Civil War may be the best of the MCU movies. Philosophically, it certainly deals with the toughest questions. What do you do when personal freedom clashes with societal security? How important is loyalty in relation to your ideals? What is the cost of friendship?
It's a tough movie.
The one drawback to Civil War is that you can't really come into this one as your first MCU movie. They do a decent job of filling in enough gaps for the audience to understand what's going on but, minimally, you need to have seen Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron to really understand the context of what's happening. Of course, if you have seen the earlier material, it makes this movie all the richer, but I can see it being a barrier for someone coming in.
There's so much in this movie, in fact, that it can't be covered in a simple review. So much so that in my original review (which I am not going to link for this very reason), I glossed over the plot and focused on the acting introductions in the film. I'm not going to apologize. The acting in this one is stellar, and the newcomers deserved some notice. This time, I'm going to focus only on the central question: Should we abandon personal freedom in favor of safety and security?
Tony Stark says yes. He says keeping people safe is the highest good, and giving up your autonomy is a worthy sacrifice for that goal. It makes sense that he would say that. He suffered a severe trauma in the first MCU movie when he had his own personal safety violated. Everything he has done since then has been in the service of keeping people safe. Including the creation of Ultron.
And the creation of Ultron and the disaster which followed is one of the motivators for what happens in Civil War. Tony realizes he needs some oversight, while putting it in the context of the team having oversight. As if that would have prevented Ultron. Because we all know that, oversight or not, Ultron would have happened anyway, because Tony is going to do what Tony is going to do no matter what kind of oversight is in place. To say that it's ironic is an understatement.
Steve Rogers says personal liberty is more important. Which also makes sense considering he fought in a world war against fascism. He has also served under other people's agendas and knows what that's like and that, frequently, those agendas don't uphold the common good and/or are more concerned with the exploitation of others. Most importantly, having to wait for other people to debate a situation can take so long as to make the situation something which cannot be responded to. And, this, I found more than a little amusing because Stark uses this same basic argument with Banner as to why they should not consult the team before pursuing Ultron.
Here's the thing: They are both right. To some extent, at any rate. People should be allowed to make their own decisions and live their own lives but, yes, we also need laws and rules to act as safeguards. But where do you draw that line?
I don't have that answer for you.
And neither does the movie.
Steve, because he is inherently a good guy, always looking out for the well-being of others, willing to sacrifice himself for his fellow man, doesn't need the Accords and, so, he is against being tied up by them. He's going to do the right thing, even if the whole world says he's wrong. I get that. I've been that person standing up against hundreds of people saying "what you're doing is wrong" while the people in charge tell you that you just don't understand the whole situation. Basically, Steve doesn't need the Accords because he's already doing his best to live up to the spirit of them.
And he believes that people should be allowed the freedom to make the same choice that he has, not have it enforced on them. Will people actually make that choice? Probably not, but they should be given the chance.
In many respects, it's a movie without a bad guy. Unless you want to count General Ross, who is definitely not a good guy, and Zemo, who is a bad guy but an understandable bad guy and not actually the cause of the central conflict. Throw in Black Panther and Spider-Man and you have one helluva movie. I'm tempted to leave Avengers at #1 because of all the backstory that Civil War requires, but... if I were going to sit down and watch any MCU movie right now, it would be Civil War, even though I just watched it.
So, then, the new rankings:
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Iron Man
7. Thor: The Dark World
11. Iron Man 3
12. Iron Man 2
13. Incredible Hulk (Thanks, Norton, because of you, they kicked Hulk off the whole planet.)