When Captain America: Civil War smashed into theaters last year, it introduced a new wrinkle to the epic yarn Marvel has been weaving for the past decade. Specifically, The Avengers experienced a schism. And while the title Civil War could imply The Avengers were split on whether states’ rights should supersede federal rights, the primary issue of contention is actually whether or not The Avengers should subject themselves to bureaucratic oversight.
To this point in the films, The Avengers have operated autonomously. They’ve been a self-governing, self-funded crime fighting organization dedicated to protecting the greater good. Sure, there was a time when their entire organization was infiltrated by Nazis intent on killing thousands that would oppose their rule, but in general they have done a decent job of keeping the planet more or less intact.
Of course, during their tenure as world police, The Avengers also caused a lot of collateral damage. It can be difficult to always aim arm mounted laser cannons with perfect accuracy. By the time of Civil War, governments are questioning whether the most powerful army in the world to operate entirely independently, beholden to no one.
In an effort to curb the casualties, the United Nations ratifies a document called the “Sokovia Accords.” According to General Thadeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, “… it states that The Avengers shall no longer be a private organization. Instead, they’ll operate under the supervision of a United Nations panel, only when and if that panel deems it necessary.”
Basically, The Avengers will become just another perfectly sculpted arm of the UN peacekeeping corps. Theoretically, this provides increased accountability, as well as establishes peace of mind for countries leery of unwanted superhero intervention.
As one might expect, the not every Avenger is down to sign the Accords. Tony Stark, experiencing some combination of PTSD and survivor’s guilt, is immediately on board to sign the Accords. His hope is that having oversight will lessen the possibility of another incident where innocent people are killed. Steve Rogers, on the other hand, is very opposed to the Accords and governmental oversight generally. He believes this will neuter their effectiveness as well as potentially force them into less than desirable situations. They’ll lose their ability to choose, basically. The memory of Nazis infiltrating SHIELD is still a little too fresh for the WWII vet.
The movie – and the directors themselves – present the situation as a perfectly-balanced moral quandary with no clear answer. There are pros and cons to either move.
Unfortunately, the movie is flat out incorrect. Like tickling a sleeping Bruce Banner, the Sokovia Accords are a terrible idea and a great way to get everybody killed.
It’s Too Late
As Vision mentions early on in Civil War, ever since Iron Man came on the scene, supervillains and superheroes have been popping up at exponentially higher and higher rates. Every new superhero inevitably comes paired with some new supervillain desperate to test their mettle against the new, powerful hero. Vision – doing his best Yoda impersonation – explains that, “[superheroes’] very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”
The UN’s answer to that particular problem is apparently to limit superheroes’ power. Maybe if they weren’t so strong, supervillains would get bored and go back to playing Madden.
Except… how? According to Vision’s logic all the superheroes should just bugger off to Asgard or wherever and leave the planet. That’s the only way to stop inviting challenge. Villains aren’t going to stop just because The Avengers have to ask permission before deploying.
Even if Thor scooped The Avengers up in his mighty arms and flew back to his home world, all the villains they’ve created will still be around. Either The Avengers need to leave the planet and hope that any potential villains lying in wait decide to go into accounting instead, or The Avengers need to be ready to kick ass at a moment’s notice.
Usually, it isn’t even the actual superheroing that’s the, it’s what superheroes do in their downtime that’s more the issue.
Ultron Was The Result Of Unregulated Experimentation
The impetus for the Accords – as well as their naming – was the Battle of Sokovia. To save the planet from a rampaging super robot named Ultron, The Avengers destroyed an entire city. The horrible aftermath made UN lawmakers question The Avengers’ autonomy.
The problem here is that Ultron’s creation had literally nothing to do with anybody being a superhero. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner playing scientist on their day off created Ultron. Sure, Stark got the idea from Loki’s scepter, but Ultron wasn’t birthed as a result Thor punching a laptop mid battle or anything. It was created by a science experiment gone wrong, just like most other Marvel villains.
Unless the Accords’ committee will also provide experimentation oversight, the likelihood of another Sokovia-level event is practically inevitable. And that means The Avengers will be called upon again because…
Every Threat The Avengers Face Is “Worthy” Of Intervention
Again, the idea behind the “Sokovia Accords” is that a committee will determine whether an attack is “superhero-worthy” or not. The “troops” will deploy as needed.
Hopefully this will stop Iron Man from stopping a loiterer with shoulder-mounted missiles. The committee will save that kind of fire power for something that warrants it.
But have The Avengers ever deployed to any low-stakes situations? Sure, there have been a few, lesser events that have taken place in the Marvel universe, but most films end with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.
Virtually every situation mentioned as evidence for the Accords’ importance – New York, Sokovia, Lagos – revolved around either a literal, world-ending scenario or the potential deaths of millions. Any sane committee would surely see the benefit of stopping, say, aliens from another planet are attacking New York City.
For instance, the Lagos incident – condemned for its civilian deaths – was still about stopping a freaking biological weapon from being stolen. The Avengers couldn’t just let a weapon like that fall into terrorist hands.
Some civilians died, yes, but millions more were saved.
Deciding Where Avengers Deploy Won’t Change Their Tactics, Necessarily
When Thaddeus Ross confronts The Avengers about signing the Accords, he presents footage of the battle of New York as proof that The Avengers are inherently dangerous. Specifically, Ross forces them to watch footage of Hulk jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper, smashing everything with his gargantuan feet.
But how is choosing where The Avengers go and who they fight going to stop that? The UN isn’t really attempting to curb The Avengers’ tactics. Will the committee suggest every battle occur in the woods? How do you lure a sentient robot legion into a battleground of your choosing? Offer them unlimited batteries?
You could kindly ask Hulk to stop breaking everything, but that’s just how he moves. Dude can’t fly, so he has to clamber up buildings and jump off if he’s going to take out a low-flying spaceship or hovering robot overlord. Hulk was instrumental in defending New York. If Hulk merely watched news footage from his couch somewhere or was only allowed to fight if directly confronted on the ground, New York would be a pile of rubble.
Remember that? The alternative to The Avengers was nuking New York City into radioactive dust. How is that preferable, exactly? If The Avengers hadn’t shown up millions of civilians would be dead by direct order of the US government. That’s pretty brutal. Suddenly Hulk cracking a few windows doesn’t seem like quite as big a deal.
But say you did manage to convince Hulk to sit a battle out…
They’ll Need 100% Of Superheroes To Sign The Accords
At the end of Civil War, the film suggests that having half of the Avengers sign the Accords and half go rogue is perfectly fine.
Rogers tells Stark, “Call me if you need me.” Presumably he’s referring to a possible world-ending super battle and not just to talk about their feelings.
Except, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the Accords? If, during the next major event, Stark calls on Rogers’ help, he’ll be in direct violation of the Accords. Anything Rogers did would be inherently illegal.
Unless all superheroes sign the Accords, there won’t be anything stopping heroes from trying to stop supervillains on their own. Without securing oversight for every single superhero all the time, the Accords-approved Avengers regress to a world-wide anti-superhero police force. Their full-time job will be stopping “illegal” superheroes like Rogers from intervening whenever a villain strikes. It’s not like anybody else could police superheroes.
And what will be the result of this policing? Why, even more supervillains. Eventually, either Accords-approved Avengers will become disillusioned by constantly fighting and hindering good guys, or Rogue Avengers will become fed up and directly attack the organization that’s always trying to stop them from doing good in the world.
This is the end result of the Sokovia Accords. It’ll create dozens more supervillains the world over while simultaneously making it impossible for any remaining, loyal heroes to respond.
Captain America is 100% right about the Accords, he just doesn’t fully know why.