Qt3 Movie Podcast: Captain America: Civil War


#21

Firstly, I apologize for the insane length of this comment. Note that I also have not read the comics so I'm analyzing purely based on what was seen in the films.

In regards to the discussion between Christian and Tom about Cap's motivations and the Accords:

To go with the cop metaphor, Cap's concern is more specifically that the Mayor's Office (U.N.) will tell the cops to answer this 911 call which may be nothing more than "my neighbor's dog keeps pooping on my lawn" while telling them to ignore the 911 call saying "Help someone is robbing my convenience store", and/or that the Mayor's office will only reach a decision three days after the 911 call was originally made.

To also coincide with Christian's television observation, if you look at all the films with Cap, you can see a coherent story arc that leads to this perspective (even if some of it may be retrospective projection).

First Avenger: Steve has a clear enemy to fight with a morality informed by the time he grew up and challenges America faced.

Avengers: Steve is a man out of time that is struggling to make sense of the world, only to finally find himself once again during the Battle of New York.

Winter Soldier: Steve butts heads with SHIELD, a secretive organization bogged down with politics, bureacracy, and questionable ethics that suggest that their targets may be chosen based on personal interest rather than greater good. Oh, and it's actually Hydra.

Age of Ultron: With SHIELD largely dissolved, the Avengers are left to try and clean up Hydra themselves. In the process, Steve becomes leader of the Avengers, allowing them to remain autonomous and taking on targets the governments may not be able to.

Civil War: Steve fights to keep the Avengers from becoming another SHIELD.

They don't say it as much, but his character manages to remain consistent while growing from movie to movie. As such, we can contextualize his reasoning. The U.N. is designed to keep other governments in check, but Avengers are not a government. They are a specialized force, and Steve believes it is better to act on their own than to have governments bicker about whose interests matter more.

Any connection I make to Winter Soldier is my projection, but he clearly states that he doesn't trust being restricted to the U.N. where there will be agendas and prioritization of targets based off of questionable motivations.

However, it also clearly becomes apparent that no matter the pragmatic causes for the division, in truth the conflicts are all personal. Which perhaps makes it a wonderful allegory for modern political discourse.

As for Black Widow, I think this film has her internal conflict of trying to figure out the right side to fight on. We discover in Avengers that she used to fight for the "wrong team", and in Winter Soldier all this time she thought she was working for the good guys when it turned out to be the bad. Now she's struggling to figure out which side is the right side, and why her turn at the airport works for me.

I'd also love a Scarlet Witch solo film. Following Civil War, we have ample room for her to do something like go on sabbatical in an effort to figure herself out, have an adventure, and through that conflict find a resolution as to who she is and what her goals are. Don't think we can anticipate one in time for Infinity War, sadly.

As for the 3x3, I'm gonna side with Kelly that smackin' the tire is not exercise but training. The context in which it is presented in the film suggests that Bruce Wayne is preparing for his showdown with Superman rather than simply being a regular part of his regimen. Bruce Wayne waking up and immediately doing push-ups in Batman Begins is an example of a regular exercise regimen rather than being part of a training montage (and also pays off with a "what's the point of all them push-ups if you can't even lift a bloody log" gag later).

What I wish I had included is actually Don Juan, where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is constantly working out each day by himself until the end, where instead of this solo activity he decides to play basketball with the folks that are always at the gym. A significant indicator that he is breaking his old habits and is changing as a person. Can't believe I forgot about it.


#22

Thanks for all the thoughts, Christopher.

"To go with the cop metaphor, Cap's concern is more specifically that the Mayor's Office (U.N.) will tell the cops to answer this 911 call which may be nothing more than "my neighbor's dog keeps pooping on my lawn" while telling them to ignore the 911 call saying "Help someone is robbing my convenience store", and/or that the Mayor's office will only reach a decision three days after the 911 call was originally made."

All viable problems. None of which justifies a police department without oversight. To further your metaphor, the bigger problem is the police being similarly incompetent (interesting that the movie mentions Mark Fuhrman) and applying their power without accountability. In contemporary society, and especially democracies, power needs to be accountable to the people under the rule of law. No one is above the law. Not the police, not the mayor's office, not the President, and certainly not paramilitary super soldiers.

And, yeah, I wish you had brought up Don Juan as well. Great pick!


#23

This is my favorite dumb thing that came out of Civil War.

http://mightygodking.com/i-don...


#24

I agree that refusing oversight in principle is a problem, but I applaud Captain America refusing to recognize the authority of governments who have let themselves get infested by Hydra, issue shoot-on-sight orders for an innocent man based on flimsy evidence, laugh at the idea of Bucky getting a lawyer, incompetently allow a terrorist to trigger his hypnosis again, and stash prisoners in a secret underwater prison without a trial.


#25

Love the podcast. I don't think I'm about to use the right words to do my argument justice, but if I don't put this out now I'll never get it out.

I think the argument against the accords could probably be best parallelized with real world arguments about the UN (what were there, like 127 countries involved in the accord?)

When I was a kid, I watched Star Trek, and all of Earth was united, and I thought that was great. It made sense that in an enlightened future we would all get along and we would be at peace.

Out in the real world, I have met people (some reasonable, some not) who take a very dim view on the UN. Some of the reasons are over-bureaucracy and the placement of countries with questionable motives in places of power.

Being familiar to this point of view, the argument against the accords was pretty easy for me to understand. Perhaps it would be a metaphor for the US agreeing to put all of its armed forces under the power of the UN?

In addition, the first operation under the accords went really bad really fast. (I think a lot of the plot in this story comes from the worst possible things happening really fast really early.) Bilbo Baggins is there to represent a smarmy bureaucrat ("bird costume"?), and the operation is immediately compromised by the fake psychologist. Without these (deadly) failures, team Captain would probably have fizzled out.

Next, I really appreciate that, despite the marketing, the "teams" to me seem much more fluid and in flux throughout the movie. I give bonus points to any movie tries for any subtlety. The two groups don't sit down and have war councils. Everything happens really quick and ALL of the characters are forced to act fast with the limited knowledge that they have in order to shut down bombs on short fuzes (Tony's bomb is the threat from Bilbo, Captain's is to save his friend's life plus prevent the super-assassin plot, and Black Panther is just angry and out to murder a suspect, which is not very flattering for a debut character IMO).

Also, I like the following point made in the ending fight. All along, I think some of the point has been that "we" (the superheroes) need to be put in check because we make mistakes. (BTW every human makes mistakes, except for Captain I guess...). Tony sees this and champions it. Then he hammers it home (almost sacrificially) when, despite his knowledge and intelligence, his emotions overcome him and he is manipulated into losing his temper and attacking his allies.


#26

Quick note about Tom's beef with Affleck's line about the 1% = 100%
I believe what's going on there is a poorly presented risk analysis.

You look at the probability of something happening "multiplied" by seriousness of the outcome if it happens.

To decide if I'm going to go to work, I look at the low probability of a car accident and the mid-high bad-ness of getting in an accident, and decide that it is okay.

If I lived in a war zone, to cross the street for an ice cream cone, I would look at the high probability of getting shot vs the low reward of the ice cream cone, and decide not to risk it.

Batman sees the 1% probability that Superman will go nuts, vs the very very bad outcome that he becomes supreme ruler of humanity and our race never knows freedom ever again, and decides that it is worth doing something about Superman.


#27

People have a choice whether or not to work for the police department. Cap was not given that choice.

The whole idea only works if Cap is on the side he is in the plot. Of course it is reasonable to oversee super people and avoid vigilantism. That doesn't mean the super people will agree. Cap is pure of heart, so that gives the audience a chance to root for him.

That is what makes his character, and the movies are slowly losing sight of that and focusing on his powers.

The much more disturbing plot point is watching all the fuss over BuckyBleepinBarnes.


#28

Terrible analogy. People have a choice to work for the police department, but they don't have a choice whether to accept the police force's authority.

You #teamcap folks seem to be floating the idea -- with pretty much zero internal support from the movie, by the way -- that The Avengers are worried about government corruption. But even then, you don't have a leg to stand on. To follow your analogy, that's like saying if there are instances of corruption in the police department, everyone should stop obeying laws!


#29

That wasn't my point at all. I'm not clear why you think Cap should want oversight. Or why a good guy hero who doesn't want to be told what do (by the man!) isn't a perfectly good theme for a movie.


#30

Well, now I can't tell if you're joking. :)

You know the Guardian Angels? They're not part of the police. Yet they are subject to local laws enforced by the police. Which is how it should be, right? Why should the Avengers not be the same way?


#31

Are the heroes being held "accountable to the people" if the body holding them accountable is a UN committee staffed with unelected representatives? Seems more like they would be accountable to the people on that committee, and whatever agenda they may have.


#32

While I'm sympathetic to Tom's point to a certain degree, I don't think it fits in with the reality of these movies. The superheroes have had government oversight for the majority of the films in the Marvel series, in the form of S.H.I.E.L.D. And rather than keep heroes in check, that government body ended up being infiltrated by a neo-Nazi terrorist organization, which I would have to say is a rather profound failure of its ostensible purpose. Cap even brings it up in his initial objections, and Iron Man says "don't worry, this isn't going to end up like S.H.I.E.L.D." which is an easy thing to promise and a hard thing to guarantee.

In a movieverse where this sort of thing can happen, don't superheroes have a responsibility to take a long, hard look at the organizations they choose to obey? If a high-tech security force of millions can be infiltrated and tricked into doing ill at the highest levels, are we really sure that a five-person security council is less fallible? In real life, the UN is stopped from investigating atrocities in third-world countries all the time because one of the countries on the Security Council blocks the motion. Tom writes in a comment above that a world in which individuals can administer justice perfectly without any oversight is not a world with anything to say about our own. Well, I'd say that a world where Captain America is prevented from investigating a threat in North Korea because China is sitting on the Security Council is a world without any connection to the idea of superheroes. Surely there's some room for negotiation between these two ideas.


#33

"In a movieverse where this sort of thing can happen, don't superheroes have a responsibility to take a long, hard look at the organizations they choose to obey?"

This is so well put, wykstrad. Great post.


#34

"Sure, if the police are perfectly good, infallible, and beyond reproach
in their thoughts and actions, they don't need oversight."

What if the police aren't perfectly infallible, but are perhaps just as good in their judgments and actions as any oversight structure is likely to be? They could still make mistakes, and people could still die, but you'd have to ask whether putting oversight in place would change things for the better, or whether it would just be a psychological salve to make people feel okay about terrifyingly strong, fast, and intelligent people running around conducting police actions.

One of the interesting things about the legislation proposed in the film is that it would almost certainly do nothing to change the scenario that caused it to be passed. If the regulations they mention were in place at the beginning of the film, does the outcome of that first action sequence change at all? And if not, then what is the legislation for, and why the hell is anyone happy with it?


#35

When you change the rules in your movieverse so dramatically, your movieverse loses much of its relevance to the realverse. It's like post-Abu Ghraib movies about torture where the torture victim actually DESERVES the torture! Boo-ya! Take that, Geneva Convention apologists.

Clumsy, irrelevant, and without any meaningful insight.


#36

Uh oh, you're one of those "the UN is out to get us/One World government" guys, aren't you?


#37

Right. Which is a big part of why the movie's attempt at a political message is so clumsy. Nothing short of inaction will do anything to stop collateral damage. It's a reality of the modern world.

No one acknowledges in this silly movie that New York would have been so much worse off if the Avengers hadn't saved it from Loki's space aliens. And it's not like Scarlet Witch's hastily chucked explosion blew up an Afghani wedding or a Doctor's Without Borders hospital. She was in one of those convenient comic book dilemmas where you can either save Lois Lane or save the school bus, but you can't save both. Should she have let the crowded marketplace blow up? No one in the movie even acknowledges this because we're in a comic book movieverse. That thinks it has some political relevance!


#38

That's fine by me. I'd rather have my superheroes be representative of human ideals than be representative of realistic geopolitics. I'd rather not have Superman movies that are obsessed by how many people are dying in accidents while he's pretending to work at a newspaper, thanks.


#39

No, just asking a question that seems pretty obvious. The UN is a lot of things, and has some useful functions, but it's not a democratic government elected by the people, and 40% of the countries that would have veto power over the superheroes in Civil War are essentially autocracies. The idea that this constitutes democratic oversight equivalent to, say, voters electing a sheriff seems specious at best.


#40

I agree that this movie about a man from the 1940s who still looks young because he was frozen in ice and has steroids in his body fighting a man in a robot suit does not seem to accurately reflect the real world. I disagree that the movie "thinks it has some political relevance"--movies are not biological organisms, and do not have brains, and therefore are incapable of "thinking" anything.