Recently I have made it my mission to find either a philosophy or a psychology behind any book, television show, or movie I come across. Marvel’s recent Captain America: Civil War is no exception. Behind all the non-stop action of constant explosions and unearthly punches I pieced together my own deconstruction of the characters’ ethics and mental processes. The civil war faced by these superheroes goes beyond even their powers, for their supernatural strengths are no match for the most complex and powerful weapon–the human mind (Spoilers ahead)!
Let us begin with the titular character, Captain America. The Avengers are given the option of either signing the Sokovia Accords and surrendering their freedom, or going rogue and continuing their missions to save the world. Steve Rogers immediately refuses to sign the act, arguing that the Avenger’s purpose is to aid the world whenever they need it. By being commissioned by the government, they are communicating a loss of power and their ability to make choices. According to the captain, the heroes should be able to do whatever they want whenever they please. Whether this is selfish or justifiable is hard to say. Captain America stands for freedom in the home of the free. Where others want to have control, he says no. In this way, he is a vigilante, as said by the secretary of state. However, later on in the movie when Captain America protects his wanted friend Bucky (the winter soldier) his motives can be questioned. Sheltering a man who–although brainwashed–has killed countless innocents from the government is not a good idea. Further, this man you call your friend has killed the parents of your billionaire friend is a little concerning. Again, is this act justifiable? Most likely no, in my opinion. Perhaps Rogers is right about keeping his freedom, but abetting a criminal who you know should not be alive is a bit outlandish. Despite their long past, Captain America feels it is his duty to save his friend from the world that is trying so desperately to kill him. Furthermore, his actions are constantly manipulated by his dogged resistance. Nearly killing several superheroes, beating the sense out of Iron Man, and causing mass destruction all for the sake of his assassin friend, Bucky.
Captain America is not the only one guilty of wanton destruction. His main opposition, the proponents of the Accords, namely Tony Stark, are just as disillusioned. Tony learns from a despondent mother that her son was killed by the Avengers during the Sokovian incident. This could be considered a turning point in Stark’s decisions. That guilt in addition to his ego leads him to believe that it would be better to be under the government’s control. He has a point: the Avenger’s are dangerous, and preventing further worldwide destruction would make more people happy… and alive. While Iron Man may be right in this way, his ego and determination make him a volatile opponent. Tony Stark suffers from a cognitive dissonance that would inevitably lead to his duel with the captain and winter soldier. Stark admits his ignorance and joins Roger’s mission to save Bucky. When he learns that his parents were murdered by the brainwashed Bucky, Stark snaps. He knows that Bucky did not mean it and that someone else is behind it, but he is too consumed by anger and rage that he ultimately chooses to betray the two. In a vicious battle, Iron Man blasts the winter soldier’s arm off and mercilessly beats Captain America around. Unfortunately for Stark, for it is human nature, anger leads to blindness. Just when he is about to blast Bucky for good, the captain utilizes Tony’s weak point and is able to prevent him from making a mistake.
Lastly, we have the Wakandan prince T’Challa, or Black Panther. The prince is left devastated after Bucky allegedly blew up a conference in Vienna, killing his father. Bereaved, the prince dawns his vibranium suit to take his revenge on the assassin. His mind unwittingly succumbs to vengeance and so he seeks justice for the wrongful act. Avenging his father is his only mission, and nothing will get in his way. Eventually, the Black Panther realizes that he has been misled the entire time and that another man had killed his father. Unlike the first two characters, the African prince is able to let things go. In a very enlightening moment, he stealthily approaches the man who killed his dad. Like the wise man he is, he knows that that Zemo’s intentions to destroy the Avengers from the inside comes from a familiar vengeance. Zemo wants revenge on the superheroes that killed his family. Touchingly, T’Challa notes, “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them [the Avengers]. I’m done letting it consume me.” He retracts his claws and decides not to kill Zemo even he is the very monster that got him into this situation. I found this moment to be very important. The prince demonstrates the ability to control his emotions and realize that things need to take their path. Instead of dwelling on the past, he must move on. If only Iron Man and Captain America could show similar attributes of righteousness.