Popular opinion: I love CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER. Second only to the first Avengers film, it might be the best movie Marvel has made yet.

Slightly less popular opinion: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was a great movie and I still consider it one of my personal Top 5 Marvel Films.

Unpopular opinion: I am worried about CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

In the Marvel 616, CIVIL WAR was released in 2006 and begins with a group of teenage superheroes in Stamford, CT, who, in an attempt to apprehend a group of villains while filming their reality show (yes, really), accidentally blow up a school, killing 600 people, including 60 children. This, coupled with other destructive events caused by various superheroes, culminates in the Superhuman Registration Act, an act that requires anyone with superpowers to register under the American government using their real identities.

Understandably, the issue divides the entire Marvel universe, with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark leading the opposing sides. Steve believes that superheroes should be able to act without governmental surveillance, arguing that some superhumans need to keep their identities secret in an effort to protect their loved ones. He believes that superheroes, who risk their lives every single day, should have the freedom to make choices without consulting the government first. Steve comes from a place and time that fought against a totalitarian regime that had too much power. Steve sees registration as the starting point towards a world where governments can not only regulate heroes but tell them who to fight, when to fight, and if they should fight at all.

READ: Why CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a misleading title.

On the other hand, Tony believes that governments should be able to regulate the actions of superhumans who in recent years have been acting recklessly. Tony is the epitome of the new world order: leading innovations in technology, science, and weaponry. His background has led him to form close relationships with the government. All these things combined leads him to believe that as the world continues to evolve, so must Steve’s ideology. Tony’s history of alcoholism in the comic books also adds an important layer to his argument. If Tony can lose control as he has in the past, then other unregulated heroes can too. The idea that some superheroes are a danger to not only themselves but also to society can definitely be something the Russos tackle, especially given the events in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON which Tony at least indirectly caused. This is an example of a good adaptation of a comic story line or character to the MCU, and I hope we see it manifest.

On the surface, CIVIL WAR is about the Registration Act. Underneath this superficial plot, however, is a compelling and unnerving introspection into the psychological underpinnings of our favorite superheroes. CIVIL WAR is a character study into some of our favorite yet deeply troubled vigilantes. When there isn’t a clear villain to fight, and when your morals differ from the people you love, the results are vastly fascinating. We see the personalities and ideologies of these superheroes with a depth we’ve never gotten before. I will concede that the Russos could well be doing the same thing, analyzing the personalities and moralities of each opposing side. Although from what I’ve seen so far, it looks more like the heroes are choosing sides based on an arbitrary loyalty, not morality. But more on that in a bit.

Now let me get on my soap box for a minute and explain my beef with the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR movie.

One. Steve and Tony’s friendship has been developed as one of the best in the 616. Steve and Tony do fight all the time (often quipped by other Avengers to when parents fight around the kids), but they genuinely love and respect each other. Tony Stark, who doesn’t trust very many people, understands that he is a better person and hero when he has Steve as an ally:

READ: Why CIVIL WAR (2015) wasn’t the follow up we deserved.

Now, the MCU has done a horrible job of the Steve and Tony friendship. It is essentially nonexistent. That’s fine. Many iconic 616 relationships are glossed over, changed, or ignored in the MCU. The problem arises when you write a story line that has as one of its biggest points the disintegration of an iconic friendship. Steve’s “He’s my friend,” to which Tony replies, “So was I” in the CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR trailer elicits a raised eyebrow instead of the emotional punch the Russos were likely intending for that scene.

Two. CIVIL WAR should be an Avengers movie, not a Captain America movie as this automatically shifts the tide in Steve’s favor. A friend asked me, “So, if it’s a Captain America movie, doesn’t this mean that Captain America is probably going to win?” Not necessarily, but it’s not a baseless assumption to make. Making CIVIL WAR a future Avengers film would allow the friendship between Steve and Tony to develop substantially during the third Captain America movie. By that point, we as the audience can feel the gut-punch of the crisis.

Third. My favorite thing about reading CIVIL WAR in 2008 was reading the arguments and trying to determine which side I would choose if I were in our hero’s shoes. “Who’s side are you on?” was a legitimate question, not laughable like it is with this movie. Heroes with important identities to protect like Daredevil and Spider-man chose the side of anti-registration, as did heroes like Luke Cage who likened registration to internment or slavery. Heroes like the Fantastic Four, with very public identities who believed that the political landscape was changing, were pro-registration. Heroes who felt they had nothing to win or lose with registration, like the X-Men, remained neutral.

Sure, even while reading the original story, most people were on Steve’s side – I know I was. But I can to this day make a case for comic-Tony’s decisions. Tony’s side was granting amnesty and a safe place against the battle for superhumans like Jessica Jones who were already living in the public eye and had more to protect than their ideology. To add to that, many, many civilians were on the side of registration. In my opinion, the most compelling shot in the comic books was this one:

WANT more Captain America? Check out our thoughts on CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE.

This is a group of civilians who stop Steve from killing Tony. This action prompts Steve to (SPOILER) surrender and ultimately lose the war, despite his very near victory. Steve responds to Spider-Man’s “We were winning!” with “Everything but the argument.” By this point, Steve realizes that he and his team have inadvertently validated Tony’s point from the very start. In fighting for superheroes, Steve and his supporters have endangered the lives of civilians, the very people they ought to be protecting in the first place. By fighting against each other, they have proven themselves in dire need of that very regulation Tony and the government first proposed. I don’t see this happening in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, especially when the war isn’t about civilians or the registration act at all. But I’ll get back to that.

Four. Watch the trailer again and look at the relative bleakness of who’s on Tony’s side. We see only War Machine and Vision, who is still technically Jarvis. We also see Black Panther, whose motives and choices have yet to be revealed. Black Widow appears with Tony, but from her speaking lines in the trailer, my guess is that she’s switching sides to Steve’s at the 11th hour.

To speak of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man as being part of Tony’s crew, I would need to write another essay. What I will say is that Marvel should have waited until he had his own solo movie to integrate him into the Avengers. Unlike in CIVIL WAR, where Spider-man was initially on Tony’s side out of loyalty to his close friend, his position on Tony’s team in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR doesn’t make a ton of sense considering that this friendship doesn’t exist in the MCU and considering Peter’s iconic desire to keep his identity a secret. Also, as a huge fan of his portrayal and, most importantly, his centrality in the comic story line, his “Hey everyone, here I am” feels more of a shout-out than a necessary part of the plot. But I’d love to be proven wrong.

And on Steve’s side, we have…just about everybody else. Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch, and The Winter Soldier. Two of those characters have either had a successful solo movie or a movie centered around them, Bucky becoming the no-arguments sleeper favorite of many fans of the MCU. And as mentioned, I’m going to be shocked if Nat doesn’t switch sides midway through the movie. To be fair – I’m sure there are some huge fans of War Machine and Vision, but the Bucky Barnes fan base alone can take these people out, easy. As a Captain America movie, most people already know that the cards fall more to Steve’s side, and when you add more popular heroes to his side, it depicts Tony’s side as an almost antagonistic. Tony Stark isn’t the villain of CIVIL WAR, but the movie might paint him that way.

Forgot what happened in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER? Click here to refresh your memory!

Five. CIVIL WAR was a cataclysmic event in the 616. There were no less than fifteen tie-in trades that directly connected to the story, and all superheroes, from Ms. Marvel to Deadpool to the Runaways found themselves affected and choosing sides or deciding to remain neutral. Now, the movies can’t have this many tie-ins due to budget, timing, and how many superheroes exist in the MCU. This makes sense. But what the Russos are giving us scales back so much on the gravity of the situation that it feels more like a battle, not a war.

Which leads me to what I believe CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is really about, and I might strike a nerve here.

Sixth and final point. From what I’ve seen in the trailers, this movie is about Bucky Barnes.

When adapting comic book movies to the big screen, at its heart should remain the very basic plot it was developed from, even if we change all the details surrounding it. The easy thing about most comic book adaptations is that most of them are origin stories. In every iteration of Spider-Man, Peter takes pictures, lives in New York, and Uncle Ben passes. Easy to adapt, easy to change some details. However when a director is given source material like CIVIL WAR, where the basic plot was incredibly important as it escalated outward, it becomes imperative to keep the underlying structure the same.

My biggest beef with CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is that it’s not about the in-depth character study of our favorite heroes in response to the Registration Act anymore, it’s about Bucky. Now, questions about loyalty and love are huge in the comic story line too, and it looks like this is the angle that the Russos are going to play, especially when the heroes choose sides.

The great thing about Captain America in the comics, however, is that his motivation lies in protecting his fellow heroes, his comrades, whose true identities would jeopardize the safety of loved ones and families. In the end, he fell not because he was overpowered or convinced otherwise, but because civilians lives were being endangered by the very same superheroes who fought day in day out to protect the people. There was cohesion in making the entire story about freedom and civil liberties and then ending the battle when they realized how skewed their perspective on both became.

WANT to catch up with Tony Stark? Check out his new series in INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN #1.

In the films, Steve is motivated by his love for Bucky. He would do anything for him. While this is beautiful sentiment, especially given Steve and Bucky’s iconic friendship and touching history, why did we have to call it CIVIL WAR? Why get Tony involved at all? In the comics, Tony wanted to grant amnesty to heroes like Bucky, should they choose to be registered. Perhaps this is Tony’s initial position in the films as well, but considering that we see Bucky attempting to fire a gun at Tony, I don’t see this occurring.

In CIVIL WAR, Steve fought a selfless cause – he is motivated by his morals. We as an audience understand what it’s like to fight for some intangible concept you believe in. Steve’s unyielding loyalty to Bucky makes sense in the context of the films; but the thing about the comic version of CIVIL WAR was that you had loyalties, friendships, families literally torn apart simply because of what they believed in. The Fantastic Four were divided – 2 on each side, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, even Cable and Deadpool. When you have Captain America fighting for a singular person – you take away the selfless component of why he chose the anti-registration side in the comic books. This selfless drive is what I thought was great about CIVIL WAR.

Even from a purely MCU reading, Tony’s apparent agreement with registration doesn’t make a lot of sense. Tony himself has caused his fair share of damage with the invention of Ultron. Does Tony plan on placing himself in custody as well? How about Thor and Bruce Banner? It opens a can of worms that will bleed into other sequels and films, which as mentioned would’ve made a fantastic third Avengers. Had we removed this movie from the concept of an huge superhuman civil war, we could simply focus on the morality surrounding arresting a HYDRA-brainwashed war criminal by S.H.I.E.L.D. or the U.N. We have enough players to make fantastic cinema without the addition of Tony Stark.

READ: Find out what happened to Spider-man after CIVIL WAR in ONE MORE DAY: The Ultimate Character Assassination.

What is compelling about Civil War is the philosophical divide between two important partners and close friends. The central relationship in MCU’s Captain America films is Steve and Bucky. Having built this relationship so that it’s incredibly well-loved while also having them on the same side for this film takes away from the central and most interesting conflict of Civil War. It vilifies Tony Stark for trying to harm the relationship, instead of having us consider where he’s coming from. To illustrate this point, I remember when the first trailer for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR came out, we see Steve and Bucky sharing the shield against Tony, and the scene was met with huge applause by the online community, with most rallying for Steve and Bucky’s victory.

I’m bringing up a counter-argument: that Bucky’s crimes in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER is the equivalent of the Stamford incident in CIVIL WAR. However, in the comics, Steve’s position was important because he was rallying for an ideology, not a person. Tony and Steve start a war over their personal beliefs and aren’t biased by their loyalties. Of course each individual hero who chose a side might have had biases – but those who lead each side did not. That’s what I loved about CIVIL WAR.

To that end, this movie will likely be amazing. It will do great in the box office. Critics will love it. I’m sure I will enjoy it. But it isn’t CIVIL WAR.

Sam Domingo is a 22 year old SoCal resident, pop culture enthusiast, french fry lover, and self-proclaimed Trash Queen. You can find her on Tumblr (@futureandonce) and on Twitter (@foralbion1).

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One Comment

  1. Cameron

    December 31, 2016 at 10:49 am

    You’re opinion is obviously biased because you like Cap and are team Cap. So you writing this whole thing without even watching the movie, not even understanding Tony’s side or character, is just stupid.

    Reply

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