Marvel Universe Does Empathy: The Lessons of Captain America: Civil War

Note: I didn’t include any spoilers in this outside of characters included in trailers, and vague references to plot emphasis. I feel confident reading this post won’t ruin your experience of the movie, but if you’re a stickler, don’t. Because of this, I didn’t talk about the one thing in this movie I found surprising – if you want to chat, leave a comment!

As a rule, I generally like the Marvel Universe. I like Jessica Jones. I like Matt Murdock. I like Guardians of the Galaxy (Also alliteration is awesome…see what I did there?). I liked the first Avengers movie. The second one I liked less because it was more about having giant crazy fight scenes as opposed to character-driven plot.

And that’s pretty much where I fall with Captain America.

I like the Captain America franchise. I like the use of powerful women characters from the very beginning (I love Agent Carter!). And of course, I really like Steve Rogers. What’s not to like? He’s the perfect man – I mean seriously perfect. He’s always polite. He’s respectful of everyone. He’s fair. He’s religious. He’s just. He admits when he’s wrong. He’s reliable. He’s loyal. He’s got a strong work ethic. He’s the boy-next-door parents drool over as a prospective son-in-law.

And let’s be honest: Chris Evans is totally hot.

He’s the perfect Captain America.


Let’s quickly run down the history of the Captain America movies. I really liked The First Avenger. I thought it was an awesome opening to the franchise. I liked the character development. I liked the back-story for SHIELD, lead up to the Avengers, and the reimagining of WW2 from a superhero perspective.

Unfortunately it’s hard to top a great opening. I liked The Winter Soldier okay. I mean, it was a sequel. Still, it had some serious character development going on, and was largely centered on Steve Rogers (who we’ve already established, is perfect).

Captain America: Civil War official movie poster, © Marvel 2016

In plot, Civil War picked up where Winter Soldier left off, but with less focus on Steven Rogers’ character development. In fact, it felt like an excuse to play around with the idea of, “What would happen if the Avengers fought each other?!”

Yes, I don’t think it surprised anyone that Civil War had crazy fighting sequences.

Still, being a fan of Marvel-ous things, I appreciated the fan service. I like the new Spider-Man – and other things promised as a part of his introduction. I like and am excited about Black Panther. I like Ant-Man – the Marvel Universe can always use more Ant-Man (It is by far my favorite single character movie – though I have high hopes for Doctor Strange.).

I also liked the premise and way it resolved.

Vengeance v. Empathy

While I will avoid overt spoilers, I will say the tension between vengeance and empathy drives Civil War‘s plot.

And of course, I was all about this.

Vengeance is not edible. It’s not a dish and should never be served or eaten EVER.

Vengeance is a reflection of emotional immaturity. It comes from a place of strong attachment and the need for immediate gratification. It is myopic in vision, and can severely damage the self on many levels. When driven by something like vengeance, it is impossible to ever feel complete. Things like real joy and true peace are impossible.

On the other hand, when a person is wronged but has empathy, they may feel anger or sorrow, or any number of emotions. Then they move past such emotions. They take the time to listen to the story of another. They take the time to consider the other’s perspective. This requires a mature understanding of one’s self and of humanity.

Most people do not commit wrongful acts because they intend to do harm – rather, most people have the best intentions, with some knowledge, but little understanding. This leads to wrongful actions, but for the “right reasons.”

This is why it is troubling for me to see villains portrayed as purely evil, or heroes as purely good. No one is good or bad. People are complex creatures, with histories, beliefs, and desires driving their choices. People are just people trying to do the best they can.  Their actions may be good or bad, based on what understanding they have at any given moment.

This is where, once again, Marvel brings out the morals. Steve Rogers is the most principled of the Avengers. He has a deep understanding of humanity and of right action. If you can get over the crazy fight scenes, the movie actually has a pretty good message. I mean, this is a Captain America movie, and Cap is the poster boy for all things wholesome and morally correct.

And I love him for it.

Have you seen Civil War? What did you think? Leave a comment below!

Marvel Universe Does Empathy
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