Marvel Studio's 'Captain America: Civil War' debuts soon, where the Avengers will pit themselves against each other in a conflict over 'the Sokovia Accords.' Whilst we don't yet know the full details, the crux of it is that the UN want all superheroes to register and be controlled by the world's governments.
Two teams divide, one pro-registration (Team Iron Man) one against (Team Cap,) with each Avenger picking a side. Here, I will explore the possible ideological or potential personal reasons behind each Avenger's alignment. But first, here's a list of who's on each team:
-Steve Rogers/ Captain America
-Sam Wilson/ Falcon
-Bucky Barnes/ Winter Soldier
-Clint Barton/ Hawkeye
-Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch
-Scott Lang/ Ant-Man
TEAM IRON MAN:
-Tony Stark/ Iron Man
-James Rhodes/ War Machine
-Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow
-T'Challa/ Black Panther
-Peter Parker/ Spider-Man
So why have each of these powerful heroes chosen the sides they have? Well, I will start by looking at Tony and Steve, the 2 'team leaders'...
TONY STARK/ IRON MAN:
Tony is one of those characters whose decisions have surprised people. Many people look back to Iron Man 2 where Tony battles the government from controlling the use of his suits, and think the logical decision would be for Tony to be against the Accords. But it's important to remember Tony is a very different man to who he was back then: a lot has happened since.
So to understand the justification behind Tony's position, we have to look at his arc so far:
Effectively, we first meet Tony Stark as someone who accepts zero responsibility for his actions. The course of his subsequent adventures cause him to learn the hard way that his actions have consequences, and that with his new-found power, comes great responsibility (this arc is similar to a lot of Marvel heroes, see?)
This change toward becoming a hero and accepting responsibility for global security, fully begins in 'The Avengers' where Tony sacrifices himself to save New York.
As we know, after this event, he develops PTSD, and his new-found responsibility troubles him greatly. After another ordeal (and an awful lot of suit building,) at the end of 'Iron Man 3,' Tony decides he's ready to deal with the world's problems himself, without using Iron Man as a cocoon (so no, he doesn't retire!!) This is why he takes over The Avengers; Tony has gone from a man who accepts no responsibility, to one who literally embraces it all directly, himself. By this point, the first stage of Tony's arc is complete - he's now a hero, not just because of his suits, but because all he wants to do is protect Earth. He's now looking for new ways to ensure global security, that don't necessarily evolve around him being Iron Man (as he knows he can't do this forever.)
But then in Age of Ultron, his protective heroism goes into dictatorship overdrive, because after being spurred on by another bout of PTSD enduced by Scarlet Witch, he creates an Artificial Intellegence in Ultron (a man of peace creates an engine of war...) There's lots of depth and reason behind Tony doing this, but the basis of it on a character level is that as we know, he now craves global security ('Peace in our time' as Stark aptly calls it.) Unfortunately, and as is often the case with AI (hasn't Tony seen Terminator?) things go somewhat awry. The tragic events of Avengers 2 eventually cause Tony to realise that he can't necessarily accept the responsibility of global security all by himself. This is why he leaves The Avengers to a new team of heroes that he trusts, he now has the intention of pulling himself away from it, as he has built a force to protect earth with the 'new Avengers.' This is his legacy, but remember, he still craves global security - it's just that now he realistically knows he can't accept all responsibility for that by himself, as things can go wrong.
So in summary, where is Tony when we leave off? Well at the end of 'Age of Ultron' Tony's next arc has begun; due to the events of Ultron, he's learned that he can't accept all responsibility himself. And this brings us neatly onto his position in Civil War. He realises global responsibility can't lie in the hands of himself or a few individuals; which is why he sides with the UN, agreeing that superheroes should be regulated in some way. Effectively, his main goal is safety for humanity, and he thinks the best way of achieving this is by regulating heroes, to avoid them making mistakes when all the responsibility is placed on them. Tony has aged, he now sees security as the top priority, far over liberal values (we saw this clearly in Age of Ultron) so he's very willing to back an idea that he believes is the safest.
So sure, the old Tony would've backed out of regulation, but the Tony we know now has the ability to accept responsibility, but also now knows there are limits to that responsibility to ensure the world is kept safe.
It's worth noting of course that there could be other, more personal motivations for Tony's alignment that appear in the film itself, but the stand-out choice for Tony still has to lie with regulation because of his position after 'Age of Ultron.'
STEVE ROGERS/ CAPTAIN AMERICA:
Now we understand Tony's persuasion, what about his opponent, Captain America?
"Wait, wouldn't Cap just follow orders, he's a soldier, right?" Well, yet again, we have a character who's changed drastically from their first incarnations.
We first knew Steve as someone young who was (perhaps naively) following orders and doing anything for his army and country. We all know what happens, and 70 years later Steve is someone living in a changed and unfamiliar world. During 'Winter Soldier,' he truly opens his eyes and learns that everything has changed, and all he wants is to return to simplicity and get things back to how they were. In Age of Ultron, we see Cap realising that perhaps his golden age wasn't as perfect as he may have thought, but really Cap is still a true 'old-fashioned' believer in freedom and the 'American way.'
Maybe back in his youth he'd have naively sided with the government for his country, believing the people in power shared his beliefs, but he's since learned that people in big, government organisations can't always be trusted. He knows they have their own changing agendas, and is clearly against it, as they might conflict with his own moral compass.
Really, Steve is someone with very grounded moral values, and has never let anything get in the way of those - fighting for freedom and the classic "American values" right from a young age. Nothing's changing there in Civil War, it's just that he's opened his eyes to the fact that can't always be achieved by doing what he's told.
Thus, Cap opposes registration as it's very much against his strong moral compass. Others view it as naive, but Captain America is someone who stays true to his principals, no matter the cost. This is the characteristic that makes him the true hero that he is.
Of course, much of this story appears to be evolved around a personal dilemma for Cap, but that's more something we'll have to discover in the movie. Morally at least, we know why Cap's chosen this side.
Now we've got the two big guns out the way, it's time to delve into the reasoning behind the other team members, starting with...
BUCKY BARNES/ THE WINTER SOLDIER:
Bucky is basically the central mystery to this whole story. We don't know what's happened to him since 'Winter Soldier,' and it seems he might be the force that tips the speculation from the governments over the edge. Does Bucky do something terrible? Well, we don't know anything yet, but what we do know is that if he was in a fit mental state, his loyalty to Cap would be virtually unbreakable, and he'd undoubtedly side with team Cap regardless. It's likely he resents the treatment he received from SHIELD, and shares Cap's cynicism when it comes to trusting government organisations. Team Cap it is then for Bucky; we'll just have to wait and see what he does in the film.
SAM WILSON/ FALCON:
Again, we don't know really enough about Falcon himself yet to find any moral reasons for his justification. We got a neat introduction to his character in 'Winter Soldier' and he's made cameos in subsequent films, but all we know now is that he's throwing himself head first into becoming a new Avenger. One thing we could go on is that we know he's seen the darker side of big government organisations, as he witnessed the collapse of SHIELD by HYDRA, and as a war veteran, has also seen the darker side of following orders. Essentially, though, this choice is probably also about loyalty; loyalty to his friend and leader Cap, and perhaps loyalty to Cap's friend Bucky. Hopefully, 'Civil War' will be a great chance to learn more about Sam Wilson's character in greater detail.
WANDA MAXIMOFF/ SCARLET WITCH:
Scarlet Witch is an impressionable and troubled young woman. Her parents were killed when she was a child, and her twin brother was just murdered. She's an Avenger now and working for Captain America, so even if she wanted to, I doubt she'd have the confidence or ability to choose a different side. If she did, however, I still think Team Cap would be her choice. I mean, think about it, how much does this girl just hate Tony Stark? This is a man who's past dramatically affects hers - the weapon that blew up her parents was a Stark one, so she has an all-too personal reason to hate the man. What's more, she sees how he created Ultron who destroyed her home city of Sokovia.
What's more, Team Cap has some great friends for Wanda. Hawkeye, Captain America (and most probably team-mate Falcon) are all people who have dramatically helped her become the powerful Avenger she is today.
Effectively she believes Tony isn't a man who can be trusted, so she sides where all her friends lie: Team Cap.
CLINT BARTON/ HAWKEYE:
You may remember at the end of 'Age of Ultron,' Hawkeye retires; this means something has to happen in this film for him to be coaxed out of retirement with his family.
Actually, we learned rather a lot about Hawkeye in 'Age of Ultron.' Here it became clear that Hawkeye was a very grounded character, one that thinks his thoughts, and has a clear sense of who he is and the morals he lives by. Basically he's the only Avenger who's particularly grounded and happy (after all, he doesn't have the bad experiences and troubled pasts that many of his colleagues share.)
So Barton may be back for ideological reasons, however I suspect Hawkeye would be the peacekeeper here over choosing a side. We do know Clint sees himself as the moral and grounding reasoner of the team after all - we see this whenever they have verbal conflicts in the team, Hawkeye tends to stay pretty neutral.
So, I think what's perhaps more important to his choice of Team Cap are personal reasons; first being how he owes a debt to Scarlet Witch. We know that Quicksilver was killed in the battle of Sokovia when saving Hawkeye and a small boy. Hawkeye now feels he owes it to Scarlet Witch, and may come back to Team Cap for this reason, to help Scarlet Witch in her advances as a new Avenger.
Another, perhaps more significant reason, could be even more close to home. Literally: Hawkeye's got family! The chances are if he reveals his true identity to the UN, his little farm and family life will no longer be the secret he wants it to be. We know Hawkeye's most important thing is his family (this is why he hid it from even his closest team members,) and putting them at risk may be the only thing that would cause him to separate from his great friend Natasha (who's on Team Iron Man.) Hawkeye will fight anything to protect his family, and thus I expect we'll see his loyalty to Natasha tested in this film, if he's to stick up for his and their freedom, against her.
SCOTT LANG/ ANT-MAN:
Ant-Man is completely new to the Avengers canon, so it'll be interesting to see what happens where he's concerned. From what we know, it's clear Ant-Man was recruited directly by team Cap, though is he just on this side because its where he first ended up? I somewhat doubt it, because Ant-Man is someone with his own agenda, he must agree with Cap at least to some extent. And I think he would here.
As we saw in Ant-Man, Hank Pym never trusted SHIELD. Scott giving up his identity for the accords could put him and Hank Pym at risk of having their technology used by the UN for more weaponised means. This is something Scott doesn't want because of his loyalty to the Pym household, thus Ant-Man is pretty against the registration anyway.
But Ant-Man just ends up on this side, and is more than happy to be here. In fact, it's reasonable to imagine he'll be pretty star-struck, which is something I can't wait to see!
TEAM IRON MAN:
Team Iron Man has some pretty unpredictable members, as well as some very exciting new ones...
JAMES RHODES/ WAR MACHINE:
Of all the characters on either side, Rhodey's choice has to be the least shocking, but not necessarily for the reason you'd think. You might think Rhodey is just on Tony's side because of his friendship with Tony, but it has been known for Rhodey to go against Tony when he thinks what he's doing is wrong (Iron Man 2 etc.) However here, Rhodey likely completely agrees with Tony's position on registration. When you think about it, Rhodey is military man through-and-through, and this position is entirely logical for him.
NATASHA ROMANOFF/ BLACK WIDOW:
Black Widow really is the wildcard of Tony's team (particularly on a personal level - all of Romanoff's closest friends are on Team Cap.) Thus Widow's motivation has to be truly ideological for her decision to make sense.
Black Widow's arc is pretty developed; this is a character who goes from someone who simply follows orders (much like Steve,) to one who suddenly attempts to become a self-aware and independent hero.
Effectively, her whole life is devoted to wiping out that 'red in her ledger,' a shady past of cold killing and murder. In 'The Avengers,' Black Widow thinks she's found a great place to make up for what's gone wrong before. SHIELD offers her the home to become someone different and suppress her past, hiding it from everyone - even herself.
However, in 'Winter Solider,' a world she convinced herself was black and white, is suddenly a rainbow of blinding colours. She's forced to expose herself to everyone in a world that's been turned upside down. So, after 'Winter Soldier,' Widow realises she can't carry on following orders to wipe her ledger clean, because the people she though she was fighting for turned out to be the very past she sought to avoid.
She thus starts acting for herself and becoming an Avenger. She's beginning to accept who she was (and share that with someone,) which is more frightening than she might imagine - personified in her dream sequence. What's clear though is that she's ready to move forward, whilst also trying to live with her past.
So now Natasha is more her own individual who's beginning to make decisions for herself (eg setting up the new Avengers with Steve,) but that still doesn't explain why she makes the decision that she does here.
And if I'm honest, I don't actually have any reasons why Natasha would support Tony's point of view, at least from where she is now. Actually, all evidence points the other way.
She recently witnessed the fall of SHIELD, so realises (like Falcon and Cap) that big government organisations are volatile and potentially dangerous. So why pro-registration?
I think (unless she's some kind of double agent - a theory I find unlikely) it's something to do with what Bucky does. Perhaps Black Widow witnesses first-hand the problems a lack of control could cause. Really, her reasoning is all speculation. Watch out for Black Widow's arc in this one - it's bound to be pretty important, and it wont be a decision she takes lightly, particularly with her friends on Team Cap.
The Vision is a character who we don't know much about yet regarding why he'd choose registration. Really, I think Vision had to be on team Iron Man to balance the sides, but it'll be interesting to see how they make that believable in his arc during the film.
The Vision has one of the most exciting character standpoints in the whole of the MCU. He offers a view on humanity as an outsider; someone who is still coming to terms with humanity and planet Earth itself. His philosophies are bold and different from that of all the other Avengers, but they are also conflicting.
After his birth in 'Age of Ultron,' he states that Ultron must die because his hatred risks human life ("I'm on the side of life," he says,) yet he later states that the human race "isn't beautiful because it lasts," meaning they are inevitable going to die out eventually. This is an extremely grounded morality to live by, and means that the core of Vision's belief is that humans are sacred, and that all should be done to defend them, even if they will inevitably end themselves (recognising that humans are a threat to themselves too.)
So what could be Vision's motives for government registration? Well, like Ultron, he sees that one of the biggest threats to life on Earth is humans themselves. So he wants to find a way of the Avengers acting in the safest way possible, whilst minimising affect on civilian's lives. He may see the safest way of doing this in monitoring and controlling the heroes, to limit the chances of endangering human life. However, it's still pretty unclear why Vision would side with the government without seeing his justification in the film. This is something we'll have to wait and see, but it'll be most likely surrounding the best option for safety of the human race in future.
Some theories suggest that he is loyal to Tony (as his creator) but I'm not necessarily sure he sees any of the Avengers as the good or the bad, just powerful people who all live with the right intentions.
One thing I think I can be sure of, is that in 'Civil War,' Vision will most likely be looking for the most peaceful and reasonable means to ensure The Avengers end the conflict - he is on "the side of life" after all.
T'CHALLA/ BLACK PANTHER:
Ok, I don't have a lot to say about this character because we've never met him. But I do know Chadwick Boseman has spoken in interviews about a far more personal motivation. There's plenty of speculation about what that is, but at the end of the day, we're going to have to wait and see.
PETER PARKER/ SPIDER-MAN:
Spider-Man is basically the Ant-Man of Team Iron Man. He's young, and doesn't have any particular investment in the conflict. He's just star struck and excited to be part of something this big, and just wants a way in. Tony offers that to him by recruiting him, and I can't wait to see what happens when he throws himself into the conflict!
With plenty of new heroes and old being brought to the fight, who isn't excited to see them battle each other both verbally and physically! We'll have to wait and see what happens in 'Captain America: Civil War,' when it hits theaters on April 29th/ May 6th domestically.