ByDaniel Blick, writer at
Arthouse Film/Superheroes/Tommy Wissou enthusiast
Daniel Blick

This article contains spoilers for [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409)!

There's been a lot of speculation, debate and controversy as to who exactly the main villain in Marvel's latest release actually is. Many have hypothesised that it could be any one of a number of people; Iron Man? Baron Zemo? Captain America? The Winter Soldier? Black Panther? The list goes on and on. The truth is however, for almost every character, you could write an explanation as to why they can be classed as a villain, and an explanation as to why they should be classed as a hero, or at the very least a lack thereof a villain. And I'm going to do exactly that! Well, not for all villains, just a few of them. The point is Civil War was never written to be a superhero film with a defining villain. That's been done already, a lot. Writers and directors of Civil War instead have emphasised the importance of the tones of grey in this film. It isn't about good vs evil, right vs wrong, or any abbreviation of that theme. It's about perspective, consequences and ultimately the exploration what reality really is; rarely ever simple, and therefore rarely with any flawless, faultless solutions to complicated problems. So let's get to it!

Iron Man

Why He's the Villain:

  • Tony is the character that leads a fight against Captain America and his team. Given that Captain America is the title character in this movie, it could be argued that Cap is the film's protagonist. It therefore follows that Stark would be the films antagonist, and villain
  • Stark signs the Sokovia Accords. A document that legitimised the imprisonment of many of Marvel's greatest superheroes
  • He tries to murder Bucky as revenge for his parents death.

Why He's the Hero:

  • Tony signed the Accords as a genuine attempt to rectify his wrongs
  • He always saw his attempts to capture Cap and his team as being for Caps own good; as a way of protecting them from future harm if the ordeal fell into the hands of the US government
  • Stark was directly reacting to the immediate news that Bucky had killed his parents. Although this act is not exactly heroic, it's difficult to excuse the act as villainous either

Baron Zemo

Why He's the Villain:

  • He is the only 'bad guy' to kill innocent people willingly
  • He is central to the plot of manipulating The Avengers into fighting one another

Why He's not the Main Villain:

  • The Accords didn't come from Zemo, but from Wakanda and the United Nations. This shows that The Avengers had to face responsibility for their actions in some way, shape or form sooner or later.
  • It was as much The Accords that separated the two teams as anything Zimmo did, so his plotting and scheming was not as elaborate to the story or plot line as it may at first appear
  • He was driven by revenge due to the death of his family, much like Stark at the end of the film. If Stark can be forgiven, perhaps Zimmo can too, or at least understood

Captain America

Why He's the Villain:

  • Cap was largely driven by emotion when making the decisions he did. He didn't sign The Accords based on rationality, but on his gut feeling, he intervened in the capture of a suspected murderer to save his friend and put many of his own friends, Ironman included, in danger in the process
  • He didn't tell Tony who his parents' true killers were
  • He is technically an outlaw for most of the movie

Why He's the Hero:

  • It's literally titled Captain America: Civil War. This would insinuate Cap is the protagonist, and therefore the hero of this superhero film
  • Just because he based decisions on his emotions doesn't necessarily mean they were wrong decisions. Vision signed The Accords based on pure rationality, the same Accords that justified the imprisonment of our favourite heroes
  • In a similar theme, just because Steve Rogers is an outlaw, doesn't necessarily mean he's the bad guy

The truth is pretty much every character leaves this film changed and altered in some way, and usually both for the better and the worse. Civil War was never going to be about, or supposed to be about a clean-cut good guy vs bad-guy narrative. As a result the writers played in the grey area as much as they could and really made it the theme of their film. And it is precisely for this reason that Civil War is so original and layered when compared to many of it's counter-parts.


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