Say the words “Civil War” in a room full of Marvel Comics fans and you’re liable to start one. This is a comics series that was divisive from the get go, by necessity, but the reception to it has also always been mixed, with strong opinions on both sides. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I am somewhere in between, but my biggest issue with the series has always been the execution. I love the concept of superheroes being so passionate about a piece of legislature that they are willing to fight each other over it. Almost 100% of the time, if some law is placed restricting superhuman rights it is put forth by some clear evil that the heroes band together to stop, OR it leads to some evil that the heroes have to stop. Either way, there is never a disagreement. You know who is on the good side, and who isn’t, and everyone on the good side magically agrees. This is just not how things happen. Sometimes laws are complicated, and the world doesn’t JUST contain superhumans. So I love the concept, but the problem is that when Marvel made Civil War, it became very clear very quickly that Tony’s side was the bad side, and Cap’s was the good side. The Superhuman Registration Act put heroes in danger, and it was enforced so violently that the audience just couldn’t empathize with Tony and his team. So when they announced that the third Captain America movie was going to be “Civil War” I was intrigued, but cautious. I still am, but after the above trailer dropped, I am beginning to understand a little about what they are doing to fix the mistakes they made in the comics 10 years ago.
In the trailer, we get a peek at what is called the “Sokovia Accords.” We can assume that this is their version of the Superhuman Registration Act, which means right away we know they are making a major change from the comics. So what are the Sokovia Accords? We don’t really know, but we get some hints through the dialogue in the trailer. Cap is told “You’ve operated with unlimited power and no supervision, that’s something the world can no longer tolerate.” So it’s not that the government wants to know every superhero’s identity. At least it doesn’t seem that way. It’s more that they want some oversight. They want to be able to hold heroes accountable for their actions. This is something we have actually seen building since the first Avengers film. We saw people who were angry at what the Avengers did to New York. It seemed unreasonable at the time. They had just saved the world after all, but as more and more films ended with mass destruction, that line became more and more believable. The fact that these are called “The Sokovia Accords” really hits that home. Sokovia was completely destroyed by the events of Avengers 2, and it’s not unreasonable to want to hold SOMEONE accountable.
Of course a large portion of this trailer is focused on Cap protecting his friend Bucky. So my guess, and it is only a guess, mind you, is that Cap’s major horse in this race is that under these accords, Bucky would have to be held accountable for all the crimes he committed as “The Winter Soldier,” and Captain America can’t let that happen to his friend, which WILL probably help to place the audience on Cap’s side in this movie (it is HIS film after all, so that’s to be expected), but it’s hard to argue with Tony when he says “If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.” He’s right, isn’t he? Villains are the ones who operate outside the law and don’t care about the consequences. It’s much easier to be understanding of tony here than in the comic series of the same name, and it’s much easier to see how the lines might be drawn and divide characters we have grown to love. Would the Black Widow we know fight to make all of the superheroes reveal themselves? I don’t think so. But would she fight to make sure that there is some accountability for what they do? That is much more likely.
My hope, then, is that unlike in the comics, there won’t be a really clear good side and bad side here. Audience members might come out of the movie thinking that Tony is right. They will still probably be emotionally siding with Steve on this one, but it won’t seem like Tony and his group have suddenly become supervillains. This is actually aided by the fact that the two big moments in comics that really firmly placed the audience on the opposite side from Tony are unlikely to happen. The first is that Tony used a clone of Thor in combat (Thor was dead at the time. That is a completely different story) and that clone ended up killing Goliath, leading to the first superhero death in the series. It’s hard to throw your lot in with the group that started killing good guys. This is unlikely to happen because a.) Thor is not dead in the MCU, and b.) Goliath isn’t part of the MCU. They could kill someone else, I suppose, but this still seems unlikely to happen… At least from Tony’s side. There was a shot in the trailer with Tony cradling War Machine. It’s very possible someone kills him. We will have to see. The other moment came right at the end of Civil War when Captain America is assassinated. Chris Evans, as far as I know, still has a movie left on his contract (it gets hard to figure out what counts as an appearance, but I am pretty sure he has one more), so he’s not likely to die here. In fact, I would be shocked if any of the original Avengers exited the MCU before Infinity War: Part 1. So given that those two events are unlikely to happen, and the trailer suggests a much more reasonable fighting point than the SRA, I feel like we are going to see a much stronger execution of the Civil War concept. I suppose we will know for sure in May.