Recently a little film called Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was released which had the mammoth task of introducing new takes on familiar figures, setting up a conflict between the title characters and providing a resolution. The film has several issues that have been discussed online, particularly the rushed conflict between Batman and Superman. Trying to convince an audience that two heroes would battle each other due to differing ideologies was always going to be difficult and the choices made with Batman V Superman, such as the storyline, editing and directing, failed to adequately portray the conflict.
Next up for superhero fans is Captain America: Civil War, featuring two groups of heroes fighting over a difference of opinion. Although the basic idea is the same, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has one major advantage- the conflict has already been set up in previous films which should make the fact that heroes are battling each other more readily accepted than the recent attempt from Warner and DC.
The reason two disparate groups of heroes are fighting has been established in the trailers and is due to the destruction caused when heroes (specifically the Avengers) go in to battle. Named the Sokovia accords, this United Nations document states that the Avengers cannot operate independently and must be sanctioned by the UN for any action they take. The name of the act is taken from Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the fictional Sokovia became a battleground between the Avengers and Ultron, resulting in human casualties and massive destruction. Also mentioned in the trailers are other catastrohpic fights from previous movies, such as the alien invasion of New York from The Avengers and, while the heroes did their best to prevent civilian deaths and injuries in this and other events, the public has grown to fear the actions of these so-called heroes. Using established events to promote the reason for this team-splitting regulation to be enforced upon them means that the audience is already up-to-speed with the current status quo and can accept why the Sokovia Accords have been created.
The way in which the characters react could be read as against type with the former military officer Captain America opposing the government while the arrogant playboy Iron Man supports the new regulations being placed on the Avengers. However the events and character arcs of previous movies informs their decisions and helps explain their actions.
Young Steve Rogers dreamed of serving his country, taking part in the experiment to become Captain America voluntarily and is the embodiment of American patriotism yet he reacts badly to the Sokovia Accords, turning against the government he once swore to serve. Looking back at his original solo outing, Captain America led an unsanctioned secret mission to rescue a group of prisoners, despite this being against orders, as he felt it was the right thing to do. In The Avengers Steve finds out that Shield are developing weapons based on the Cosmic Cube, a powerful alien device that led to his extended stay in ice and caused him to miss out on his natural lifetime. The Winter Soldier advances on this plot device when Steve finds out that Shield have secretly been infiltrated from its foundations by Hydra, an organisation he has battled throughout the years. His mistrust of the government is firmly established and it is he who decides to destroy Shield, believing the organisation beyond saving. Captain America firmly believes in his own morality and that his decisions are the right ones for everyone.
In contrast to Steve Rogers, Tony Stark is an arrogant, misogynistic playboy who shows a complete lack of respect for authority within his own movies, from governemnt officials to senior Shield personnel. However he soon portrays his true self and his belief in both responsibility and accountability when he becomes Iron Man and keeps the secret of his armour to himself. This is developed further with his own mistake in creating Ultron causing feelings of intense guilt and it is this guilt that finds Tony Stark supporting the Sokovia Accords.
Steve Rogers: I’m sorry Tony…. I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice… but he’s my friend.
Tony Stark: So was I.
Those two lines, taken from the first trailer, had many fans on the internet talking about ‘the feels’. Establishing that the movie would focus on characterisation as much as action was a smart move and putting the somewhat turbulent friendship between Rogers and Stark in the public’s mind raises the stakes to a personal level. Although team mates and friends, the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man has always included undertones of mistrust and differences of opinion.
Their first meeting in The Avengers established their differences and subsequent conversations included insults and threats however when needing to the pair would work together, culminating in the battle of New York which saw Tony let Steve take charge whilst he almost sacrificed himself when disposing of a nuclear weapon through a wormhole. Mutual respect was earned but this was tested in Age of Ultron where their differences and Stark’s actions were called in to question once again. It’s a wonderfully complicated relationship which has the ability to tear into the hearts of fans as it is torn apart on screen.
Even the motivations of several supporting characters can be worked out based on their actions in previous movies. War Machine, otherwise known as military man James Rhodes, will obviously follow the word of the law while the Falcon has made his loyalty to Captain America well known. Antman, formerly a career criminal, would have no qualms about going against the rules and Hawkeye could be motivated in protecting his ‘secret’ family as revealed in Age of Ultron.
By using the foundations set in previous movies, Marvel has the chance to capitalise on the history of the characters and its universe to enhance the story and focus on the plot and players, particularly Captain America. Unlike BvS, which was originally intended to be a sequel to Man of Steel, Civil War must remember it is a story about Steve Rogers first and the wider MCU second. The reviews have started coming in and, so far, it looks like Marvel have succeeded in this aspect and have another critical hot on their hands (and few would ever doubt the commercial appeal of the movie that combines most of their major characters).
A review will be online as soon as possible but until then why don’t you check out the following articles: