Captain America: Civil War was/is arguably one of Marvel’s best films. Achieving a rare equity in plot, action, humor and drama. It was fun. It was smart. It was coherent. And, hey, it was the first time a villain not only didn’t die… he won! The bad guy did exactly what he intended, he broke The Avengers, leaving their friendship fractured and future uncertain. Now, however, the film is not without its criticisms. It’s scad of characters, excessive globe trotting, slow start, and overly long run-time are among common quibbles. Perhaps, though, the films biggest outcry among critics, is that the films plays it safe.
Civil War makes a pretense of pondering the consequences of going rogue, and puts the heroes at odds with each other on just how to keep themselves in check and accountable in the aftermath of their heroics. The ideological conflict, however, never really feels like that much of a conflict. It’s tension never reaches critical mass. Nothing happens (in respect to the films initial proposition) to any of the Avengers in their contention, no loss or disaster, to cause irrevocable damage. There WAS a moment, in the height of the airport battle, where War Machine is unintentionally shot out of the sky, and thought to have been killed in the fall but nope, he just managed to break a few leg bones (and lose the natural use of his lower extremities but still) . A death like Rhodes would have, some would say, pushed the scales and left Civil War being The Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Universe.
To the detractors, the noise makers, and the chagrined, there was a reason for this. In a recent Q&A session (via HitFix), directors Anthoy and Joe Russo along with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige laid out the specific reasons why they decided to keep everyone alive.
Feige noted that the intent was to fracture the team as much as possible, adding “Well, the ending was always more about fracturing the team completely before getting into Infinity War.”
“We talked about lots of potential characters dying at the end of the movie” Joe adds. “And we thought that it would undercut what is really the rich tension of the movie, which is this is Kramer vs Kramer. It’s about a divorce. If somebody dies, it would create empathy, which would change and allow for repair, and we didn’t want to do that.
Feige compared their story to the original Civil War storyline seen in the comics.
“In the amazing comic book story, which certainly the conceit of this movie is based on and some of the specifics — during their big battle, which has a hundred times as many characters, a character dies. And we talked about that for a while. And, ultimately, we thought what happened to Rhodey would be enough of a downer.”
“The tragedy is the family falls apart” Anthony concludes. “Not that the family falls apart and then somebody dies.”
So there, it was never Disney’s fear of letting the film go too dark. The Russo Bros. told a divorce story, or rather a 2+ hr explanation of “it’s complicated” relationship status on Facebook. Some say they pulled this off perfectly. Those who felt the whole thing weak, and or criticize what happened to Rhodes as having zero impact, likely still feel the same, regardless of the follow up from Feige and the Russo Bros. Maybe, though, in Avengers: Infinity War the stakes between characters are raised higher, and where we left off in the fallout of Civil War, leads to some truly defining and shattering losses.