Captain America Civil War Analysis - Main Character Question

That actually brings up something else.

I think there are actually two stories (or at least two sets of throughlines) in the movie. I kept noticing that there are basically two sources of discord. You’ve got the Accords on the one hand, but then you have Zemo and his plotting on the other. Neither of these is actually dependent on the other, though they do magnify stress in the cast.

Notice how certain characters only care about one or the other – Secretary Ross doesn’t care at all about anything to do with Zemo, while T’challa doesn’t really care about the Accords after the first five minutes.


I could see that. The first driver seems to be Scarlet Witch’s accident, the final driver I would see as Cap driving his Shield into Iron Man, effectively ending the Avengers.

The first driver seems completely separate from Zemo and his plan. It was kind of a rub for me when I was thinking about it. I feel like the Accord stuff plays out mostly in the Relationship Story with the two teams representing Cap and Iron Man. Just like the confrontation with the Mother at the University pulls double duty for Iron Man’s personal throughline, and representing the world at large’s changing opinion of the Avengers.

The Zemo stuff is played like a mystery, so the storytelling is really light throughout most of the movie.

Black Panther’s quest for vengeance feels separate from the Overall Story. Kind of a sub-story. Ross seems to want to control the Avengers, and Zemo wants to destroy them. I think the confusion is that we don’t really see what’s happening until the big confrontation at the Hydra facility at the end.

All of the throughlines seem to be blended really well which makes objectivity kind of hard. I think all of the subjective stuff is pretty clearly Iron Man and Cap, but there could definitely be a split OS though.

I’d be interested what other people’s thoughts are as well.

Well, the way it plays out in my head is Accords-Iron Man-Captain America and Zemo-T’challa-Bucky, with some cross-pollination. (As opposed to finding Nemo, where the Marlin-Dory story and the Nemo-Gil story are almost essentially separate).

Do you see the Zemo story as having it’s own Relationship, MC, and IC or as a tale that’s woven together with the storyform?

I think the problem I’m having is that the accords themselves seem to fall away pretty quickly. Ross shows up and tells them they have a choice to sign or face whatever comes. Then the UN meets to ratify the accords, but are bombed by Zemo. Then … ?

I assume they just get ratified sometime off screen, as Ross gets his secret prison to lock up defectors. It feels like the accords only really serve to kick off the division of Cap and Iron Man, and once they’ve served that purpose, the story hands off to Zemo’s plot.

I might need to rewatch with these questions in mind to see if some answers shake loose.

Spoilers: The accords I think were inevitable, but rather then be an object to the plot themselves, they serve to split the team into fugitive and non-fugitive parties. The accords aren’t an end in and of themselves so much as a means to indicate they no longer have the world’s blessing. Wherever the Avengers who didn’t sign the accords go, they’re marked as high level criminals. So their fate isn’t affected by the accords so much as the decision not to sign.

Maybe this is a story with 8 throughlines.

Cap is MC of one throughline, Iron Man is IC of another
Steve Rogers is IC of one throughline, Tony Stark is MC of another
Zemo is Antagonist of one OC, Cap is Protagonist, IM is Contagonist
General Ross is Antagonist of another OC, Iron Man is Protagonist, Cap is Contagonist
Then there is one relationship story of Steve and Tony
And another relationship story of Cap and Iron Man.

Yes, I’m bringing up a topic from 236 days ago…!

Finally saw this over the weekend, and I would agree with the notion that Stark is the Main Character. The Authors position him there with the AR sequence regarding his father and mother, the scene in the basement with Olivia Davis (You killed my son!), and the lack of awareness regarding who was in the car.

I’m not sure if I would consider it an “accidental” Main Character, but rather the Main Character they went with.

I would agre with the idea that Zemo is the Protagonist. Civil War is a typical Revenge storyform with Obtaining as the OS Goal/Concern. I like the idea of Cap as Antagonist, trying to get everyone to become something more–to follow his ideals of friendship and camaraderie rather than anything official.

I would think Tony might be more Hinder and Conscience in this context.

The position of Main Character is less about “taking sides” and more about point-of-view. The Main Character Throughline is a perspective–a unique singular perspective that let’s us know what it’s like to personally experience the conflict in the story.

Through Stark we understand intimately why he wants to avoid any further incidents. The AR sequence with his father and mother tells us as much. And every step of the way we are in his shoes looking out at the actions of Captain America and seeing what someone with conviction of heart does.

My take on the storyform is a familiar one…

  • Changed
  • Stop
  • Do-er
  • Linear
  • Action
  • Optionlock
  • Success
  • Good
  • Activity
  • Obtaining
  • Self Interest
  • Avoidance

With the out-of-control antics of the Avengers in question and the Sokovia Accords the answer, the dynamic of Uncontrolled as a Symptom and Control as a Response makes the most sense.

This also gives Tony a personal problem of Avoidance (as mentioned above).

Steve is the pain-in-the-ass he always is with his Fixed Attitude and his Driver of Feelings (he really cares about Bucky way too much!)

Their friendship breaks and dissolves by the end of the narrative which is nice for Changing One’s Nature.

And my analysis of Captain America: Civil War for those wanting a permanent record.

I might be way off here, but having seen the film a few times I come up with a very different storyform. I’ll just put it in broad terms here just focusing on the OS.

OS: Fixed Attitude
I realize this is unusual for an action film, but all of the conflict here comes out of what people believe. Tony is convinced that superheroes need reigning in, Steve is convinced (partly from the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier) that the government can’t be trusted to determine his actions, Black Panther is so convinced that Bucky murdered his father that he doesn’t think before he tries to kill him. Zemo is convinced that the Avengers are to blame for his family’s death even though the evidence is actually that they had pretty much no choice in the matter. Colonel Ross, speaking on behalf of the American people (in effect) is convinced superheroes are a danger to society. Go up and down the line and a fixed attitude is always behind conflict, even in something as small as Vision and Scarlet Witch (he’s convinced that people’s fear will make her a monster in their eyes so he tries to keep her locked up.)

Take away any of these fixed attitudes – heck, just put them on pause for five minutes – and the inequity in the story could go away. It’s not until each character lets go of their fixed attitude that the story resolves itself: Tony realizes he’s been wrong about the Accords, Cap realizes he can’t be a rebel and still expect to carry the shield, Black Panther realizes that killing isn’t the answer (even refusing to let Zemo kill himself – despite now knowing it was Zemo who killed his father). Go up and down the line and the source of conflict is the set of fixed attitudes, all stemming from the one issue: should beings with super powers be allowed to walk around doing whatever they think is best.

This is why I think the overall concern is impulsive responses: Scarlet Witch’s impulsive response to stop the bomb leads to a number of deaths which sets up the basis for the accords. Zemo believes the Avengers’ impulsive responses made them utterly ignorant of the small lives they shatter along the way, Tony doesn’t trust his own impulsive responses because of his meeting with the mother of the dead son, and Steve is convinced that he is both responsible for and must trust in his impulsive responses as a hero.

I realize that you can’t look at one domain in isolation, so just quickly: MC is Steve Rogers (sorry, Jim, but nobody in the audience watching that movie – especially the writers, I would argue, given it’s called Captain America: Civil War, would think Tony is the MC). With a resolve of steadfast (he grows into his conviction that he must be free to act according to his conscience – so much so that he’s willing to give up the shield to do it.) The source of conflict for Steve comes from the things he’s doing: every action he takes comes back to bite him in the ass (as Tony so quickly shows him: the events from the opening scene, his attempt to keep the German cops from getting Bucky…etc. All of these aren’t simply actions in service of something, it’s the way Steve does things that creates conflict. I think his issue is Experience (specifically, his experience in the war and in recent events convinces him he has to be allowed to do things his own way.)

IC is Tony Stark, who’s constantly trying to manipulate Steve (and everyone else) to come to his side. Notice the kinds of promises and concessions he tries to make to get Steve to sign, but in the last instant, Steve sees this as manipulation, and thus hands him the pen back. Tony is motivated entirely by his desire for a better future – something we’ve seen time and time again with that character and he speaks of directly in the movie.

Finally, the RS is in situation: two friends are being pulled apart by the way the situation is getting out of control (Concern of How Things Are Changing). The problems between them stem from the way Tony wants to adapt to a changing world and Steve’s seeming inability to stop acting as if it’s still 1945.

So, I could, of course, be way off, but that’s how I see the structure. I can’t think of any other action movie I’ve seen where people spend so much time articulating their entrenched belief about something – and that being the direct impetus for their conflicts.

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen it, but I remember thinking Tony seemed pretty MC-ish at times. I kinda had the feeling that the writers were thinking of it more as another Avengers film than strictly a Captain America film. If that were accurate, it might explain why Tony feels more MC-ish at times.

Also, I suspect the film wasn’t written with Dramatica at the forefront. This is only a guess, but i’d be willing to guess a lot of people involved in the writing and production of the film would tell you that there’s two MCs, which would be another reason Tony feels so much like an MC in a Captain America film, rather than a proper IC.

I’m not arguing or disagreeing here. Just asking. If those Fixed Attitudes go away, does that solve the inequity, or does it just change who joins Team Cap or Team Iron Man. If the Accords go away and the heroes don’t have to register with the government, is there still a problem? Will those Fixed Attitudes still drive a wedge between the Avengers?

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The Fixed Attitude in the OS is the widespread belief that the Avengers are to blame for the deaths that occur when they fight off various threats. So they save Sokovia from total annihilation from the attack by Ultron (referenced in Civil War) but lives are lost in the process. This is obviously a debatable idea – and this fixed attitude is what leads to the Sokovia Accords, the rush to capture and kill Winter Soldier, and the conflicts between the Avengers. Take away this fixed attitude (i.e. replace it with something more nuanced) and the conflicts go away.

There’s a huge difference between what the characters think the problem is from a subjective view and what the story itself is identifying as conflict from an objective viewpoint.

Yes the characters argue about their fixed positions, but that’s not even remotely the source of conflict. This is a superhero action movie where they spend about 90% of the time punching, kicking, landing in that same cliches pose over and over again.

The entire airport sequence isn’t anywhere close to the same kind of conflict experienced in Doubt or Twelve Angry Men or To Kill a Mockingbird. These are stories where the actual Inequity as seen from an objectified view outside of the characters is a Fixed Attitude.

The conflict in this story is so clearly revenge—revenge that requires Iron Man and Cap to go head-to-head—that it can’t be anything else but Activities.

Regardless of who the audience assumes the main character is, the fact of the matter is that Steve has info we don’t know. That means he can’t represent the I perspective. You’re using the same argument everyone uses when it comes to The Shawshank Redemption and Andy. Just because we start with him and focus tons of time on him doesn’t make him the Main Character when it comes to Dramatica’s definition of that Throughline.

Also this:

Does not describe a Relationship Story Throughline. The Domain of the RS does not describe the “Domain” of their argument but rather the kind of conflict felt within a relationship—in this case a friendship. Not once does their status, or reputation, or social standing somehow impact their feelings towards one another.

Your last sentence about Tony wanting Steve to adapt and Steve refusing to change—that defines a relationship challenged by an inability of two manners of thinking to coexist and co-create. The inability for their relationship to grow and mature is the very definition of a Concern (or lack) of Changing Ones Nature.

You could certainly be right about the OS and I defer to your deeper knowledge of Dramatica, but the logic given – that “this is a superhero action movie where they spend about 90% of the time punching, kicking” (hyperbole aside) – strongly implies that the Dramatica domains are defined by whether the quantity of action versus talking. Doubt is a movie that spends all its time in conversations (I think it’s based on the play of the same name, so that makes sense) and thus can be in one of the internal domains, whereas Civil War spends its time in action, thus must be in an external domain – irrespective of the source of the conflicts. No matter how much punching or kicking is going on, the cause of the conflict in Civil War has to do with fundamental disagreements over a fixed attitude about whether or not Superhumans are to blame for the casualties that come with their actions. Not only is this consistently argued (almost every second that isn’t spent punching is spent wrestling with this question), but it’s also not, as you contend, simply what the characters subjectively think it’s about – it’s what it really is about. They aren’t disagreeing about whether the Accords are a good idea because they’re fighting – they’re fighting because they disagree about the Accords.

I also really need to address your point that “this story is so clearly revenge”. It’s really not. One of the criticisms of Civil War is that the entire Zemo subplot is unnecessary to the story. You could keep him out of the movie (and his attendant reveal of Winter Soldier having killed Tony’s parents) and the entire film functions just the same. The whole point – articulated by Zemo himself at the end of the movie – is that the bonds between the Avengers are utterly fragile, that he could use their differences against them. You could certainly say there’s a second storyform inside the movie – one in which the OS is in Manipulation (Zemo is manipulating various players into conflict with each other – remove the manipulation and his efforts at revenge fall apart), and where Tony is the MC (its his parents who die) and Cap is the IC, but that story is so much smaller than the actual Civil War story which – by any measure: what’s on the screen most of the time, what the writers have said about the film, what the audience thinks the film is about – is about superheroes fighting each other over whether or not the Accords should be signed.

To your point about the RS: Steve and Tony have had no problem being friends up until now despite clearly viewing each other as having different beliefs. What’s causing havoc between them is that the situation keeps changing (generally for the worse) and their different reactions to it drive a wedge between them. Take the worsening external situation away and these two guys go off for a beer and make jokes about Tony being a playboy and Steve being an old man.

Again, maybe I’m just misunderstanding the point of Dramatica domains, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen countless times where someone asks if Dramatica considers action movies to be de-facto about activities or situation and someone saying no, it’s the source of the conflict that defines the domain.



I’d argue that if you go back before those disagreements arise and look at WHY the Accords are brought in, it’s absolutely an activity OS. The carnage they cause while fighting crime is what ignites those problems. Even ignoring the Zemo stuff (though I’m not sure how this story would function without him), you have the bombings; the death of T’Chaka; the hunt for the Winter Soldier, etc. Lots and lots of activities that raise those questions about whether or not they need to be supervised (which could just be illustrations of a Self-Interest v Morality theme).

As far as I remember, the arguments regarding the Accords are largely kept between Tony and Steve. You have a few scenes with the others commenting on it, but the story at large seems to be about Steve trying to protect the Winter Soldier from the people that want him killed (including Tony), which would put it firmly in Activity.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, though.

I’ve seen it pretty recently, and I’d argue that the effort to protect the Winter Soldier is almost entirely in the MC domain. Steve’s concerned about it, but most people are dealing with the Accords, what side to be on, and whether they’re willing to fight each other over that question. Tony’s top priority isn’t the Winter Soldier – he wants the Accords signed. Hawkeye doesn’t care about the Winter Soldier, he’s just siding with Steve against Tony. Natasha’s dilemma isn’t about the Winter Soldier, but about which of these two sides she’s going to choose given her past. At every turn, this is a story about choosing sides. Take out the Winter Soldier storyline and you’d still have Civil War as a complete story. Remove the problem of choosing sides on the Accord and the story falls apart. That’s why, ultimately, I can see a strong argument for two storyforms.

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I love this! I’ve been feeling something about Dramatica. It is almost perfect. The one thing we all might be missing here is that Dramatica is based on the Storymind. The Storymind is based on Human Psychology. Our “manners of thinking”. That means we are not too alike and not too dissimilar. What matters the most is that all FOUR throughlines of thinking are taken into account when Solving the inequity. Both Jim and Sébastien have solid arguments. And both storyforms make sense. What’s got me geeking out is how each person applies the theory when crafting a story. The audience reception (influenced by their station, life experiences etc) is unique to each individual Storymind. I mean, Melanie still swears James Bond is the antagonist. And I tend to lean more in that direction. Lol