Captain America: Civil War

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

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 like his mother asked, instead of acting like a petulant and immature child. This regret forms the foundation for abdicating control of decision making to outside authorities--

--decision making that Steve Rodgers demands must be held by the individual. 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 Obstacle Character in Captain America: Civil War, not Main Character.

A Balanced and Purposeful Narrative

When you set the Main Character Problem to Control in Dramatica®, the Obstacle Character Problem automatically sets itself to Consider. 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 Continuum of Spacetime).

Steve’s headstrong point-of-view suggests a maintaining of resolve and an impact sourcing from an internal perspective (Obstacle Character Resolve of Steadfast and an Obstacle Character Throughline of Mind). It also explains the presence of Peter Parker as an extension of this point-of-view through a narrative technique known as an Obstacle Character Hand-Off. Peter fills in for Steve in his absence and challenges Tony to reconsider his way of doing things. In order to balance out these similar points-of-view, Tony must pivot away from focusing first on the fallout of his actions (Main Character Resolve of Changed and Main Character Approach of Do-er).

In an action packed four-quadrant film like this, a Male 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 control the situation. Steve is driven to consider right from wrong first. Put the two together and you set the foundation for the conflict felt between the Main Character and Obstacle 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 (Objective Story Throughline of Physics). Whether motivated out of personal loss or job security, the attempt to limit the destructive damange caused by the Avengers only serves to increase the amount of loss of life. (Objective Story Issue of Self Interest and Objective Story Problem of Control). The Scarlett Witch's initial gesture to save Captain America's life represents an act of control that goes horribly wrong (Story Driver of Action). Seeing the Avengers as blindly looking for the next fight, the proposed Sokovia Accords aim to prevent and avoid any further casualities (Objective Story Focus of Pursuit and Objective Story Direction of Avoidance).

Unfortunately, this kind of approach only perpetuates the conflict. What is needed is a breaking free from constraints and an embracing of the chaos (Objective Story Solution of Free)--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 Universe, Main Character Issue of Delay). As the "Futurist", Tony always looks down the road to avoid any devastating personal consequences Main Character Concern of the Future).

In short, Tony’s personal motivation to control his own situation matches the motivation to control conflict found in the larger narrative. "Eyeballing" that shot at the end resolves both his personal Throughline and the Objective Story Plot Throughline of revenge (Objective Story Solution and Main Character Solution of Free).

The Bad Guy Protagonist

The Dramatica theory of story makes no judgment as to the altruism 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 (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--and to lose control.

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 Objective Story Throughline in much the same way that the Main Character balances out concerns of the Obstacle Character. Within the Objective 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 failure to resolve another kind of team: a friendship.

Their friendship struggles as the basic belief in their relationship and the trust inherent in a friendship fails to motivate flow (Relationship Story Problem of Faith). 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).

Steve's olive branch letter stating "I'll be there for you" persists this problem of Faith: their friendship never resolves. Like the Avengers themselves, Steve and Tony find their personal team fractured–setting up the potential for resolution resting in the next installment of the series.

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

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