[Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) definitely isn't an adaptation of the comic from which it takes its name, and the differences are obvious. The Superhero Registration Act becomes the Sokovia Accords, Cap's reason for taking action is ideological and more to do with protecting his friend Bucky, and crucially, Tony Stark is not half as dark and ruthless as he was in the original comic. Having said that, there is one decision he makes that is undeniably morally reprehensible, though it might not seem that way at first.
[Warning: spoilers ahead!]
Tony's character journey in Civil War is one of the most interesting things about the film. Tony taking responsibility for his actions has been the major theme of his character arc through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet, for all his good intentions, Tony often falls back on old habits.
He steps back from his career as a weapons manufacturer in his first film, only to make even more dangerous weapons as Iron Man. He overcomes his PTSD and reliance on his super-suits in Iron Man 3, only to leap into action once again in Age of Ultron. Civil War provides an excellent commentary on this, as we see Tony bow under the weight of his guilt. This is why he pushes so hard for the Sokovia Accords.
And yet, even while he pressures the Avengers to shoulder this responsibility too, there's an inherent hypocrisy in Tony's actions in Civil War that cannot be ignored.
Spider-Man's entrance to the MCU may have been long-awaited by fans, but within the fictional universe this teen hero is far from well known. Back in Ant-Man, a brief allusion to "a guy who climbs up walls", established that Spidey was alive and well in the MCU, and it was only a matter of time until he joined the Avengers. This urban myth is presumably how Tony found out about the amateur hero, combined with some telling security footage.
So far, so good. In one of Civil War's funniest scenes, Tony takes up a mentor role to the young crime-fighter, visiting Peter's apartment and flirting outrageously with his Aunt May.
But looking past the hilarious dialogue between the two characters, and Spider-Man's awesome role in the airport fight, one fact is very disturbing: Tony involved a 15-year-old child in a dangerous battle. And no one seems to have a problem with that.
The whole situation just gets worse when we realize that by upgrading Spider-Man's suit and getting him involved in this fight, Tony is also bringing Spidey out of rumor and into the light. Now he's fought with the Avengers, does that mean Peter Parker is also subject to the restrictions within the Sokovia Accords? We'll probably have to wait until Homecoming to find out about that.
When we consider the risk to Spider-Man himself, this seems really incongruous with the points Tony argues throughout the movie.
The Greatest Weapon
So why, if he's so set against creating more victims, would Tony seek out and involve a child in a war? Co-director Joe Russo has an explanation, and it's just as disturbing as you'd expect.
"Look, there’s a certain narcissism to the character and Tony doesn’t want to lose this fight, and at the same time I think he also sees Spider-Man as the greatest living non-lethal weapon. If you’re going out to capture a bunch of people who you don’t necessarily want to hurt, you couldn’t ask for a better character than Spider-Man to take with you."
Yeesh. For all his determination not to create weapons, Tony can't seem to stop doing exactly that.
And yet, this hypocrisy is so crucial to Tony's character. It's why he created Ultron, and ultimately, he always realizes his mistakes. As soon as the battle starts getting truly vicious, Iron Man pulls Spidey out of the action.
"You're done kid. You're going home, you're done."
This just goes to show that when it comes to Tony Stark, sometimes a step forward is accompanied by a step back. Everything else Tony does in Civil War is completely understandable, and he's by far one of the most sympathetic characters in the film.
Of course, the real reason Spider-Man was involved in this fight was because Civil War marked his debut into the MCU. His role in the film was fantastic, broadening the scope of the story and providing an excellent prologue to the eagerly anticipated Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But at the end of the day, there's no denying that Iron Man took at least one immoral action in Civil War. Instead of Rhodey, Peter could have been the one to take the paralyzing blow, or to suffer another injury. As powerful as he is, good old Spidey isn't immortal. With Iron Man set to appear in Homecoming, here's hoping we get a brief reflection on why Tony involved Peter in the civil war, as well as a continuation of their fantastic mentor/mentoree dynamic.
Do you think Spider-Man should have been involved in this fight?