This is part 3 of the 3-part Road to Civil War series.
WARNING! SPOILERS FOR ANT-MAN BELOW. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
The question everyone seems to be asking is why the Civil War installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a Captain America movie? The truth is, we won’t have all the answers until it comes out. However, here are some of my thoughts from what we’ve heard about the plot and based on my observations of Steve Rogers.
Captain America as a Leader
At the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see Captain America squarely in charge of a new Avengers team. The actions of this team under his leadership will lead to the debate over the regulation of superheroes.
Steve Rogers thinks of himself first and foremost as a soldier, but he has always been a leader. I f people expect Captain America to lead them, then he expects them to work like an army does. In Captain America: The First Avenger, he is the unquestioned leader of the Howling Commandos, and even the directors of the Strategic Scientific Reserve look to him to lead the fight against Hydra. We don’t see much of the men who followed him aside from Bucky, but I think he had a good working relationship with these guys that probably set his expectations for similar experiences a little high.
When Captain America goes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., the situation is far from ideal. What Steve Rogers expects from those who work with him is trust. He prefers to know what other people are doing and what’s going on, whereas Nick Fury thinks it’s safer to “compartmentalize” assignments and secrets. Finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D. was controlled by Hydra is the last straw. From then on, Captain America doesn’t want to be in a position where he isn’t calling the shots. Being in control is Steve’s way of coping with the fact that he can’t trust other people’s motives.
Cap in the Age of Ultron
Steve decides to take out the remnants of Hydra, but it is unclear whether he asked the other Avengers for help or if they volunteered. But destroying Hydra is Steve’s project, so they let him decide what they do. To an extent they consider him the leader, and he may even think of himself as one.
Tony Stark referred to Captain America as “the boss” at one point during Age of Ultron, but Tony doesn’t treat him the way Steve expects he would if he really thought that. In The Avengers Tony is condescending and even resentful toward him. After the two work together for some time, there’s a little more respect and even some liking. Yet Steve expects that the other Avengers follow his directions and not do anything to jeopardize them or their mission. Tony Stark does his own thing. And Steve mistrusts Tony for this.
Steve is more concerned at first about preventing Ultron from causing more problems. But then Wanda Maximoff warns Steve the being Ultron was creating with the Mind Stone could be put to use by Tony Stark—and Steve takes it very poorly. His only thought is to prevent Tony from creating another Ultron, and he’s offended that Tony’s attitude and behavior are hurting the team as well as the world. Civil War as good as almost started over Vision’s cradle.
It would be wrong to say that Steve isn’t sad to see the breakup of the original Avengers. But at the same time I think he’s looking forward to working with the new team that has come together, probably more or less at his invitation. He has an advantage with this new team because he can set new terms for their working relationship. He can teach them how to work together, trust each other, and rely on each other in ways that the original Avengers never could: the way he wants them to.
So one of the hard parts of Civil War will be watching all of Steve’s hopes and expectations for the new Avengers go down the drain.
A Product of War
Captain America was created to fight a war that, for the rest of the world, ended seventy years ago. But the war never ended for Steve, and the best thing he can think of doing is continuing to fight.
During World War II, all civilian resources—food, clothing, and even entertainment—were redirected to the military and to mustering support for the war effort. It was a time period when people ate, slept, and breathed war. Cap went on the ice. The rest of the world had time to transition, but Steve didn’t. So a part of him still eats, sleeps, and breathes war because he didn’t get to see it end. And whatever closure he thinks he has—Hydra being vanquished, for instance—is an illusion.
When he got up, furthermore, he was asked almost right away to help save the world from Loki. Steve never intended to be Captain America for the rest of his life, but that’s what nearly everyone else wants him to be. So he has chosen to be a superhero: that is “home” for Steve now. And if it is his job to keep the world safe, then he will do whatever he thinks is right to get the job done. His job from the war, stopping Hydra, was left undone, so he is going to finish it. And his mind, it is an army—in this case, the Avengers—that is the best chance of stopping Hydra.
Doing the Right Thing as a Weakness
A lot of people don’t see why Steve had to crash the Valkyrie at the end of The First Avenger. My explanation is that Steve didn’t want the world to have access to the Hydra weapons or technology that was on that plane: Hydra was so evil that he wanted to destroy it and every evil thing it created. And, of course, he held Hydra responsible for Bucky’s “death.”
Steve does whatever he thinks is right at all costs, and if you disagree with him about what it takes to keep the world safe, then he is not giving you the benefit of a doubt.
In Captain America: Civil War, Steve will encounter a serious barrier to his goal of fighting Hydra just as Hydra is regaining strength, and his attitudes and choices in that time will put him in conflict with Iron Man and other superheroes. And then we have the Ant-man post-credit scene. From the dialogue and other inferences about the situation, we know that Bucky Barnes turning up again in this manner only complicates an already difficult situation. But why did Marvel choose to show this scene in particular? Steve wants to help his best friend, at whatever cost to himself, and if he has to break the rules—if he has to fight Tony Stark—to do so, needless to say it’s going to get ugly.
Bucky is the only thing Steve has from the life he used to know: before he was a soldier, before ANYTHING. If Steve can save Bucky, then he will be able, in some small way, to “come home.” It isn’t right this time: it’s personal.
But Steve, however, will put his personal happiness on the line to do what he thinks is right. I am prepared at this point to accept the possibility that Steve might even die in Civil War. What I am really worried about is, can Steve put up with all of this and still be a good person?
That’s the best speculation I can give you for now. But of course, it could all change the moment the trailer comes out.
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