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Captain America: Civil War

A classic story of revenge, told from a surprising perspective.

Structure: 4/5 | Entertainment: 4/5

In an ensemble film where many characters deal with various obstacles and emotional struggles, one expects the character named in the title to be the primary point-of-view.

Not so with Captain America: Civil War.

While Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans)–Captain America–serves to push forward a certain agenda that influences much of the conflict in the film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Iron Man, offers us the intimate personal view of conflict only seen through a Main Character perspective.

Tony opens up his journey with a look back at a significant moment in his life: the last time he saw his father and mother alive. He shares with us his deep emotional baggage: he wishes he would have told his father he loved him instead of acting like a petulant and immature child. This regret forms the foundation for his motivation to avoid making the same kind of mistakes based on feelings–

-feelings that Steve Rodgers essentially infuses into everything he says and does. In fact, Steve’s stubbornness to consider any other viewpoint other than his goody two-shoes 1940s black-and-white wholesome American values influences those around him to want to punch Steve in his “perfect teeth”.

Steve acts as Influence Character in Captain America: Civil War, not Main Character.

A Balanced and Purposeful Narrative

When you set the Main Character Problem to Avoidance in Dramatica®, the Influence Character Problem automatically sets itself to Feeling. This is, of course, after you select certain obvious Character and Plot Dynamics. The film ends in Triumph (Story Outcome of Success & Story Judgment of Good) and finds itself driven by actions and a dwindling number of superhero friends who can come into conflict before Iron Man and Captain America must go head-to-head (Story Driver of Action & Story Limit of Optionlock).

Steve’s headstrong point-of-view suggests a maintaining of resolve and an impact sourcing from an internal perspective (Influence Character Resolve of Steadfast and an Influence Character Throughline of Fixed Attitude). In order to balance out this point-of-view, Tony must pivot his approach away from taking action first (Main Character Resolve of Changed and Main Character Approach of Do-er).

In an action packed four-quadrant film like this, a Linear Main Character Problem-Solving Style is a foregone conclusion. Writing a Holistic Problem-Solver would only serve to isolate the Audience and drive away much of Marvel’s core Audience.1

Tony is driven to avoid conflict. Steve is driven by his feelings for his friend, Bucky. Put the two together and you set the foundation for the conflict felt between the Main Character and Influence Character Throughlines, respectively.

You also lock down the one storyform that determines the thematic concerns of the entire story, while simultaneously communicating the purpose of the film.

Message and Purpose

Captain America: Civil War is a story of revenge (Overall Story Throughline of Activities). Whether motivated out of personal loss or job security, the attempt to avoid or prevent further conflict only serves to increase the amount of violence (Overall Story Issue of Self Interest and Overall Story Problem of Avoidance). Seeing the Avengers as an out-of-control and destructive entity, the proposed Sokovia Accords aim to bring superheroes under the proper supervision of governmental agencies (Overall Story Symptom of Uncontrolled and Overall Story Response of Control).

Unfortunately, this kind of approach only perpetuates the conflict. What is needed is a proactive and purposeful attempt to resolve the situation (Overall Story Solution of Pursuit)–the kind of purposeful and proactive response Tony Stark needs to take, both professionally and personally.

Connecting Objective to Subjective

Tony’s Augmented Reality presentation defines for us what it feels like to be isolated and alone. The lack of Pepper Potts’ presence and the loss of his parents set the stage for a personal account of someone who will do anything to put off what they see as inevitable (Main Character Throughline of Situation, Main Character Issue of Delay, Main Character Concern of the Future).

In short, Tony’s personal motivation to avoid conflict matches the motivation to prevent conflict found in the larger narrative. His personal pursuit of Captain America–as a friend–resolves both his personal Throughline and the Overall Story plot Throughline of revenge.

The Bad Guy Protagonist

The Dramatica theory of story makes no judgment as to the morality of the Protagonist of the narrative. A Protagonist pursues and considers while the Antagonist prevents and reconsiders. More often than not, this aligns with common cultural understandings of good and bad. Protagonist do good, Antagonists do bad. Some stories, however, take an alternative approach.

In Captain America: Civil War, the “bad guy” Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) seeks to tear apart the Avengers by pitting Iron Man and Captain American against one another (Overall Story Goal of Obtaining). This relentless pursuit of revenge places Zemo within the objective role of Protagonist. Tony’s arrival at the Siberian Hydra facility places him in a perfect position to witness the real events of his father’s death and give him reason to fight both Cap and the Winter Soldier.

Zemo exacts his revenge and wins (Story Outcome of Success).

The End of the Avengers, the End of a Friendship

The Relationship Story Throughline balances out the Overall Story Throughline in much the same way that the Main Character balances out concerns of the Influence Character. Within the Overall Story perspective of Captain America: Civil War, we witness the separation of the many parts of a team. Within the Relationship Story Throughline we witness the separation of a certain kind of team: a friendship.

The drive to take advantage of what was once a great friendship undermines the connection Tony and Steve once felt for each other (Relationship Story Problem of Temptation). This dysfunction eventually transforms what they once had into an arrangement more adversarial in nature (Relationship Story Throughline of Psychology, Relationship Story Concern of Becoming).

While Steve tosses out an olive branch at the end of the narrative with his “I’ll be there for you” speech (Relationship Story Solution of Conscience), the damage has already been done. For now, their relationship as friends no longer exists. Like the Avengers themselves, Steve and Tony find their personal team fractured–setting up the potential for a future narrative to resolve their separation.


  1. To understand why this is the case, please read about the concept of Problem-Solving Style↩︎

Final Storyform Settings

Story Engine Settings for Captain America: Civil War:

The image above is taken from the Story Engine window of Dramatica Story Expert. Story points in BLUE represent choices made by the user. Story points in RED reflect implied story elements provided by Dramatica.

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