Note: There are no spoilers for Captain America: Civil War in play here. We're just going by what's in the trailers, folks.
Collateral damage. Whether intentional or not, that phrase has been a powerful motivator for both the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universes over the past few years. The arrival of super-powered beings – be it Superman in Man of Steel or The Avengers in the MCU’s Phase One – has forced humanity to reflect on how much damage we’re willing to incur to allow these "heroes" to keep us safe. And that conversation comes to a boiling point in Captain America: Civil War. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) opposes the Sokovia Accords, a government bill meant to police the Avengers and limit where and when they can fight. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), on the flip side, sees a need for such regulation.
And as much as this surprises me to say, in context, I agree with Stark. I’m on Team Iron Man.
This feels strange because I grew up reading comics, and blindly supporting the actions of Marvel’s mightiest heroes. I never once stopped to think of the people they might have hurt during their battles, or the damage they might have incurred during each pivotal fight. Not that this topic didn’t come up. One of my favorite Spider-Man stories, "Turning Point," happens early in the hero’s run. While trying to protect his love interest, Betty Brant, Spidey wrestles an armed thug but can’t stop him from firing a bullet… which strikes Betty’s brother, Bennett, who dies from the wound. Collateral damage, albeit on a small scale.
There have been lives lost in the MCU. Innocent lives, in Manhattan (during The Avengers), in Washington, D.C. (during The Winter Soldier), and in the fictional realm of Sokovia (during Age of Ultron). And while those deaths couldn’t be prevented – that would take a miracle – they also can’t be ignored. Implementing some type of program that attempts to control the super-powered groups like The Avengers feels like the next natural step in the evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a universe that is still getting comfortable with the existence of these characters. Because with great power comes great responsibility… and that’s something Tony Stark has learned much quicker than his colleague, Captain America, has.
Everything about Tony’s journey through the MCU has been about him learning from his mistakes. His origin springs from him misunderstanding where his family’s weapons were ending up. After he failed to take Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) seriously about the need for an Avengers initiative, he found himself behind the eight ball when it came time to form that team. And Stark’s heroic sprint into space in The Avengers opened his eyes to a greater, galactic threat. The PTSD of that event haunts Tony to this day (and led to his greatest MCU mistake yet, the creation of Ultron in the second Avengers movie).
Would we continue to follow Tony Stark if he never learned from these mistakes? No. That would be foolish on our part. But he seems to be coming to the same conclusion as I am at this moment in Civil War. The heroes have operated, unchecked, for some time now… and it has led to massive problems. Could the Accords work? Maybe. We won’t know until we try, because the old way isn’t efficient. At the same time, Cap’s mission in Civil War seems very selfish. Bucky is his friend. But Bucky’s responsible for some truly horrible events. Would Cap really be willing to blow up the Avengers for the benefit of his old, brainwashed pal? I guess we’re about to find out.
The conflicts of Civil War won’t mean much, eventually, when a planet-threatening force like Thanos shows up for the Infinity War. By that point, it should be a unifying, all-hands-on-deck battle cry for every Marvel superhero. But at this moment, with the Civil War looming, I’m choosing Team Iron Man. Because I’ve seen the things Tony Stark has endured on screen, and I understand his conflict. He accepts responsibility for the damages he has caused. But unlike Steve Rogers, he seems willing to do something to prevent more damages from occurring.
Captain America: Civil War hits theaters Thursday night, and don't forget to read the "Team Captain America" side of the argument, made by our own Mike Reyes, so as to have the complete picture.