Captain America: Civil War, Marvel’s latest box office hit based on a comic series from 2006 and 2007, offers an important allegory for our post-911 times.* It’s not a perfect movie – I’m still not sure why the Avengers were to blame for the explosion, and the villain's plot was preposterous – but the deeper issues are worth exploring.
The Avengers, a team of the most powerful people in the world, travel the globe to fight crime. They basically answer to no one. Unfortunately, in spite of all the good they do, there have been a number of missions that have failed very publicly (reminiscent of the starting premise in Batman v Superman). They are asked to sign the Sokovia Accords, which would put the group under United Nations supervision. When asked to describe them, Thaddeus Ross says,
“How about ‘dangerous’? What would you call a group of US based, enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned with what they leave behind? New York, Washington D.C., Sokovia, Lagos...”
Peter Parker, when asked why he acts as Spider Man, notes, ”When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.” That’s not entirely true, but we get the point. With great power comes great responsibility. But what if you do the things you can do and because of that bad things happen? King T’Chaka claims that “victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all.” If he is correct, that's a problem, because that’s how victory has been won time and again. That may be inevitable in a messy world, but must it be so often, and involve so many?