(While I’m writing this, Captain America: Civil War has debuted to mostly positive reviews in the U.K., but will debut in the U.S. later this week. So, if you’re reading this post from the U.K., I politely ask for no spoilers. But, if you are in the U.K., let us know briefly in the comments how you enjoyed or did not enjoy the movie!)
Superhero movies are the name of the game right now. I’ve made this point a handful of times on this blog before, and I don’t mean to belabor it, but comic book superheroes have gradually shifted from being a niche genre to cultural mainstays. Now, as with every genre, superhero films are starting to build upon genre conventions. The important thing to remember about genre conventions is to make sure they don’t become cliches.
The Avengers ends with a team of superheroes putting aside their differences before collaborating to take down a threat to humanity. Avengers: Age of Ultron ends with the same team welcoming people of questionable backgrounds, so that they can take down a threat to humanity. Guardians of the Galaxy ends with a team of superheroes putting aside their differences before collaborating to take down a threat to the galaxy. Batman v. Superman (SPOILER ALERT) ends with
two superheroes realizing their mothers have the same first name three superheroes putting aside their differences to take down a threat to humanity. Suicide Squad and Justice League will probably have similar endings. I assume you’re seeing a pattern here.
My point is this; in order for Civil War to distinguish itself, there has to be a change in the formula. For the content of this movie to matter, to impact its fictional universe, the conflict between the two characters has to leave some residual scarring in the MCU. Things have to end with the fracturing of a friendship, instead of everything being resolved. In order for this movie to set itself apart, we must have two characters with irreconcilable differences, and no final villain that they have to fight after putting aside their disagreements.
Batman v. Superman focused on two characters who had never met, but had a strong distrust of one another. And that’s fine, every cinematic universe has to start somewhere, I suppose. But Iron Man and Captain America have known each other for a few years, fought alongside each other, and, to be frank, they’ve seen some shit. And sure, they’ve disagreed on some matters, but there’s definitely still a bond between them.
. Sure, maybe the two friends are back together by the end of the film, but their friendship will feel some eventual scarring, and the world will no longer trust its heroes. Perhaps they can come back together later, in another film, but if they settled their differences by the end of this movie, the plot and their disagreements would have no true ramifications. This movie must capture the ethical/philosophical differences that Captain America and Iron Man have, while also showing the deterioration of their connection. In short, Civil War needs to work on a large scale and a small scale: it needs to show how bleak political and ideological battles can tear people apart and it needs to show the pain of losing a friend