Captain America: Civil War

Seeing our own struggles

Comic book movies are a big deal at my house. My son’s birthday conveniently falls near the early May release dates of many of the Avenger films, so I often see the movies with a group of my son’s friends, who are avid young fans.

It is the internal struggles of the heroes, villains, and even the minor characters that resonate most in this film.

Not that I mind. I love comic book films, too—and I’m obviously not alone. But it’s not just the blockbuster nature of the films that attracts audiences. Like all good stories, we are drawn to them because they speak to the human condition. In their stories, we see our own.

In a Christianity Today article, Frank Smith writes, “These characters may have super strength. . . . But their inner battles (and their struggles in spite of them) to right wrongs and take up the challenge of evil are our own—albeit writ large, colorful and on a grand scale.”

In Captain America: Civil War, the question of how to challenge evil becomes both a philosophical and operational question as well as an internal and deeply personal struggle for most of the characters—and, like good stories do, the plot invites us to consider how our own internal struggles affect how we approach the same challenge.

In Civil War, the world is dealing with the fallout of the destruction and deaths resulting from the Avengers’ battles against villains in New York, Slovakia, and Nigeria. The world governments decide the best way to curtail collateral damage is UN oversight and control of the Avengers, but the heroes are divided on whether to go along with that.

Some support the idea out of concern for the continual escalation of violence, a desire to protect citizen and hero alike, or as a way to deal with their personal guilt and fears of more blood (innocent or friend) on their hands. But others are concerned that kind of oversight will make it easier for evil to triumph, and fear that those exercising control over them won’t have pure motives or as good of judgment as they do themselves. It is a credit to the film that most of those fears and concerns end up playing out in one form or another, leaving no easy answers.

But it is the internal struggles of the heroes, villains, and even the minor characters that resonate most in this film. We watch the effects of their choices in response to evil, death, and loss ripple out and affect others and world events. In particular, I was intrigued by the exploration of how fear, anger, guilt, and compassion play into how we confront the challenge of evil as well as how we treat both our friends and enemies. In addition, I appreciated the way the film shows that our approach to evil is often affected by what we want or expect to see in order to justify our own worldview, fears, prejudices, or ego.

Civil War also gives a stark portrayal of the far-reaching and profound effects of choosing revenge in response to loss. It does a good job of confronting us with how our ideals and perspective are twisted by payback and how the effects of our choices can heal or break relationships.

Before the movie, my son and his friends were solidly on either “Team Iron Man” or “Team Captain,” and their alignment hadn’t changed when we walked out of the theater. In some ways, that reflects well on the film. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers approach the challenge of evil with different internal struggles, and the consequences of their choices don’t leave us with simple answers. The question of how to respond to evil gets messy when it moves from the philosophical to the real world, especially when violence is involved.

But this is one of the great things about a good story—it leaves us mulling over the big questions and invites us to examine our own understandings, beliefs, and internal struggles. Civil War does this on a grand scale.

Plus, it’s entertaining to boot.

And in case you are wondering . . . Go, Team Cap!

Rated PG-13 for extended scenes of violence and action.


All reviews express the opinions of the reviewer, not necessarily the views of Third Way.