Captain America Civil War (2016): The absence of the Adult of the house

Lincoln said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." However, a group of people is fundamentally divided.  It is only when the seat of the Adult of the household is vacant that a house becomes truly divided…Well, according to me!
(Very minimal Spoilers!)

Korea got “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) a few days earlier than the States. Just by 2 weeks or so. I won’t write a review about the movie other than saying that I enjoyed it and also respect its film making. Unlike that latter, I cannot say the same is true for all the Marvel movies up to this point in regards to the former. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) is the first movie I enjoyed in the series ( and the Marvel movies are all basically a series) since the first Thor movie way back in 2011. I do respect them but the repetitiveness of the story and overall visual aesthetic just made me bored after the first few movies. One thing I disliked about “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) that I would like to mention is in regard to the action. I was not fond of a bulk of the action scenes especially in the early parts of the movie. You end up seeing a lot of motion ghosting on screen caused by action scenes being sped up when there is a lot of complex action filmed up close. It is less of a problem when the camera pulls out.

Getting that out of the way, let’s talk about what is different about the story of “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). In many ways, its story is the most intimate small scale story Marvel has told since the first “Iron Man” (2008). There is no global scale to the story. Even Ant-Man (2015) had a loftier scope which in itself is ironic. What “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) basically is could be framed as a family drama in which the conflict is between the eldest son and the second son. You have Tony Stark as the eldest son who was once the wild child but is starting to change as he ages and matures. You have Steve Rogers who is the idealist younger son. When they were on the same level in their understanding of the world and their roles in that world, the two worked well together. As a side note, Vision is the youngest son in this scenario while the females of the avengers could be seen as the daughters. Hawkeye… Let’s just call him the cousin.

If you see the Avengers dynamic as a family, then you have to ask the question of where are the adults. Where is the father figure? Where is the head of the family? This is what ends up being the most interesting thing that “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) flips over from the norm. In short, the plot of “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) is the “heroes going rogue” story that we have seen a million times. 80s and 90s Hollywood action movies are filled with them. Tom cruise has been going rogue in almost every “Mission Impossible” movie…Well ,maybe not the second one…what was the plot of that movie? I cannot remember anything from the movie except for motorcycle jousting and Thandie Newton. Most of the Marvel movies had an element of this plot also.

In those stories, how the heroes deal with the consequences of the going rogue depends on the existence of the “adult.” The adult in this vein is a person that builds/maintains the bridge between society and the heroes who usually walk the line between being in and out of society. As a result, the heroes are able to act in a rather immature and reckless manner while still not receiving the full brunt of the consequences of his or her actions. Think of the “angry police captain” archetype that was in most of the police action movies of the 80s and 90s with loose cannon protagonists. Those “angry police captain” characters were the “adult” who curtailed the impulsive and destructive natures of the heroes during normal situations and looked the other way “officially” during crisis situations. Afterward, the characters were the ones who cleaned up the mess and shielded the heroes from the fallout. For his or her efforts, they would suffer from heart burn, high blood pressure, too much smoking at the minimum and resign or worse when things got too crazy even for them to bear. This is how the “heroes going rogue” story worked. The only other story option usually is going the “A-team” route in which the heroes totally self-exile themselves from society as a whole.

Within the Ironman movie franchise, this “adult” function was first performed by the villain, Obadiah Stane, and then Pepper Potts inherited the role once the “adult” chose to get rid of his troublesome charge. In “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), Pepper Potts as a character is being phased out off screen. It would not be surprising if, in the next movie, she is said to have resigned in an exposition scene. This leaves Tony Stark alone to face the world. In terms of the overall Marvel cinematic universe, Nick Fury played the “adult” function. However, the position became vacant since the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014). What this means is that someone has to fill this position whether or not he wants to or even is capable of doing so. And who does “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) pick to fill the vacancy? It is our poor Tony Stark.

Poor Tony! The events of “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) could have easily become your standard “heroes going rogue” story if he had the experience, the maturity, and political clout/power the position of being the only adult in the household requires. However, he is woefully unprepared for the task in front of him. Yes, he is the oldest characters in the Avengers except for mystical beings. Those don’t count. Captain America is in his early 20s when we take into account the whole getting frozen thing. However, Tony himself is in transition from being the carefree youth “Prince Hal” to being “King Henry V.” A Shakespeare reference here! He is straddling both sides. On one side, he is a reckless man of action. On the other, he is an adult with responsibilities. “Iron Man 3” (2013) was him making the decision he needed to grow up. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) is him trying his best and failing.

So, “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) is a civil war because of Tony! The same could be said of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) but in a different manner. Captain America is basically the same irresponsible man of action he was prior to this movie. It is Tony who changed. But he didn’t change fast enough. In fact, if Tony was 10 or even just 5 years further along his journey, “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) wouldn’t have happened as it did with Captain America and gang going the “A-Team” route.

Wrapping stuff up, “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) starts as your cliché “heroes going rogue” story but ends up in “A-team” territory in which the heroes becomes exiled from society because there is no true adult in the picture to hold things together. It is a tragic story in which a family is shattered! This is a long way to travel and an interesting trek which makes “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) actually interesting to watch. So, what more is there to say?

It would be interesting to see how the character arc of Tony Stark unfolds. It is clear that Captain America is a fixed character in time. The point of him is that he doesn’t change. However, the same is not true for Tony Stark. Is he going to succeed at becoming the Adult of the Marvel cinematic universe? This would transform him into a political figure either like a “Francis Underwood” or “Donald Trump.” He could even be the “King Conan.” That would be interesting. Or would he just fail and go the drunk failure route? That would be less interesting as the Marvel cinematic universe really needs an adult in it. 


Post a Comment