The story for the latest Marvel Comic Universe movie has been around in the comic books for some time. So… spoilers lie ahead.
In 2006-2007, Marvel Comics published a short-run story around a conflict among the superheroes. After multiple battles between super-powered heroes and villains, the governments of the world mandated the Superhuman Registration Act. Tony Stark/IronMan led the way by asking all superheroes to register. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers/Captain America refused to do so citing his personal liberties and led the group of superheroes who refused to do so. It resulted in the self-titled Civil War among the heroes.
The latest MCU movie “Captain America: Civil War” takes its premise and many story details from that run of comic books. For the comic book purists, there is disappointment that the movie producers diverged from the story in major ways. But, for the masses who were unaware of the original story, it is a highly satisfying movie. In just a few weeks, the movie has made over $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. One of my own teenage sons has seen it three times. Why are we so intrigued with this story?
Well-defined characters. The heroes and villains are developed well. Whether it is Scarlet Witch’s angst, The Vision’s attempts at humanity, or Bucky’s troubled soul, the viewer knows why they are supposed to care for these characters. The story has a nice balance of serious characters and those who bring a comedic break to the action.
Excellent casting. Producers make the movie in a physical sense but actors make the movie in an emotional sense. Facial expressions, body language, voice inflection, and sheer believability occur throughout this movie. After all, don’t we all really believe that Robert Downey Jr. secretly is a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist who flies around in the Iron Man suit? I do.
Staying in the universe. The Marvel movies work well because they have established a universe in which to inhabit and they stay in it. They have created a reality that all of their characters live in and the stories don’t ask the viewer to make an unexpected leap outside of that reality. “Civil War” stands upon the shared universe and is a natural extension of the established stories told thus far.
Addressing contemporary themes. Marvel Comics has a long history of taking on cultural issues. The X-Men story lines were created out of the fight against racism. Drug addiction was addressed through a story of the Green Arrow’s sidekick. They never shy away from sticky issues. The Civil War story arc directly deals with our civil liberties. The best stories are the ones that help us face the treacheries of the real world. These are the stories we return to over and over again.
Forcing a choice. In the previous Marvel films, it is easy to determine who is right and who is wrong. In this movie, you must make a choice. The producers knew this and built the marketing campaign around making us choose either Team Cap or Team Iron Man. Is Tony right in wanting to have boundaries on how superhumans can intervene? Steve counters with, “I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
By the time it’s all over, “Captain America: Civil War” will be one of the highest-grossing films in history. Though it can happen simply because of a groundswell of fanboys, it is easy to see that it is more than just a comic book genre’ movie. In this story, we wrestle with the nature of accountability, freedom, and responsibility. It is a compelling story because through the fun of the explosions, the emotional angst of maniacal villains, and inexperienced superheroes, the viewer is led to an unexpected place. We must choose a side. So, what is your choice?
Team Cap or Team Iron Man
By Phillip Nation
Philip Nation is a publishing leader, bivocational pastor, and author. His latest book is Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Gather Us Together, and Send Us Out. He regularly blogs at www.philipnation.net.
Photo credits to: Marvel Entertainment LLC