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It was only three years ago that a ragtag team of heroes, hailing from different parts of the universe, banded together to battle a massive threat to the security of our universe. You’d think this would be enough to forge a team like The Avengers into a fighting force that would last for ages, but just as quickly as the team was formed the cracks began to show – fractures that will culminate in the overall conflict between pro and anti registration forces in Captain America: Civil War. Unfortunately, one of the first casualties of this conflict is the budding friendship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, which promises to be one of the most heartbreaking moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Watching the trailer as many times as I have, there’s one line that always punches me in the gut. If you cue up 02:02 in the trailer, the following exchange takes place:
Steve: ‘Sorry Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice. But he’s my friend.‘
This is the most effective part of the trailer for me because of the fact that the pain you see in Tony’s response is a deep reflection of the Stark psyche that has been formed throughout all of Robert Downey Jr.’s performances in the MCU. The man who used to be a womanizing billionaire playboy has become a more grounded, and dare I say civic minded individual, over the course of several films. But deep inside, Tony Stark is still a guy living with the massive shadow of his father’s legacy, seeking posthumous approval after the years of not really knowing him.
And how does he seek that approval? By teaming up and becoming friends with the man that his father held in such high regard – Captain America. Cap is Tony’s last link to his father, and to lose him is to lose his father all over again. In a way, Steve and Tony’s falling out is akin to another Disney film, The Fox And The Hound - as two of the best friends ever are finally having that quarrel that was always in the cards ever since they’d met. In both Avengers films, we’ve seen that Tony and the Captain’s methodology always butt heads in a crisis, with Stark preferring the stealth / sneak attack and Cap resorting to a more blunt and up front approach.
The Superhero Registration Act is a polarizing enough legislation that both men will defend their side with all of the power in their corner, and according to their beliefs. Tony’s reliance on technology, and the belief that the war can be won before it even begins, are what defines his strategy, while Captain America’s style of combat is more of a brute force assault, which is sometimes preceded by an attempt at negotiating the crisis down. We’ve seen the building blocks for all of this come together, and Captain America: Civil War shows the emotional dominos starting to fall in such a way that there’s probably going to be a fair amount of tears shed during this film.
Grab a tissue and watch the trailer one more time:
Just like Todd and Copper, the fox and the hound dog, the friendship between Iron Man and Captain America has always been tinted with the shadows of future conflict. What we’re just seeing come to pass in Joe and Anthony Russo’s would-be blockbuster has been in the works for some time, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe is ready to dive into the payoff that they’ve been investing in. We’ll see if it’s as effective in a long form narrative as it is in a trailer, when Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6, 2016.