I am become death the destroyer of worlds – Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the Atomic Bomb
Captain America: Civil War is a fantastic film which examines the political ramifications of a world where heroes are called into question for their actions.
I’ve already written a spoiler free review of Civil War which better quantifies my feelings towards the movie, but needless to say I thought it was incredible, and set the new benchmark for all superhero films.
But that’s not what this particular diatribe is about. No, this rambling spoiler-filled missive is to address my feelings on the core of this movie.
Should heroes be regulated? Do they need to be held accountable for their actions?
Well, in my opinion, the answer is a simple one – yes.
We don’t allow policemen or soldiers to pursue personal agendas while out in the field, nor would we ever dream of sending someone who had never been properly trained into a live fire-fight.
Why? Because they could hurt themselves or, even worse, someone else. And, personally, I don’t believe that the ends justify the means. Or, to invert classic Star Trek, the needs of the few are just as relevant as the needs of the many.
Now, you may think this mindset is a selfish one. On paper yes, 10 dead is better than 100 dead, but try and explain that to the relatives of the ten that die. Imagine telling them that their son or daughter’s death is okay, because you caught the baddie.
Look at the actions of The Avengers in Nigeria, they prevented the release of a deadly virus, which is laudable. But an improperly trained Scarlet Witch ended up killing 11 Wakandans which is a travesty.
It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about being accountable for those actions. The Nigerian scenario could have played out a number of different ways, some of them worse, some of them better.
We can’t say for sure what would have happened, but what we could do is give those people some closure by holding those responsible to account.
No one would blame Scarlet Witch for what she did, and proper regulation could help prove that her response in those circumstances was the only appropriate action.
However, this is just the tip of the collateral damage iceberg. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, take for example the choice that Tony made in the first Iron Man film. He, as an American, flies into the sovereign nation of Afghanistan as a private citizen.
He has no authority to be there, and although his selfless and brave actions save lives in that moment, what does he do after he murders those men? He flies off. Leaving the people he supposedly saved to their fate at the hands of the Ten Rings.
And yet, in his mind, he’s done the right thing. We know actions have consequences, and his meddling in the Middle-East directly led to the battle with the Iron Monger in Miami and, in the long run, contributed to the rise of both Whiplash and The Mandarin.
This is mirrored in nearly every Marvel film – the actions of the heroes leads to a greater response from their enemies, or as Vision puts it in the film, the rate at which super-villains appear has been due in part to the appearance of The Avengers – ‘Their strength invites challenge’.
That isn’t to say that they’re in the wrong, but just look at the actions of the Avengers in Sokovia, where the privately owned and run Avengers who are essentially a para-military group end up helping to destroy an entire country.
Now, of course, had they not interfered, Ultron, who as an aside was created by Bruce Banner and Tony Stark playing about with an infinity stone, would have wiped out all life on Earth. So they’re heroes, right?
Well, in the words of Helmut Zemo, after the battle was done and the day was saved what did the conquering heroes do? They left. They weren’t held accountable for creating a genocidal AI, nor did they help with the clean up. They just left.
As a result, no-one was there to comfort Zemo when he found his dead family, and it’s this which led the unhinged Sokovian to instigate his plan in Civil War. How many lives were needlessly lost by The Avengers not being held accountable for their actions?
Is that what heroes do? Or are these the actions of a dangerously arrogant group who refuse to see themselves the way the world sees them?
The German autobahn chase, the deaths in the U.N, the destruction of Berlin’s airport – all of this could have been stopped by the self-proclaimed world’s mightiest heroes taking the time to see that their actions had consequences.
The blame lies on their shoulders.
And that’s what registration means. It’s not about control or regulation. It’s about taking responsibility for your actions and the results that your choices have.
No-one would argue that The Avengers aren’t heroes but throughout all the Marvel movies it’s clear that these people are a danger to those around them.
Now, of course, I’m not completely blinded by fanaticism – I can see that The Avengers’ actions have saved lives. In New York, for example, the group managed to prevent Loki’s army of Chitauri from conquering the city and prevented the world security council from nuking the city.
That’s brilliant, but the battle was a steep one and we know that many died in the attack. Imagine an Avengers backed up by the U.N and how much better they’d be able to deal with threats.
By agreeing to the Sokovian accords, which could have been far stricter, The Avengers retain some degree of autonomy while also having the extra muscle to deal with threats if and when they emerge.
And, speaking of extra muscle, many have criticised the choice to recruit Spider-Man, a teenager, into the pro-reg Avengers saying it basically amounts to using child soldiers.
However, before Tony met Peter, all he knew about him was that he was the so-called Spider-Man and had a fearsome power-set. Bearing in mind that Peter is capable of catching a moving car and stopping the seemingly unstoppable Winter Solider with one hand, he’s clearly someone with a lot of power.
Tony had no way of knowing that Peter was a good person, or if he was even in control of those powers. Let’s put it like this – you wouldn’t let a crate of C4 loose in New York City, would you?
And that’s what this argument is about. It’s about compromise and taking on some personal responsibility. Let’s remember that Cap’s group weren’t forced to become criminals. They chose it. And blaming the system for their actions smacks of hypocrisy.
Ultimately, who appointed the Avengers? Nobody. They chose to interfere because they had the power to do so.
There’s a word for taking unilateral decisions, it’s called a dictatorship.
In conclusion, while the Sokovian accords may not be perfect, they’re the best chance The Avengers have of sticking around to deal with threats in the future.
And, let’s remember, Thanos is coming.
United we stand or divided we fall. Cap chose to divide and he’ll have to live with that choice.
#TeamIronman, Accept change.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.