On Wednesday morning, I walked into my history class and asked if anyone else had seen the Civil War trailer yet.
This confused my professor, who is not a superhero person, since we are actually studying the American Civil War right now, but luckily I had a nerdy classmate who helped me explain things.
If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can watch it here.
Wow. Just wow.
It was everything I hoped it would be.
We get a couple quick glimpses of Black Panther, whose suit looks awesome, and all the action associated with a Marvel film, but we also get this huge depth of character and conflict that makes the trailer stand out.
Cap and Falcon find Bucky, just like we saw in the Ant-Man stinger. Bucky tells Cap a few facts from his past, proving that he’s the one in control of himself, not Hydra. We see an explosion as Cap tells Bucky he’s a wanted man. Bucky says he doesn’t do that anymore–“that” presumably being killing people the way Hydra used him for.
That has a lot of implications.
First, Bucky uses the word “I” in reference to his actions as the Winter Soldier, indicating that he still thinks of those actions in some way as “his”. That isn’t exactly a happy fact, but it’s hardly unexpected. He’s going to take a long time to heal.
The second implication has more bearing on the actual events of the movie.
Why is everyone so frantic about finding Bucky now? Cap and Falcon were the only ones looking for him during Age of Ultron and Ant-Man (except for Hydra probably), and they weren’t trying to arrest or kill him.
We see an explosion, which, if the film follows the comics, will destroy a school (or maybe an important government building) and trigger the demand for the Superhuman Registration Act.
My theory? Someone’s setting Bucky up. Maybe Hydra’s given up on trying to recapture or kill him; maybe he’s just a convenient scapegoat when something goes wrong. Brainwashed assassins are so easy to throw under the bus, but unless I’m completely misreading Bucky’s character, he didn’t cause that. Steve knows that, and will defend him with anyone else who believes in Bucky. Those two are practically brothers–we already know they’d tear the world apart for each other.
Of course, Bucky and his history won’t be the only issue in this film. The disaster with Ultron in Sokovia showed everyone exactly how dangerous the Avengers could be. Most of us like to know what’s going on when powerful people are involved in events that affect us, and with the Avengers that’s kind of hard. There’s a former KGB assassin, a woman who used to work with Hydra whose powers include tearing things apart with her mind, a bewildering machine/person thing, a veteran who for some reason has wings, and the supersoldier icon of World War Two, somehow still alive, who just recently took down SHIELD. War Machine is frankly the simplest to understand in the public eye from that group. Iron Man doesn’t generally hide the fact that he’s Iron Man, and War Machine is his friend and has one of his suits. Not nearly as complicated as the others.
No wonder the public wants these people under more regulations. They’re terrifying, and when they mess up, deadly for everyone.
I can see both sides of this argument. Tony Stark says, “If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.” He’s right, but so is Cap. We don’t hear much of his arguments against Registration in this trailer, but if they’re anything like in the comics, they’re reasonable.
That’s the heartbreaking thing about this storyline. Both sides think they’re right, with good reason. Both sides are simply trying to do the right thing. They’re practically family, and they’re being torn apart by the different ideals of freedom and security. We see War Machine briefly on the ground with a damaged suit. He or any other character might die, as a result of direct or indirect actions of their friends.
And that’s exactly as it should be.
It’s taken superheroes a long time to stop being considered as something just meant for little kids. The fact that they aren’t anymore doesn’t mean we should make their stories racy or more violent–personally, I prefer them not to include that stuff–it means that we can confront larger, more complicated issues through their stories without being accused of going over the target audience’s heads. Of course, kids are smarter than most of us give them credit for, but that’s another issue.
Pushing these characters to their limits, shoving them outside the zone where everything is black or white, good or bad, serves as an analog to our own issues today. It’s clearly good to help the people fleeing their war-torn homes, but it is also clearly good to try to make sure that our resources help our own people who need help, and we can’t just flip a coin to decide which course of action to take. Neither should our superheroes, because they are quickly becoming the Gilgameshes and Heracleses of our culture, and as our culture’s heroes, they need to be enlarged versions of ourselves, or they won’t remain the characters we look to for inspiration.
That said, they are the heroes of thousands of people, and it’s going to be hard to watch our heroes fight one another.
It will also be terribly exciting.