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Every Life Matters in Captain America: Civil War

Fr. Joel Society Today

Superhero movies always have collateral damage. That’s the innocent people who run away screaming as the bad guy blows up their city. You aren’t supposed to worry about those people. The superheros saved the day. Yeah!

This movie is about those other people. They leave behind loved ones who grieve their loss. Their lives mattered, even if they came from unimportant countries like Wakanda or Sokovia. The Avengers have been saving the world for a while now and that leaves a lot of collateral damage. The countries of the world sign a treaty requiring them to accept oversight from a UN panel. Iron Man (Robert Downy, Jr.) supports oversight; Captain America (Chris Evans) refuses to compromise. As the debate escalates, the other heroes are forced to take sides.

The movie does a good job balancing both sides. You can appreciate Iron Man’s willingness to compromise as much as Captain America’s refusal. Which is really the right thing to do? The answer isn’t clear. And this becomes the difference that tears them apart. Either choice has serious consequences. Many times during the movie you just wanted to yell at the characters, “Stop fighting and talk to each other!”

It’s a big movie with a lot of big action. There’s plenty of superheroes and a hugely satisfying showdown between the two sides. Wisely, though, the movie ends on a smaller note. You can really see the personal nature of a civil war. It’s about how the noble desire for revenge can consume and corrupt. It’s about people who used to fight together now fighting one another. It’s about friends who have become enemies.

You can watch the tactics of Satan at work in this movie. What makes Satan so destructive is not that he attacks us directly. Satan loves to get us fighting each other. He loves to tear apart families, communities, and churches. Division is the Devil. God’s Spirit wants to bring unity. It does this through reconciliation, forgiveness, and a love that can reach across borders.

I had quit watching Avengers movies after Age of Ultron. The climax of that movie trashed a city in Sokovia. It suggested that human ingenuity (Iron Man trying to build a super weapon) was the problem, but the solution was to keep trying until you get it right. And keep punching stuff, because violence was the only answer to the threat. It’s just that you could never be sure the next enemy wouldn’t be bigger than you. It was distinctly un-satisfying.

This movie is so different in lots of good ways. Violence is more carefully depicted as a solution that really doesn’t solve anything. I regret not watching the previous two Captain America movies. This movie does a good job referencing previous plot points, so if you only watch this one, you’ll get most of it (except the guy with the bow and Ant Man). But the previous two Captain America movies would have helped to round out the characters and they feature some pretty awesome twists.

I loved this movie. The questions and issues it deals with are very relevant. The movie keeps you guessing and leaves you wondering what you would have done. It reminds you that every life matters. You realize the importance of working towards unity rather than just trying to be right. It’s more than just a good superhero movie. Highly recommended.