Going into Civil War, I, like virtually everyone else, was in full support of #TeamCap. Knowing what we do about the event in the comics, it’s nearly impossible to take Tony Stark’s side. Superhero registration oversteps boundaries and interjects too much human government control on the comic book universe we love.
That’s not what happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though. In the MCU, it’s actually #TeamStark that makes the better ethical point. Captain America’s position was diluted down to selfish reasons and made much less honorable than they are in the comics.
Here’s a little background on why this is.
The Start of Civil War in the Comics
The central premise of the Civil War story arc in Marvel’s comic universe is the Superhuman Registration Act, which is similar to the Mutant Registration Act used as a catalyst for discrimination against mutants.
Under the Superhuman Registration Act, any person within the United States with superhuman abilities must register with the federal government, reveal their true identity, and undergo proper governmental training. Each superhuman is also given the option to work with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tony Stark and Dr. Reed Richards (who often work for the government and S.H.I.E.L.D.) have no problem leading the charge for registration, as they live in a world in which mutant registration has already been enacted for quite some time.
Captain America, however, is on-board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicraft when the law is enacted. He’s already working for the government, and the entire world already knows his real name is Steve Rogers. The concerns Rogers raises to Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. have nothing to do with himself – he’s concerned with the current United States regime becoming more totalitarian and robbing American citizens of their freedom.
Rogers soon realizes he’s arguing a dead point, and he’s forced to fight his way off the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, where he goes underground and starts the resistance with Falcon and Luke Cage.
This is an honorable stance that Rogers takes, similar to the stance taken by real-life government whistleblower Edward Snowden when he leaked documents showing the NSA’s overreaching government monitoring programs. In many ways Rogers parallels Snowden, despite the comic book event happening in 2006, seven years prior to Snowden’s NSA leak in 2013.
Rogers sacrifices his own comfort and security in order to help lead the citizen movement against what he views as a tyrannical government. How could you not side with him over the pompous billionaire Tony Stark, who comes off as a Donald Trump-like character in these events?
But that’s not what happens in the movie…
The Beginning of Civil War in the Movie
In the MCU version of Civil War, first off, Captain America is somewhat responsible for the final straw that begins the legislation and regulation process. Scarlet Witch (who he trained) is saving him from death and ends up killing other people instead. He’s also the leader of the Avengers in Age of Ultron.
The Captain America I know from the comics would have remorse for that, but the MCU Cap has absolutely none. Stark does.
The Sakovia Accords proposed in the MCU differ from the Superhuman Registration Act in that they’re simply requiring the Avengers (and we can assume all known superhumans) to work under government control. It’s also not just a U.S. mandate, but something most of the world agrees to.
The thing is, they should already have been under government control – in the first Avengers movie, it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury that bring them together in the first place. Avengers Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and even at the end of Age of Ultron, S.H.I.E.L.D. is clearly working with the Avengers.
Steve Rogers assertion that the Avengers shouldn’t be operated as a government entity is a non-point because he was already working for the government throughout the Avengers movies. Going even further back, Rogers was working for the government in both previous Captain America films. He was created by the government after signing up to be a soldier in the U.S. Army.
It makes absolutely no sense that suddenly now, for no apparent reason, Steve Rogers just wants to jump ship and become a traitor. At best, he’s doing it for his friend Bucky Barnes, and at worst, he’s simply become a disgruntled employee for no discernible reason. He’s no longer Captain America – he’s Kim Jong Un, ISIS, Iran, etc.
The Hydra argument is invalid – we’ve found Russian and Chinese spies in the U.S., and our soldiers don’t use that as an excuse to stage a coup.
The MCU Steve Rogers isn’t the honorable Snowden character who risked his safety for the greater good of humanity – he’s just becoming a power-hungry megalomaniac, which actually makes him the only true villain in the movie, since even Baron Zemo is seeking justice for the death of his family.
Rogers is simply protecting his friend from justice (while destroying some low-income housing and brutalizing police officers in the process). He’s refusing to take accountability for his actions, and he’s fighting to maintain control over his power, despite all his friends trying to talk him down. A true leader listens to his team, but Rogers refuses. A true soldier does his duty, and Rogers doesn’t.
By making this change, the Captain America of the Marvel films has been tainted. His position wasn’t honorable, and he got all of his friends captured in the process just to prove he’s right. There was no need for it. He went rogue for no reason and is at no point held responsible for the destruction he’s causing.
The Missing Death of Captain America
Buzz leading up to the release of Civil War stated that someone would die, and I really hoped it was going to be Captain America.
Steve Rogers’ death happened while he was in captivity of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the aftermath of the Civil War crossover. It wasn’t part of the main event, but rather happened in the Captain America comics. When Marvel used Captain America’s franchise to introduce the Civil War arc, I had high hopes they would kill Rogers.
However, the only death that occurs on screen in Civil War is that of King T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, in one of the most poorly executed scenes in the film. The van bomb is located across the street (and plaza) and T’Chaka is located at least on the third floor right next to his son, yet he’s the only confirmed kill in the blast.
This blast should have killed T’Challa over T’Chaka had it come from the side of the building he was looking, but it magically happens from the other side of the screen. Even then, both men should have died.
Instead, Captain America simply becomes an outlaw and criminal. To his credit, he does free his comrades, but they were actual criminals too. Every one of these people was acting to create an unsafe environment for the regular citizens of the MCU with no regard.
These superpeople weren’t thinking of the greater good – they were just taking sides for the sake of taking sides, much like everyone in the audience is by siding with Captain America.
There will be no martyr in the MCU, as Captain America’s reputation was wholly ruined by Civil War. Because of this, although I was wholly #TeamCap for the comic book event, I have no choice but to be on #TeamStark for the movies. It has nothing to do with him being the cooler superhero or having the better team – Stark simply fought for the greater good of humanity. He’s the real hero of Captain America: Civil War, and he’s the one taking the stance Captain Steve Rogers should have.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Hardcore Droid, and The Street.