about it.

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The problem with Civil War, even done in a much more coherent and reasonable fashion as it was in the movie, is that it forces real world logic to battle comic book logic. And for comic book fans, comic book logic is going to win every time.

The thing that interested me the most in the film, though, was Ross’s line about Thor and Bruce. About how Cap “just let them wander off” or something to that effect. As though either needs permission to go places and do things, like they’re a misplaced rifle instead of a person.

That was where Ross lost me.

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Wolfthomas said on May 18th, 2016 at 8:44 pm

@Dasz
Re: Nova

That was just the best “I pulled [Annihilus] inside out and saved the universe, what have you done lately Tony?”

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@Aryeh Harris-Shapiro: Cap didn’t conceal the reasons for Howard and Maria Stark’s deaths to protect Bucky; he didn’t find out Bucky was the triggerman until the same time Tony did. He concealed it because he thought everyone involved had been killed in ‘Winter Soldier’, particularly Zola, and he didn’t see any reason to burden his friend with the knowledge that his parents had been murdered when it was so long ago and was (presumably) ancient history. It came back to bite him in the ass, certainly, and he admitted to himself and to Tony that he was also avoiding it because it would have been a painful conversation that he couldn’t bring himself to have, but he did not lie to protect Bucky.

And he did try to tell Tony about Zemo at the airport, and that Bucky was framed and set up. Tony’s response was, “It’s too late for that, Bucky’s gonna be railroaded because the public needs a villain here, now surrender or you’re going down with him.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) Cap couldn’t work with Iron Man because Iron Man had orders to bring him in, period. That was kind of the point of the movie, that the government is sometimes more interested in the appearance of justice than in its actuality.

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I agree that something was needed, and I wish that Cap had made that argument. The Avengers seem to have been acting in a high-handed fashion. You can justify that in the Second Battle of New York or the Battle of Sokovia, but for something like what happened in Lagos? No. That is a problem, and additional support could have allowed more Avengers to help Cap with Crossbones.

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“And yet Steve never once trusts Tony enough to tell him his side of the Bucky conflict even though he has many, many chances to do so, and he shows nothing but moral contempt for someone who’s supposed to be one of his closest friends.”

To be honest, the idea that Tony Stark is supposed to be one of Steve’s closest friends doesn’t really hold up because Tony Stark does his level best to act like the world’s biggest idiot dickhead at every opportunity. Movie Steve Rogers’ closest friends are Natasha and Sam. Tony is that coworker you have that sometimes you get along with, sometimes he decides that he’s qualified to spin an artificial intelligence out of a little-understood alien artifact and nearly results in the world being extinctioned.

Steve was absolutely right not to tell Tony about the circumstances surrounding his parents’ death because guess what, as soon as Tony finds out about this he proceeds to nearly murder Bucky in a fit of rage. He probably should have told him sooner, sure. On the other hand that’s still not really an excuse for someone deciding “okay, but I really want to murder this person now.”

The issue of Steve sending Tony a text or something is addressed in the movie, he and Sam briefly discuss it and ultimately decide that Tony wouldn’t listen to them no matter what and it’s hard to disagree with them.

Also let’s talk about how Tony Stark went and dragged a fucking untrained teenager into what was basically an extremely dangerous arrest. That’s the guy Steve Rogers doesn’t trust, someone willing to go and fast-talk a kid, enhanced or no, into being his backup against the likes of Captain America and the Winter Soldier. The guy who refuses to acknowledge that Wanda might not like being confined to house arrest with a superpowered android nanny.

I say all this as someone who thinks that Tony Stark’s story arc throughout the MCU has been one of the more interesting ones to come out of it. He’s a character defined almost entirely by regrets…other characters have them, certainly, but no one else winds up being as defined by them, frequently of his own making no less. But Steve has every right to be distrustful of the guy who nearly accidentally blew up the world because he had to poke the glowy alien rock with a stick and looks for any excuse he can to solve all his problems with a highly weaponized suit of power armor.

edit; The thing about Tony’s insistence on the Accords in the movie is it’s entirely self-centered, like much of what he does. He’s all for it because he feels the need to make amends, but he doesn’t really care how it affects other people in the slightest because it’s a decision that’s all about Tony Stark. Nowhere is this made clearer than the scene where he’s trying to get Steve to sign and it comes out that he’s got Wanda under house arrest. He doesn’t even dignify her as a person, instead tossing off a one-liner about how they don’t issue passports to WMDs. Just like how he threw gobs of money at a bunch of MIT students at the start of the movie, the Accords are just another attempt by his to absolve himself of guilt (which as MGK points out he’s quick to abandon in favor of doing whatever he wants when the mood takes him, which is also something Tony Stark is really good at).

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UnlikelyLass said on May 19th, 2016 at 9:29 am

“why Wyoming needs its own superteam I don’t know, but they supposedly had one”

Isn’t Project Pegasus in Wyoming? Seems like a thing worth having a Superhero team around to help protect.

Now, North Dakota…

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I’d just like to say that a) Kai’s analysis of Tony’s arc is beautiful, and b) I love that the movies support this kind of analysis. They’ve done a really wonderful job of walking this very fine line with Tony–he’s a terrible superhero in a lot of ways, constantly screwing up and trying to fix his mistakes and making all new and different mistakes in an effort to fix his previous ones. But the scripts (and RDJ’s wonderful performance) have made him so human and accessible that you can feel for him the whole way.

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I guess this argument really convinces me that the Marvel reality is very skewed towards libertarianism, what with the evils of government regulation and all.

So in a Universe that is skewed towards libertarianism the silly libertarian argument is correct, which sounds reasonable.

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Lord Riven said on May 19th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Everything you say here makes perfect sense, MGK,* but the problem is that Cap’s words don’t really amtch his actions. Everything he does in the movie is really out of a loyalty to Bucky, even when he’s acting on nothing but gut feelings and truthiness – just because he was brainwashed doesn’t make Bucky not a person whose murdered hundreds if not thousands of people, and Cap never seems to clue-in to the fact that that upsets people.

My only major problem with the CA movies is that I never felt CA1 appropriately sold Bucky as a character to give a shit about – it told me that they were friends, but never sold it. When WS came around I really struggled with it because I barely remembered Bucky (the scene where he falls from the train is the only bit I remember.) When I went on my giant re-watch of all the MArvel films, my opinion only got stronger – I still don’t care about Bucky, so all of Civil War is watching a man philosophically justify his actions to harm and put-in-to-harm a plethora of other people in order to protect a dangerous wanted killer who has committed proven crimes. Not wanting Bucky to be shot-on-sight? Fine, I’m anti-death penalty myself. Getting pissy that Bucky is put in prison, even when the movie proves he’s still a brainwashed killer?

COMPLETELY UNJUSTIFIABLE. Bucky is demonstrably a dangerous, unpredictable element, and Cap comes off like Tommy trying to save Trumpy’s killer brother in Pod People for no better reason than a belief in his intrinsic goodness EVEN WHILE HE’S IN THE ACT OF KILLING PEOPLE. Who gives a shit that it’s not his personal fault – he’s still, y’know, killing people. Repeatedly.

* Well, except “It ends up being a spectacular failure, because psychopaths don’t make good government functionaries.” The last several centuries of dictatorships, reichs, and oppressive empires have proven that psychopaths make incredible government functionaries and often really benefit from having an ordered, structured life. Also,, many, many successful politicians possess psychopathic traits – I think your problem here is word-choice. “Unhinged megalomaniacal serial killers” probably do make pretty shitty government functionaries, but even then they sometimes get away with being government leaders.

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Thom H. said on May 19th, 2016 at 7:10 pm

@Lord Riven: I agree that it’s difficult to care about Bucky, and I can’t decide if that’s more of a writing or an acting problem. As a mostly blank, brainwashed killer, Sebastian Stan is great. As a fun best friend/childhood protector, I think his performance falls flat. Of course, most of the “best friend” scenes in CA1 are so cliche that it’s difficult to see them because my eyes are rolling so hard.

(In comparison, I have no problem connecting to the relationship between Steve and Sam, but then their scenes are much better written, even when they’re just standing around chatting in CA2.)

I like that both Steve and Tony’s motivations vacillate between personal and professional in CA3, though. They both come off as determined but ultimately confused, and I think that added a lot of depth to their characters.

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@Lord Riven: Personally, I find the “brainwashed” argument makes all the difference. Bucky may have physically pulled the trigger, but his was never the will that directed it. In my opinion, he bears zero responsibility for anything he did while the Winter Soldier (and the scenes where he’s screaming at people not to read his activation words add to this).

Does he need to be taken somewhere so they can deprogram him? Absolutely. But he needs rehabilitation, not imprisonment, and both Tony and the world government seem only interested in doing the latter.

Though I admit to bias. The moment someone like Cap says “he didn’t do it,” as far as I’m concerned, the guy didn’t do it. Plus, in fiction, I tend to read “brainwashed” as a “get out of jail free” card.

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Did Chris Sims do the stick figure version, where Iron Man glosses over multiple instances of mis-characterization with “Everyone shut up, we’re doing this my way!” Still a better explanation than in the comics!

So I hated Civil War the comic but really enjoyed Civil War the movie. As expected, completely agreed with Cap–until the end, when Iron Man finds out. Then…yeah, maybe Bucky has to go. Still, it’s disheartening to see IM side with Ross, who doesn’t think Hulk, Thor, or Scarlet Witch are people with any sort of rights: just weapons.

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edit@googum: Oh yeah, how great is it that the guy lecturing the Avengers on personal responsibility and collateral damage is good ol’ Thunderbolt “I hate the Hulk so much I decided to crack open a sixer of untested supersoldier Kool-Aid and pump an unstable soldier full of it, oh whoops I just created the Abomination” Ross.

It’s kind of interesting that Civil War comes on the heels of Jessica Jones, another Marvel Cinematic venture which is all about the ramifications, consequences, and aftereffects of people being mind-controlled. They’re two entirely different things of course, both telling two entirely different stories, but when taken as part of the same shared universe it seems relevant.

Anyway I agree that Bucky the Best Friend isn’t something that the Marvel movies have really made pop, but on the other hand the implication that I at least took away from the movie is that one of the big reasons that Steve is so gung-ho over rescuing Bucky is that Bucky is the last link Steve has to his old life. I don’t think it’s a big coincidence that one of the first scenes we get in the movie before the UN bombing is Peggy Carter’s funeral. Peggy’s gone, Howard Stark is gone, Bucky is it for Steve, the last touchstone he has of the world before he went into the ice, so while the movie doesn’t come right out and smash you in the face with it (which I appreciate) it seems pretty clear to me that this is part of what’s setting the emotional stakes for Steve.

(Yeah, I’m vaguely aware that one of the Howling Commandos made a guest appearance on Agents of SHIELD or something. I’m ignoring AoS here by virtue of the fact that it isn’t very good. I guess this is my “headcanon” now.)

Oh hey, speaking of the funeral! Who is it that flies out to be there with Steve so he doesn’t have to be alone after the death of someone important to him? Is it his good pal Tony Stark? Nope, it’s Natasha. Who is it that has Steve’s back throughout like two thirds of the movie? Tony? Nope, it’s Sam. It’s kind of funny looking back at that big climactic showdown between Tony and Steve in Siberia once you’ve seen the whole movie…that whole “He’s my friend, well so was I” exchange made it into a bunch of trailers and made it seem like it was going to be this real heartbreaking moment, but throughout the entire movie it’s made abundantly clear that Tony is basically projecting here. He’s not Steve’s friend, not really. He tells himself he is, he uses it as verbal ammunition, he probably even thinks of himself as Steve’s friend, but he ain’t and the whole movie is full of moments like that. He and Pepper have broken up but it’s no one’s fault (it’s totally his fault and he even lists the reasons why). Wanda is totally happy with her situation and didn’t even want to leave until Steve dragged her into this mess (no she wasn’t and yes she did).

So yeah, the movie goes to some lengths to show that Tony Stark really isn’t many peoples’ friend. Steve’s letter to him at the end of the movie shines an interesting light on this when Steve mentions that he’s always been more comfortable putting his trust in individual people than organizations because Tony is basically the opposite. Like, I believe that movie Tony Stark genuinely wants to do right by the world, protect it from aliens and super-terrorists and make things better somehow, but he always takes these big-picture approaches to things, focused on abstract groups, and so he gets blindsided whenever he’s forced to zoom in and confront individuals, the human element. It’s why the woman from the state department whose son died in Sokovia rattles him so much. It’s why he looks taken aback when he sees all the others on Steve’s side locked up in undersea super-Gitmo. Hell, you see it all the way back in the very first Iron Man movie where Tony Stark straight up doesn’t give a shit what happens with his weapons once they roll off the assembly line, content to assume that they only get used on bad people for the right reasons…until he himself is forced to confront the ugly truth at metaphorical and literal gunpoint. Tony Stark is bad at people, and he’s the last person I would be looking at to have the right answers about something as thorny as superhero oversight (which, in fairness, is an issue without any real great answers).

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for the people saying that Bucky being brainwashed doesn’t change anything, remember how Hawkeye spent most of the first Avengers movie and remember what consequences he suffered for what he did, ie none

Lord Riven, Thom H- you two may be the first I’ve seen to suggest that Cap and Bucky’s friendship wasn’t played strongly, so you know, you may just need to bow to the majority here. “Well, I don’t see it, but I’ll take your word,” sort of

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I can see both sides here. It is beyond arrogant for Cap to want no oversight – but to have that oversight in the form of a committee of UN politicians [or any politicos] is worse. Stark is operating from hubris and guilt and is willing to toss his stated reasons & morality aside as soon as it proves inconvenient for him.
However IMO the -best- hero in ‘Civil War’ IS Bucky. Cap is a loyal friend [and I easily remembered Steve & Bucky’s friendship from CA1]. Bucky, OTOH, has been tortured, brainwashed and still manages to struggle his way free. However Bucky Takes RESPONSIBILITY for his actions. He is told it wasn’t his fault but he points out that he still killed, followed his programming, even when he was not in control of his own actions. Bucky asks to go back into stasis at movie end -because- he knows he is not yet in control of himself and refuses to endanger others until his brain can get properly repaired.

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For the record I agree that Steve’s jaunt to Lagos was very badly handled and he deserves to be called out on that. Like, even just saying “hey, we think that a really dangerous terrorist group are gonna come here and start shooting people and stealing shit, can we coordinate with your local police/military on this?” would have drastically improved things. It is concerning that a group of enhanced individuals are going and doing this sort of thing without so much as a by-your-leave even if ultimately the results of them stopping Rumlow from getting away with a bioweapon could be argued to outweigh the deaths of 11 people…but your really, really don’t want to go down the road of doing that sort of moral calculus where okay maybe a dozen people died but we probably saved a whole bunch more, therefore it’s all cool. Not that Steve is cavalier about the deaths, mind you, but yet and still being the guy in charge means that when you fuck up you’re the one who has to step up and accept the consequences.

But melchar is right in that a UN committee is probably not the way to go there, especially one as vague as what’s presented in the movie. And anyway, note that even after a bunch of Avengers sign the Accords when the world goes on a manhunt against Bucky does this UN panel say “okay, let’s do this officially,” they just go straight to spec-ops with shoot-to-kill orders. The overwhelming impression is that whoever’s calling the shots with regards to the sanctioned Avengers doesn’t actually want them doing anything so much as simply being kept in check.

And yes, Bucky is perhaps the most responsible person in the whole movie and I’ll be very sad if Sebastian Stan doesn’t come back for Infinity War.

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Lord Riven said on May 19th, 2016 at 11:45 pm

I don’t disagree that Bucky is not responsible for his actions – but it doesn’t make wanting to have him institutionalized in some way any less unreasonable if some random schmo can say that right code words and have him start killing things. I think my issue is Cap’s hurt puppy face in the movie that people are daring to not put their faith in Bucky – dude, Bucky was literally just co-opted by a nobody and used to kill a bunch of people. That just happened, just now, we all watched it and everything. That he’s innocent does nothing to blunt the fact that’s he’s dangerous.

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That Bucky is dangerous and probably deserves to be institutionalized doesn’t actually disprove the assertion, fairly well supported by the movie, that Tony Stark is completely untrustworthy to handle the situation competently or correctly is the thing. As soon as it comes out that one of those things Bucky did was kill his parents, and I’m not saying that isn’t a terrible fucking situation all around, Tony immediately switches from “I promise to go to Steve as a friend” mode to “okay, I’m going to murder this guy and beat seven shades of shit out of Steve” utilizing his very own form of dangerous superpowers to do so.

People do things in the heat of the moment all the time, crimes of passion are certainly a thing that exist and so it’s not like Tony’s reaction to hearing that this is the guy responsible for his parents’ deaths is some alien concept. It’s understandable, relatable even. But when the guy who’s been lecturing everyone else about oversight and responsibility decides to turn the full brunt of his jet-powered raygun-packing tank suit on a couple of people in a fit of rage, it pretty well sinks any notion that Tony Stark has the moral high ground. They didn’t bust out the “with great power comes great responsibility” line in his scene with Peter Parker, but if anyone needs that lecture from Uncle Ben it’s Tony.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 20th, 2016 at 2:22 am

Incidentally, I think it’s fascinating how deeply involved this discussion can get when superhero regulation is such a self-negating, defeatist premise. Superheroes as a genre are predicated on the thrill and wonder of the transcendent, so why has Marvel seemed so dead-set on bureaucratizing and assimilating it into this mundane pseudo-realist aesthetic? It honestly seems like Phase I was all about building this beautiful prismatic multiplicity of what superheroes can be and throwing it into a big Avengers-shaped blender and Phase II/III (at least A2 and the 2 Caps, which have really been the “core” continuity so far) has been about dragging it into this pseudo-political mire that can’t possibly say anything about politics of the real world because superheroes (gasp) can’t actually exist in the real world. And if we’re supposed to just engage with it as pure fantasy, I don’t know why I’d want to watch Iron Man try to murder Bucky as revenge for Bucky assassinating his parents back in the day when I could watch Batman, Superman, and Wonderman fight a giant space zombie Lex Luthor mad-scienced up with Zod’s corpse. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Civil War a hell of a lot more than BvS, but I think the idea that DC’s the grim, joyless one is outdated (at this point) and based on nothing more than aesthetic affectation.

Also, re: Cap and Tony’s friendship:

I’ll concede that Cap didn’t know Bucky was the triggerman, but keeping Tony’s parents’ assassination from him at all was a monumentally shitty thing to do. And Cap does eventually try to talk to Tony, after trying to help Bucky escape three times and succeeding once (he has a 4-3 record by the end of the movie if I’m counting right). Step back to Cap and Sam walking in on Bucky and Zemo. You’re Cap. You just tried to help Bucky escape international law enforcement, got stopped, and Tony not only prevents any legal repercussions (I don’t know who’s got the authority in the MCU, but I’d guess aiding and abetting a fugitive would rate SOME kind of prosecutions) but extends a hand of friendship. They disagree strongly about Wanda, but nothing’s happened beyond slightly raised voices. There’s still very much room for discussion, and Tony’s made clear that no one wants that more than Tony. So you, as Cap, are in the room with Bucky and Sam, Zemo’s gone, and your first instinct is not to alert Tony but instead to just pick up and run, conveniently distracting the entire security force and allowing for Zemo’s escape. Any way you dice it, that’s terrible superheroing.

But it’s more than that, which is why I care so much. The idea that Cap is right (and I think that whatever your interpretation of the ethics of Civil War, the movie’s on Cap’s side–it’s his movie, after all) is predicated on him being an exemplar for everything supposedly decent, enduring, and trustworthy about American individual virtue. He’s not serving anyone but his own conscience, the utopian vision of a soldier under his own command, the best case scenario for the superhero model according to the MCU itself. He’s regularly condescending, suspicious, and inflexible and yet THE MCU IS ON HIS SIDE. The SHIELD/HYDRA conflict, Ultron, Sokovia–his pessimism is constantly proven RIGHT by a universe bending over backwards to justify a character whose individual moral authoritarianism can’t help but be repugnant when held up against a semi-realist version of the 21st century.

That’s my big problem: MGK is right about the internal story logic of Cap’s politics. The MCU inverts the usual dynamics of oversight and cloaks it in a veneer of realism, which is like throwing a coat of beige paint on Bizarro and calling him Superman. And these are partially kids movies, no matter how old most of us here are. There are children watching these movies who will see an utter shithead who never once questions the moral authority bestowed upon him via chemical injection held up as a paragon from virtue and learn from that. To me, that sucks.

Also, if Cap wanted to reject the Sokovia Accords out of hand, that would mean leaving Tony completely unsupervised, which was what lead to Ultron in A2. So Cap doesn’t want Tony unsupervised, and he won’t have an organization watchdogging Tony (and before you give me the “Tony has power under the Sokovia accords” line, yeah, he does, but its substantially curbed from the total immunity he’d been tossing around since IM2. That the raft gets constructed without his knowledge or approval means he got seriously neutered by the accords, which Cap refused to even read or discuss before rejecting them entirely). The entire core thrust of the current MCU is predicated on Steve disapproving of every choice Tony makes like some kind of nagging dad. I’m only kind of kidding.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 20th, 2016 at 2:25 am

Also, Tony and Cap aren’t super close friends, that’s true. They do basically form the post-Fury leadership class of the Avengers, though, which you’d think would mandate a certain level of closeness and trust.

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And these are partially kids movies, no matter how old most of us here are. There are children watching these movies who will see an utter shithead who never once questions the moral authority bestowed upon him via chemical injection held up as a paragon from virtue and learn from that. To me, that sucks.

I think this is wrong in several ways.

Captain America 3: Civil War is rated PG-13. A 13-year-old can probably handle a little shades-of-gray and moral complexity in their fiction. Just because some stuff starring this character is marketed at kids, doesn’t mean it all is or has to be. CA3:CW wasn’t.

Most 13-year-olds, that is, but apparently not you. Is there no middle ground for you between “paragon” and “utter shithead”? Steve is trying to do the right thing for mostly the right reasons and isn’t screwing it up too much. If that’s not good enough for you, then would you accept any moral ambiguity in your fiction at all?

Steve Rogers isn’t a perfect person in the MCU. He’s close, true, but not quite there. That’s been explicit ever since Avengers 2. Remember how Wanda inflicted a nightmare vision on him, Thor, and Tony? Thor saw Ragnarok, Tony everyone dying around him, and Steve saw a welcome-home party from the end of World War II. He doesn’t know what to do with himself if he’s not a soldier. He doesn’t know how to have a normal life. (Moral paragons in the MCU: Thor, after the character development in his first movie, is pretty close to Jesus; Vision is a literally-born-yesterday innocent; and among mere mortals, VA staffer Sam Wilson is probably pretty close.) Expecting Steve to always be right, and then saying that the world is wrong if it disagrees with him, is ignoring some clear-as-day elements of the series.

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Lord Riven, Kai- the problem with putting Bucky away somewhere is so far he’s unique and they had no proof any place was capable of dealing with him and that they even wanted to do anything helpful for him

Aryeh Harris-Shapiro- I think they’re trying to tear the superheroes down so it’s amazing when they come back together to win in the Infinity Wars movies. Personally I always felt that sort of comeback does more to make the villains look bad than the heroes look good

I also think that the MCU vs DCCU comparisons still put the MCU as less grim, because they’re seemingly staying true to themselves and seem readier to fix things. The Bat-brand thing that gets people killed in prisons isn’t very Batman and Superman shouldn’t need to kill someone to know he doesn’t want to kill anyone basically.

I also disagree with your characterization of Cap because Cap is perfectly willing to follow orders. Basically anytime you see him in a montage scene in Cap1 it’s all him under orders and maybe they’re not the greatest but he lives with them.

Him following orders in Avengers isn’t that OOC as so many claim he’s just trying to make sure they don’t go off without some key info when they need to.

And he was fine working for Shield in TWS. Cap’s attitude towards orders lines up pretty good with Nick Fury’s in the MCU. Fury’s comments to the Security Council when they tried to nuke New York, “As it was a dumbass decision I have elected to ignore it,” would work perfect for Steve if say Phillips had tried to call them back when Howard and Peggy dropped him behind enemy lines for the big rescue

Cyrus- I think Steve’s is more what he’s been denied, that may not have been how the other visions worked, but then Steve has experienced different things from all the rest

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 20th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Cyrus:

As far as the age thing goes, remember that its really easy for parents to bring their under-thirteen kids to a PG-13 movie. And the Marvel movies make way too much money for that not to be happening. And I absolutely don’t object to nuance and shades of grey, but additional complexity means that more narrative scrutiny is warranted in order to figure out exactly WHAT the movie is saying. Things can be complex, nuanced, packed with compelling shades of gray, and completely destructive and toxic thematically. Wouldn’t say Civil War is THAT bad, but I think what the movie is saying is absolutely harmful. To kids, sure, but knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism is the same impulse fueling the Tea Party, so I don’t think the rest of the world can be counted out.

And it’s canon that Steve is the MCU’s moral paradigm. It’s explicitly explained in Cap 1 that the super-soldier serum turns you into the platonic ideal of what’s in your heart. The Red Skull turned into a Nazi Goblin, and Steve Rogers turned into Captain America. He also managed to budge Mjolnir in A2, which means he must be more “worthy” (for whatever value of worthy you choose) than Tony, who can’t move it at all even with Rhodey’s help. And beyond keeping Tony’s parents’ death a secret (which the movie treats as a betrayal, true, but a sensible one with good judgment behind it) Civil War never once seriously critiques Cap’s position. Tony’s side is allowed to score points (the Wakandans mostly) but the movie never seriously forces us to examine the morality of Cap’s actions the way the scene with the mom in the school hallway explicitly forces us to do with Tony. And once we visit the raft, the movie goes full on anti-regulation to the point where the climax doesn’t even feel the need to address that issue at all. And the endings bear that out–Cap gets a cool little speech and a dope prison breakout without any real trace of an arc, and Tony chooses to ignore Ross’s call and let them escape. The resolution of the film is Tony learning his lesson and coming back around (at least somewhat) to Cap’s way of thinking. Cap doesn’t grow as a character in his own movie (which he did in 1 and 2), which indicates to me that the creative voices behind the MCU don’t see any need for him to grow.

Cap isn’t a perfect person based on our empirical experiences with the character, but the narrative frame of Civil War demands that he have a superlative moral character when I’d argue that his actual actions speak to the opposite. The story the movie tells us we’re watching is different from the story we’re actually watching, and that cognitive dissonance (in my opinion) is what undermines Civil War as a functional story.

And my objection to Cap’s shittiness should be put in context–Cap 1 is my second-favorite Marvel movie and the scene where he explains that he can’t get drunk anymore is my favorite Marvel scene full stop. I loved Winter Soldier with every bone in my body too. I only really started reacting negatively to Cap in A2, and even that was mitigated by Tony being an absolute idiot and Cap’s very reasonable objections to creating an unsupervised, near omnipotent-AI.

But A2 was where Cap started to fully buy into his own moral authority, and I don’t think Cap works when he starts to get smug (and the Whedonesque quips that have defined the series can’t help but read smug when people are having involved debates about moral certainty). Essential decency is what prevents Cap’s moral authoritarianism from turning him into the fascist parody Millar created with The Ultimates, and when he starts talking down to his teammates for contemplating the accords, that decency starts to erode. It would be a fascinating character arc if I had any faith that it was intentional or that the films would capitalize on it in any way going forward.

Also: Are you Cyrus from Spill (RIP) and One of Us? If that sentence makes no sense to you, feel free to disregard.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 20th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

I’m not sure I said one last thing clearly in that big post that I want to make explicit:

My critical perspective is functionalist. I’m a screenwriter, so I try to look at how a film works and acts on its audience and then expand from there to figure out what it’s actually communicating to its audience. Other perspectives and approaches are totally valid, but that’s how I personally approach film and its the best way I’ve found to incorporate authorial intention and audience-imposed meaning into a single, unified reading of a work.

My point re: your point about Steve’s hallucination is that the MCU is so big and sprawling that it supports a huge multiplicity of readings. The fact that everyone here has an internally consistent reading of the film despite most of us having diverging interpretations is testament at least to the success of the MCU as a whole. You can be a fan of the whole while having wildly different opinions (even on a text level) about its various parts. So stuff like Cap’s hallucination in A2, which I see as a concession to the plot need to incapacitate the Avengers (to get to the Hulkbuster sequence) and to foreshadow Infinity War (twice) more than as a serious examination of a chink in Cap’s armor, especially since his is the only vision not to directly inform the plot in some way. The fact that each of the visions seems to operate on completely different rules (Widow just has a straight-up flashback) supports this for me and gives me confidence that the vision doesn’t need to be weighed as core to the writers’ interpretation of the character. But on the other hand, seeing it differently is totally valid.

That’s where I’m coming from here. I’m not weighing up the political merits of Cap’s and Tony’s positions, I’m not trying to build a meta-arc throughout the continuity (although the fact that all of Cap’s arcs have been about the dangers and traps of authoritarianism while Tony’s have been about the need for prudence and oversight should probably have been hit on in Civil War itself. See? Now I’m doing it), I’m just trying to look at the way the story underneath it all works and weigh it against what we see actually see onscreen in order to come up with my interpretation of the thing.

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@Aryeh Harris-Shapiro: First, I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by describing the movie as “harmful”; I sincerely doubt that this is going to be the first step in some eight year old’s journey to holing up in a wilderness refuge in Oregon. :) The movie makes it clear enough for any reasonable person to realize that Cap has his blind spots and flaws and they do come back to bite him in the ass. You keep pointing out that Cap was being shitty for not telling Tony the truth about his parents, but you seem to have missed that this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Cap set himself up as the moral arbiter of HYDRA’s secrets, and it cost him the trust of his most powerful ally and left Earth vulnerable. That’s not something you’re supposed to ignore even within this one film, let alone in the context of the looming threat of Thanos.

I think further that your description of the film as “knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism” isn’t correct, either; Steve has reservations from the beginning, sure, but he’s willing to work within the system right up until he finds out that the authority involved is willing to put a teenage girl under indefinite extrajudicial house arrest because she’s got super powers. For you to claim that this is a knee-jerk anti-authoritarian stance would involve convincing me that there’s no way that the real world government would ever do something incredibly shitty to someone just for being an embarrassment to them (*cough* Snowden *cough*). Cap has some points, just like Tony does, and I don’t think the movie explicitly endorses either position. (Note that the big, shattering split between Tony and Steve at the end comes when Tony abandons all those principles he had about needing to be put in check and freelances just like Steve did. It can be argued pretty persuasively that Cap’s principles only work for Captain America personally–when Tony acts like Steve, nothing good comes of it.)

I don’t want to discourage you from discussing the movie or anything, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bones. But I think if you come at it from a place of “This movie was harmful and here’s why,” you’re going to meet more resistance than if you just discuss your concerns with it.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 20th, 2016 at 5:50 pm

@John: If I think a movie’s harmful, I’m gonna say it (and if there’s some kind of resistance, I’ll address it, but everyone’s been very open to discussion here). It doesn’t mean the movie’s evil, doesn’t mean the movie shouldn’t exist or needs to be changed. Harm can be subtle and incidental, so tiny that it might as well not even be there. My reading of the film is obviously as subjective as anyone else’s, but I don’t think it’s crazy to assert that the film implicitly supports the viewpoints of a paranoid, knee-jerk authoritarian and encourages subtle reflections of those viewpoints in the audience. And the blockbusters we consume as a country drastically impact and feed off our national consciousness. Nothing works on an audience more effectively than a popcorn movie that’s pretending not to say much. This stuff matters just as much as an assessment of the movie’s success as a superhero flick. This movie (the MCU too,but this movie specifically) is a worldwide billion-dollar business. The things it puts out there into the culture are really, really important.

Let me break down the movie as I saw it real quick:

1) Shit goes down in Lagos. Unfortunate situation, no one’s really to blame.
2) Sokovia accords get put on the table. Tony wants to sign them because they’ve been regularly incurring collateral damage he thinks they need oversight. Cap rejects them because “our safer hands are still our own.” Note “our.” Cap is arguing for full superhuman autonomy for everyone on the team in this scene, Tony included. Tony levels an ultimatum: sign or retire. Cap refuses without even asking questions about the nature of the oversight or the enforcement mechanisms it entails. I wouldn’t ask Marvel to get into that in a movie, but the result is that Cap objects to any oversight at all on principal.
3) UN blows up, a team is sent after Bucky with a shoot-to-kill mandate. Steve decides to go bring Bucky in himself. This is all fine with me and perfectly in line with who Cap should be (selflessly putting himself in the line of fire to protect an innocent from dying needlessly, with the end goal of taking that innocent in and making the world a safer place). Everyone is arrested.
4) Tony brings Steve up to his office and tells him nothing’s been done that can’t be undone and offers to bring him in on the accords again. Steve almost signs (if anyone can remember why he almost changes his mind here, that’d be awesome, I think its my only major recall gap), then he finds out about Wanda and the two start fighting. This is interrupted by Zemo triggering Bucky. It’s important to note that nothing’s been resolved in this scene narratively. No action has been taken whatsoever, it’s just two characters talking. Steve doesn’t hardline refuse to sign, he starts arguing with Tony and then they’re interrupted. He never gets there. That distinction is really important for understanding the way the narrative functions, because neither Steve nor Tony change by the end of the scene. Steve’s decision-making process (don’t talk to Tony, act first, get permission later) remains unchanged after the scene as well. You can talk about Wanda as a pivot point for the conflict, but she doesn’t actually function that way in the narrative as presented (its a case of the script reverting to the shape of the story without actually executing the story itself) , that’s the interpretation you’re bringing to the screen (which is, again, just as valid). Also, Wanda helped Ultron steal the vibranium he needed for his plan (while believing he just wanted to kill Tony, which is still accessory to attempted first degree murder) and unleashed the Hulk (deliberately or not) on that city in A2 and was never tried for either crime, so honestly she should have been on house arrest a really long time ago. The alternative is that the world of the Avengers is a world where there’s no accountability for your actions as long as you end up on the side of the angels eventually, which isn’t a world I want to buy into (and I’m not, because see below).
5) Cap finds Bucky and Zemo, assesses the situation, and decides to help Bucky escape instead of subduing him, returning him to custody and getting an actual psychologist to start deprogramming him. He also chooses (verbally, explicitly) not to tell Tony about Zemo before going to pursue him. They decide to go after Zemo on their own.
6) Everybody fights at the airport. It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen onscreen since the Avengers climax. I believe at this point Steve tries to explain himself but Tony shoots him down. I should also point out that at no point do Tony and his team use lethal force (except that one spot with Vision and War Machine, but that was clearly an accident) and are trying to capture rather than kill. Steve’s endgame (protect Bucky, take down Zemo) is still VERY POSSIBLE even if Tony wins the airport fight.
7) Steve and Bucky make it to Zemo with Tony in hot pursuit. Zemo drops the bomb about Tony’s parents, Tony snaps and tries to start murdering Bucky. Steve and Bucky fight him off and escape. Black Panther stops Zemo from killing himself (and, by the way, don’t even get me started on Iron Man stealing Black Panther’s climax with that reveal. I mean, get me started if you want, I’ll talk about it).
8) Steve breaks his crew out of the Raft. Tony puts Ross on hold when the alert comes in, signifying that he’s coming back around to the side of the angels.

That’s basically the central arc of the movie right there. If I got anything wrong, let me know. See anything missing there? Captain America’s flaws never impact the plot or prevent him from achieving his goals in any way, shape, or form. I’m saying they’re not present (my whole argument has been that Cap SUCKS), I’m saying that they’re window dressing that serves no narrative function (and before someone says they’ll come into play later in the MCU–sure, and I’ll probably like those movies a lot more. I’m not paying theater prices for incomplete movies anymore). Character flaws aren’t narratively “real” unless they impact the story in a concrete way. A movie doesn’t have to endorse Cap with explicit approval or disapproval, it endorses him implicitly by showing that his actions and beliefs lead to his success without significant revision or alteration. We as an audience can see his flaws and understand them but they don’t play into the mechanism of the central story. It’s texture work, skin rather than spine, which isn’t what protagonists’ central flaws should be.

That leads me to my conclusion: Either Steve’s flaws were intentional, in which case the movie did nothing with them narratively, or the prove-Steve-right-at-all-costs plot was intentional (and remember, this is in the comments section of a piece arguing, very convincingly, that Cap’s bonkers-in-real-life political stance makes perfect sense in the MCU), in which case the movie made him a jackass by accident. Unless the MCU is experimenting with some radical ideas about antihero identification with the Cap movies (they’re not), the movie fails on its own terms.

(Or you don’t think Cap’s an asshole, which is very fair, but then I don’t think that you can look beneath the surface of the movie and justify an argument that Cap’s flaws are anything more than the surface imitation of a complex moral viewpoint. But I’d welcome a counterpoint from anyone who’s got one.)

Unless telling an emotional, coherent story isn’t how the MCU defines success anymore. Unless the world’s coolest airport fight scene was the point of the movie all along and the emotional attachment we have with these characters is just a way to talk us into the building, and Marvel’s excellent fan-management has just turned into a branding exercise (I think Cyrus said something similar earlier). And I have even less interest in buying into that MCU than the two possibilities I suggested above.

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We’ll set aside the “harmful” thing for now, because I don’t think you will ever convince me this is harmful and you clearly don’t think you sound silly here. :) Moving on.

I’d start by disputing 1), honestly. There’s a lot we don’t see in Lagos, but it doesn’t appear as though Cap is involving local authorities, preparing for an evacuation, letting them know that maybe they should get their biohazard material out of harm’s way…it’s not presented as the kind of lazy, callous inattention to the safety of innocents the way that the comic version was, but a reasonable case can be made that if Cap had been working with the government of Lagos, deaths could have been avoided. This is a point for the pro-Reg side, and it’s why Wanda takes so long to get involved. She’s aware that they fucked up.

2) I’d dispute this as well. Cap’s “our” basically means “my”; he’s not arguing for autonomy for everyone on the team, he’s saying that he believes the Avengers, as a unit, should operate autonomously under his guidance. This is his hubris talking here. There’s also some time elided over, and I don’t think that he immediately rejects it, but I do think that he evaluates it in light of the events of ‘Winter Soldier’ which is an entirely sensible thing to do.

4) You’re misremembering the scene. First, there’s the memory gap you are aware of–Cap is willing to acquiesce so long as he’s given assurances that there are reasonable safeguards against the Avengers being sent in to put down peaceful protestors, or being withheld from humanitarian interventions because a signatory state has an alliance they don’t want jeopardized. The kind of thing that would be sensible to demand.

But the second thing you’re forgetting is that they’re not interrupted by Zemo’s triggering of Bucky. That happens after the conversation is done and dusted and Cap has made it clear that he considers what is being done to Wanda to be unconscionable–not because she shouldn’t be held accountable for her actions, as you claim, but because her house arrest is extrajudicial and not due to her actions but her abilities. Wanda hasn’t been put on trial for her actions in Sokovia. She hasn’t been arrested for letting Crossbones go boom. They…and “they” here is very nebulous…have simply decided that it’s easier for everyone if she doesn’t leave Avengers compound. This is making a point that sometimes, “governmental oversight” is simply the next layer of authority that answers to no one but itself. In the wake of the Tamir Rice killing, can you really say that’s an unfair or untrue assertion to make?

It’s after that, when he’s on his way out, that Cap sees Zemo triggering Bucky. At that point, he’s simply trying to do what he can to avert bloodshed (including Bucky’s) in a situation where nobody is listening to reason. It’s arguably his moment of hamartia, where he makes a clear mistake because he believes that he and he alone knows what’s right.

And having gotten hubris and hamartia, we get our anagnorisis–Steve, in the interest of doing what he thinks is right, has been lying to his friends and keeping secrets just like he accuses the government of doing. Sure, he defeats Tony in the physical battle. Sure, he frees his friends. But if you think he “won” that, you’re not paying attention to the movie. It’s a tragedy, and it ends with Steve on the run, and his best ally no longer able to trust him. He leaves his shield behind because, even though it’s not a hammer, he’s not worthy of it.

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@John Seavey- yet at the same time Tony is deciding to kill Bucky the shiny new hero who’s stronger than the super soldiers and has better tech than the tech guy is releasing a grudge because he understands it wasn’t Bucky’s fault now.

If they’re that blatant in showing Tony’s grudge to be wrong do you really think they’re condemning the actions that led to it.

I just don’t think this was meant to be an everybody was wrong about something movie

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A H-S, please make your Black Panther point.

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Aryeh Harris-Shapiro said on May 21st, 2016 at 12:48 am

@John: First, appreciate the clarification on the scene I had wrong. I knew I was a little hazy there and I don’t want to base my points on bad memory.

Second, my assertion that Civil War is harmful is based on the twin beliefs that it tells a two-faced, hypocritical story and that its narrative has real impact in the world around it because of the MCU and Disney’s massive cultural platform. I can’t quite tell which part you disagree with, and we’re probably never going to agree on this, which is fine. Would appreciate it if you didn’t call me (or anyone, really) silly.

Also, I think you’re either misremembering or misreading the tone of the finale to support your interpretation. The movie ends with a cool guy Cap speech, him springing his entire crew of friends and allies, and a witty Tony Stark zinger on mean old Thunderbolt Ross. I don’t think we’re ever going to be on the same page about this movie because we’re reading it completely differently.

@Kyle: Black Panther’s entire motivation up until the climax was the murder of his father by the “Winter Soldier”. Tony’s entire motivation up until the climax was his dick measuring contest with Steve. And then suddenly, Tony’s trying to get revenge for the murder of his parents so he gets to participate in the big climactic battle. And Black Panther learns some kind of lesson offscreen (an omission that renders him completely disposable as a character in the current cut) and decides to convince Zemo (the man who ACTUALLY murdered his father) not to kill himself. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the final fight was Black Panther vs. Steve vs. Bucky, with Panther’s vigilante-as-revenge-killer ideology clashing against Steve’s vigilante-as-ultimate-selfless-public-servant beliefs with Bucky caught in the middle? And then Panther learns the truth and realizes just how close to killing Bucky he came over a lie and changes his revenge-seeking ways, choosing to stop Zemo from killing himself and delivering him to justice instead. The ultimate test case of Cap’s belief in the inherent goodness and altruism of the human spirit. Doesn’t that feel better? Don’t think of Iron Man vs. Cap as the inevitable endgame of Civil War, they could have gone any way with this. Doesn’t the endgame of this movie make much more sense with T’Challa in Tony’s spot? Maybe T’Challa/Tony/Steve/Bucky fighting in a two-on-two situation? I have nothing to back this up but my intuition, but it really feels to me like Panther was supposed to be much more involved in this movie and a big chunk of his material got given to Tony somewhere in the rewrite process.*

*I know Tony’s parents’ assassination was established in Winter Soldier. These decisions get made way in advance, and that reveal in particular would have been very easy to reshoot and plug in. And I don’t know that Tony’s parents weren’t part of the Civil War plan all along, but it feels insane to me that Panther is as absent as he is in the finale given how much they played him up at the beginning and little he actually does.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, the Spidey stuff was probably Panther’s real estate (maybe Wanda/Vision’s, that seemed shortchanged too) before the Sony deal went through. That might have something to do with it.

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Dan Coyle said on May 21st, 2016 at 1:20 am

@Fraser: Since Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War was thrown together because Tom Brevoort can’t do his damn job- uh, I mean, the main Civil War series was delayed, why yes, it WAS a last minute argument.

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Socraticsilence said on May 21st, 2016 at 3:17 am

Does the general public in the MCU not know Tony made Ultron, and that he did so after being explicitly told not to do so by his teammates?

Because if they do, why isn’t Toby permanently zoned out on psychotropic drugs or outright lobotomized. I mean Wanda was put under house arrest and later sedated and she killed far less people and had far less culpability for the deaths she did ostensibly cause.

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@Socraticsilence: It seems likely that they don’t (the woman at the beginning specified that she worked at the State Department) but I’m not sure what the consequences for Tony would be if they did.

Because it’s a situation pretty much unprecedented in legal history. I don’t know that Tony Stark can be held liable, legally, for the actions taken by an AI that he created, especially when he can document the project to show, “Hey, we told Ultron that its mission was to protect the human race and keep us all safe.” If I taught my kid that message, and he grew up to be Charles Manson or something, there’s not a court in the world that would throw me in jail for my role in the Manson killings.

But that assumes an AI is treated as a “person”, legally, and not a defective piece of machinery. If that was the case, though, you’d have to prove negligence on Stark’s part, which would be its own set of interesting court cases. Basically, what I’m saying is that I’m not sure anyone felt confident enough saying he’d broken a law because there may not be settled law to cover this eventuality.

On the other hand, the fact that there aren’t constant hordes of protesters following him everywhere he goes in the film suggests that the general public isn’t aware because in the court of public opinion, man, his ass would be toast. :)

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@John Seavey

Per Law and the Multiverse, the answer is “probably.”

http://lawandthemultiverse.com/2015/05/12/age-of-ultron-part-i/

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@JayDzed said on May 22nd, 2016 at 11:52 pm

@Aryeh Harris-Shapiro:

You’ve raised some excellent points, and I think your version of the climax with either T’Challa replacing Tony or fighting alongside Tony against Steven and Bucky would have been an improvement.

As for why T’Challa stopped Zemo from killing himself, I felt that was sufficiently covered in the movie: T’Challa learns that Bucky not only didn’t have anything to do with the deaths at the UN, but it was all deliberately set up by Zemo precisely so that the Avengers would tear themselves apart.

Zemo had almost entirely succeeded in this, and letting him kill himself at that point would have been letting him walk away with everything he wanted. Clearly T’Challa was not interested in Zemo getting what he wanted.

Whether that was because ‘Must follow the rule of law’ or just ‘Screw you dude, you don’t get out of this that lightly’ is open for interpretation.

I wouldn’t be willing to argue there wasn’t at least some of the latter, though. And who can blame him? Learning that your father and a bunch of other people were murdered just as pawns to set up the Avengers? That’s gonna leave some resentment.

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Dan Coyle said on May 23rd, 2016 at 1:36 am

You know, the title of this post only had to be the first four words.

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I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but I wanted to say reading it was delightful.

At the end of the movie I had a real sense that this was a kind of masterpiece. It was a pretty great movie made under what were obviously some pretty difficult constraints. I’ve been reading about these movies the last couple of days, and one hot take was that after/with age of ultron these movies couldn’t be any good any more. Joss Whedon is great at snappy banter, but A2 didn’t have time for a lot of back and forth. Because of how many fights there had to be, because of how many characters there are, because the movie has to act as an ad for the next one. A shortage of time for character beats may make good film hard to come by in future Marvel/Disney projects, but I think this one really works.

I can kind of see your point AHS, but I feel like A1%2 were much more pernicious than CA3. Masses of faceless enemies who exist only to be killed are a revolting development in American cinema.

P.S. If you object to being used as an ATM by Marvel/Disney what the hell are you doing watching any of these movies?

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And Black Panther learns some kind of lesson offscreen (an omission that renders him completely disposable as a character in the current cut) and decides to convince Zemo (the man who ACTUALLY murdered his father) not to kill himself… it really feels to me like Panther was supposed to be much more involved in this movie and a big chunk of his material got given to Tony somewhere in the rewrite process.

I’d agree that several characters’ subplots and arcs felt rushed in this movie in general terms but I think they hit the essentials of T’Challa’s development (the Vision and Wanda were the ones I felt were glossed over the most), and I don’t think any of his plot points were given to Tony in particular. If anything, just the reverse – he’s there as a contrast to Tony.

If anyone is tempted to say, “well, Tony’s wrong about registration, but we have to excuse him for trying to kill the guy who killed his father,” no we don’t. T’Challa had the same opportunity and decided against it. In fact, unlike Tony he faced the guy who actually killed his father, whereas Tony only faced the guy who was mind-controlled into it, and decided against it anyway. T’Challa managed to be rational enough to see what the Zemo wanted and deserved and put that ahead of his selfish impulse to vengeance. Any lesson T’Challa learned to this effect would have been learned before the events of the movie, as part of general kingliness stuff. Tony’s vengefulness was not a justifiable reaction to confronting Bucky, it was part of his general selfish short-sightedness. (I’m tempted to put T’Challa on the list of moral paragons of the MCU, but (a) not enough data and (b) it’s stupid to categorize this stuff anyway.)

Marvel’s excellent fan-management has just turned into a branding exercise (I think Cyrus said something similar earlier).

No I didn’t.

Also: Are you Cyrus from Spill (RIP) and One of Us?

No, I’m not.

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Candlejack said on May 23rd, 2016 at 1:14 pm

I don’t think T’Challa taking Stark’s place in the final fight would be an improvement. It’s Cap’s movie, after all; the final fight should have some resonance with him. The sum total of his interactions with T’Challa have amounted to trying to stop the guy from murdering his friend, so another fight where he tries to stop the guy from murdering his friend wouldn’t add anything.

(Also, Black Panther can’t really represent the vigilante-as-anything. He’s not a vigilante. He operates with the full knowledge and support of his government. In fact, he is his government. If anything, until he casts aside vengeance, he represents the abuse of power: using all the resources of his position to track down and murder a man on the basis of a single piece of easily-faked evidence.)

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MGK, the biggest problem with your argument supporting Cap’s viewpoint is that the MCU wants to keep its world being similar to the ‘real’ world but then put super powered beings into it without it changing. It wants to have its cake and to be able to eat it too.

So it wants to be able to blow things up big but then ignore civilian casualties for the most part (as has been pretty much the case up to “Civil War”). It wants characters to be able to act in dramatic ways without having to deal with consequences (e.g. Wanda worked with Ultron and caused casualties around the globe, but because she decided she wanted to be an Avenger, everything’s forgiven).

Also, Wanda might be under a form of house arrest during “Civil War”, but that’s only until the Accords were sorted out. During the movie she ends up in prison for attacking people trying to arrest international terrorist the Winter Soldier. (Sure, he might not be responsible for the bombing in the film, but I’m sure there are a lot of other cases that Bucky is responsible for. Mind control is really the MCU’s excuse for a lot of behaviour the ‘real world’ would still lock people up for.)

Cap’s not right and it’s shown in the opening scenes of Civil War where he chooses to engage a group of armed, hostile mercenaries in the middle of a crowded market. He didn’t have it cleared, or take the fight into less populated areas (aka the Man of Steel Criticism) – he chose that he and his team engage where civilians were in imminent danger. The film is good enough to ignore this.

Wanda then gets blamed for what happened when she actually minimised casualties arising from her commander’s bad decision.

But “Civil War” doesn’t want the audience to consider that Cap may ever make a bad call, because that would undercut the idea that he (and the Avengers) need some kind of oversight.

(I also feel that Cap’s argument is very acceptable to a US / NA audience, but if the People’s Defence Force was blowing holes in New York fighting Hydra before heading back to Beijing, the whole ‘we can trust superpowered beings to manage things themselves’ wouldn’t be nearly as acceptable.)

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“Cap’s not right and it’s shown in the opening scenes of Civil War where he chooses to engage a group of armed, hostile mercenaries in the middle of a crowded market.”

Except that he didn’t choose that. Armed terrorists with active bioweapons chose to take the fight into a crowded market, possibly with intent to release the bioweapon into the populace. There’s not a law-enforcement agency in the world that would have handled a scenario like that any differently than Cap did, and for the same reason–you don’t have time to evacuate, the terrorists aren’t going to let themselves be herded, and inaction isn’t an option because the bioweapon is a clear and present danger. Cap did the job the best anyone could under the circumstances.

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Piranhtachew said on July 23rd, 2016 at 10:23 pm

“…why Wyoming needs its own superteam I don’t know, but they supposedly had one” To save us from Cheney? I keep wondering who’ve been on Rex’s team in all this.

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How law enforcement agencies train their officers for pursuit / chase situations can vary a lot, especially when balancing public safety issues.

The whole “not having time to evaluate” is something that Cap entered into when he found out that his intel was wrong and then he chased a bunch of thieves (they were looking to escape with the bioweapon) into a corner in a crowded market place.

Cap’s best decision underestimated Crossbones, got psyched out by him and then would have gotten a lot of people killed (including himself) if Scarlet Witch didn’t contain the blast. Which then led to a smaller group being killed, for which Scarlet Witch bore all of the blame, rather than her commander.

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