Captain America versus Iron Man: We debate who’s right in ‘Civil War’

captain america civil war

  • Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) will reunite in “Avengers: Infinity War” for the first time since they fought in “Captain America: Civil War.”
  • The two disagreed about whether superhumans should be forced to register with the government, with Cap anti-registration and Iron Man pro.
  • Business Insider’s Carrie Wittmer and Travis Clark argue their cases for who is right in this debate.

Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” comes to theaters April 27, and it’s the first time some major characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be reunited since they butted heads in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

Most importantly, the “Big Two” of the MCU — Steve Rogers/Captain America (played by Chris Evans), and Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) — will join forces against Thanos after their “Civil War” disagreement, which ended with half of the Avengers escaping an underwater prison. 

The last time the two leading Avengers were on screen together, they were trading punches over the registration of superhumans, which would essentially make the Avengers government employees. This initiative, called the Sokovia Accords, was started by the Secretary of State and Tony Stark after the devastating events in “Age of Ultron” and an incident early on in “Civil War” in which Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who is still learning to control her powers, accidentally destroys a building with innocent people in it. 

Rogers is against the Sokovia Accords because of his mistrust of the government that essentially made him (“The safest hands are still our own”), while Stark is pro-registration (“If we don’t do this now, it’s going to be done to us later”).

Both heroes have fair arguments.

It’s the kind of debate that even rages on in our own real-world politics, which is what made “Civil War” so powerful. Rogers argued that the superhumans’ right to choose would be stripped away by the Sokovia Accords, while Stark argued that their powers needed to be put in check in order to prevent the destruction of cities like New York (“The Avengers”) and Sokovia (“Age of Ultron”). 

The debate between Cap and Tony sparked heated debates between the biggest MCU fans on Business Insider’s entertainment team. Here, Business Insider’s Carrie Wittmer and Travis Clark make their cases below — Carrie for Captain America, and Travis for Iron Man.


captain america civil war iron man

Iron Man (Travis Clark)

If you compare the superhuman registration debate in “Captain America: Civil War” to the real-world debate of gun control in the U.S., then the answer — at least in my eyes — is clear: Tony Stark is right. 

I’m going to get this out of the way early: I admittedly admire Captain America more than Iron Man. I think Cap’s heart is always in the right place, whereas Stark’s decision-making is consistently questionable.

In fact, Stark is partly responsible for why the government proposes the superhuman registration in the first place. The destruction of the country Sokovia came during the battle with Ultron in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and Ultron was created by Stark. 

But if you focus on the debate itself more than the personalities or history of either of them, I can’t deny Stark is on the right side of this one. The Avengers have proven to be national security threats just as much as they may save the world from destruction. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not grounded in reality, but the conflict of “Captain America: Civil War” reflects a very real debate raging in America. If we compare super powers to guns, it becomes clear the Avengers have powers that need to be controlled. That’s evidenced by the beginning of the film, when Scarlet Witch accidentally kills a group of Wakandan diplomats. 

A main argument against gun control is that it is a slippery slope to the government banning guns entirely. That’s where Captain America’s head seems to be at: He doesn’t want to see his friends, like Scarlet Witch, at the government’s mercy. He thinks he can better handle her than the government can.

But Captain America, as good as his intentions may be, isn’t thinking logically. At the end of the day, people like Scarlet Witch, the Hulk, and any other superhumans with both unimaginable power (and a lack of control) need to be controlled for the public’s own good.

Stark thinks it will happen eventually no matter what, and if he can get ahead of it, he can manage it. Stark is thinking logically, whereas Cap is thinking with his emotions. That’s the biggest difference between them, and while Cap is admirable, this isn’t a debate settled by emotion.

Cap also wants to protect his friend Bucky Barnes, who is framed for an explosion at a United Nations conference in the movie. As noble and well-intentioned as this may be, at the end of the day Cap is putting the safety of one man over that of the public.

So, as questionable as Tony’s actions have been in the past, he’s the one trying to do the right thing in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Your move, Carrie.


Captain America (Carrie Wittmer)

captain america civil war

OK. You really got me on the gun control thing. I absolutely believe that purchasing a gun should be more regulated. But this is different because these are human beings. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare these people, whether they chose to be superhuman (Stark) or not (Bruce Banner/Hulk) to gun control. 

Before I continue my rant, I will also admit my bias: Although I absolutely love “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 3” (a Christmas movie!), I hate Tony Stark. I get that being an alcoholic jerk who wears tinted sunglasses is his thing, but his character hasn’t evolved since 2008. The only thing that seems to change is his ego — which only gets bigger — and his relationship status with Pepper Potts, which if we’re being honest is completely dependent on Gwyneth Paltrow’s availability. 

You say that the Avengers are a security threat. This is true, but they’re a threat when there is already a more dangerous threat out there. This is Cap’s point, which is clouded in “Civil War” by his bond with Bucky Barnes and by his distrust of the government. But Cap’s distrust of the government is fair: while S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a government entity, it might as well be, and it was literally run by HYDRA in the past. Remember Robert Redford in “The Winter Soldier?” He told Cap what to do, and he was the enemy the whole time. How can Cap and other heroes trust and fight for an entity that is so vulnerable?

And what about the cases when one or more of our heroes see a threat, but the government either doesn’t see it as essential, or they straight up don’t believe them? If the UN, for example, doesn’t see a worthy threat in the pink-headed man named Thanos who wants a bunch of stones so he can destroy half of the universe (very specifically not the whole universe), what are the Avengers going to do? Just let it happen? They most certainly will not. 

Cap is thinking logically because he’s applying the limitations of the Sokovia Accords to his own experiences, like the mishap with Robert Redford that I already mentioned in “The Winter Soldier.” And in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” he goes on an unapproved mission in Germany to save Bucky Barnes, planned with the help of the late Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark.

Stark is the one thinking with his emotions. His approach is completely rooted in ego, not a concern for humanity. Minutes into “Civil War,” Stark meets a woman whose son was killed in Sokovia, and is so threatened by the idea that someone out there hates him that he goes straight to the Secretary of State behind his friends’ backs, writes legislation, and simply throws it onto a table in front of them. 

Do superheroes need to be controlled? Yes! But the Sokovia Accords is not the right way. My solution: There is a lovely bald man named Xavier who has a very nice school in upstate New York, and Disney bought Fox so this can be in the MCU canon now. 

CLOSING STATEMENTS

Civil War

Travis Clark: You make fair points, Carrie, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Stark is only pro-registration because of his ego. It shows progression in his character that he would be pushed by the pain he sees in that mom who confronts him. It would be natural for anyone with a conscience. Are we supposed to condemn him for having a conscience? Stark has power and influence, and ever since the first “Iron Man” after he escaped captivity, he’s been using that power and influence to better not only himself, but the world. He doesn’t always make the best choices, but he at least learns from his mistakes. Captain America is so stubborn and rooted in his ways that he will stand by Bucky out of pure emotion. There’s no place for such blind loyalty when national security is at stake. Stark’s entire point is to get in front of registration and handle it on his terms before the government handles it on its — things would have been much worse if he hadn’t.

Carrie Wittmer: I’m not assuming that Stark is pro-registration because of his ego. I know he is. I understand that Stark’s reasoning stretches beyond his own interests, but his ego is where it started, and it’s the only reason he took any action in the first place. If the government initiated the Sokovia Accords on its own, “Civil War” would’ve been a completely different movie, more boring than any MCU villain, because I have a feeling everyone would be on Cap’s side. Your points are great, but have not changed my mind because I disagree on Cap’s motivations. Yes, he’s trying to protect Bucky, but it’s bigger than that. He knows the government has made the wrong calls before, and he’s fairly anticipating that it will again.

Can we still be friends?

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