Avengers: Endgame finally settled the conflict between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) from Captain America: Civil War. As part of the set-up for the events of Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel, Marvel Studios broke up Earth's Mightiest Heroes over the ideological differences of the team's two leaders with regard to the Sokovia Accords which would've put them under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. Having very different personal arcs at that point, Stark and Cap butt heads about whether or not they'll sign the accords.
Captain America, having been burned by being a loyal agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. not knowing that it had been HYDRA infested for the longest time understandably didn't want to give up the Avengers' free-will and get on board with the Accords. Stark, on the other hand, was open on working with the U.N. and abiding by the accords as he carried the guilt over the aftermath of his creation of Ultron. It was an interesting dichotomy considering that Rogers is the soldier who's used to play by the rules, while Stark was the rebel billionaire who explicitly told the Senate that they can't have his tech not that long ago. Their conflict eventually became personal when Stark found out that Rogers intentionally hid the fact that his brainwashed best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) murdered his parents.
Captain America: Civil War Didn't Pick A Winner
Captain America: Civil War's marketing leaned on the public choosing sides: Team Iron Man or Team Cap. But by the end of the film, Civil War doesn't actually resolve the conflict between Steve and Tony or even indicate who's right or wrong. Iron Man seemed to "win," the actual battle, as Cap is forced into hiding as most of the Avengers that sided with him are imprisoned, but the movie seemed to lack an actual opinion on the legitimacy of the Sokovia Accords. Now, three years after, Avengers: Endgame finally settles the debate, at least with regard to the Sokovia Accords.
Following Captain America: Civil War, Stark and Rogers were kept separate in the two year-lead-up to Avengers: Infinity War and through it. Much has been said about the Avengers' chances of defeating Thanos the first time had they been together as their break-up left the Earth as its most vulnerable. Suffering defeat at different locations, Avengers: Endgame reunited Iron Man and Captain America early on in the film. But the emotional reunion that everyone was expecting where the two set aside their differences and band together to tackle the mess that Thanos left behind played out differently.
A physically and emotionally drained Stark who had been lost in space for 22 days wasn't exactly happy hatching a plot to defeat Thanos and restore peace and order in the galaxy. A stark difference compared to the other heroes in Avengers HQ who had been actively finding ways to locate the Mad Titan and lay the law on him. As they questioned Stark about his personal experience fighting Thanos that may further their cause, he suddenly snapped - recounting all the times he's warned everyone about this looming threat that's come to fruition.
Thanos' Avengers: Infinity War Victory Proves Iron Man Was Right
Stark's anger was particularly geared towards Rogers, recalling how his repeated warnings fell on deaf ears with the super soldier prioritizing preserving their individual liberties than compromising to ensure that they're still able to do their responsibilities as superheroes, particularly recalling the events of Captain America: Civil War. In the film, Stark repeatedly attempted to convince Captain America to change his stance. He believed that by signing the Accords would give them a better position to negotiate the best terms for themselves, it was their best shot at keeping the team intact and active. Instead, the Avengers disbanded, with Rogers going underground for two years leading up to Avengers: Infinity War.
Stark also brought out the fact that Captain America promised him that if push came to shove in terms of his premonition, they'd fight the then-unnamed threat together, and if they lose, they'd do that together too. But being separated from his fellow Avengers as they fought in Wakanda while he was on Titan, Stark experienced The Decimation almost alone. He was with heroes he barely even knew while his surrogate son, Peter Parker/Spider-Man turn into dust in his arms. He ended his rant by explicitly calling Rogers a liar, declaring that he doesn't trust him.
Endgame Says Iron Man Was Right, But that Doesn't Condemn Captain America
Granted that Captain America wasn't able to air his side of the story with Stark blacking out shortly after his breakdown, Rogers kept his silence all throughout with barely any change in his facial features, as if acknowledging every single thing that his fellow Avengers was saying. While Steve didn't verbally concede to Stark's accusations, he's also not the type to keep his mum when he disagrees with something. We saw this during the heroes' initial conversation about the Sokovia Accords in Avengers HQ, as well as his exchange with Nick Fury about propagating fear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In both instances, he made it clear where he stands on the issues-at-hand. So the fact that he didn't challenge Stark's claims throughout the movie must mean that he realized the error of his ways.
While Rogers gave Stark a way to contact him in case he needed them, the sting of his betrayal regarding the murder of Howard and Maria Stark was more difficult to get through than their disagreements about the Accords. At one point in Avengers: Infinity War, Stark was almost going to make the call, especially knowing that the looming threat was the one he saw in his vision. But he didn't have time to do just that because of the sudden arrival of Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian in New York.
This, of course, is not to say that Rogers was wrong all throughout the events of Captain America: Civil War. His actions in the film were shaped by his personal experiences the same way with Stark's. There's also his oldest friend, Bucky, who's caught in the middle of the predicament, being framed for the bombing of the United Nation's gathering. Given those, it's hard to argue with his reasons for stubbornly refusing to sign the Sokovia Accords, especially with the fallout of the HYDRA-run S.H.I.E.L.D. still fresh in his memory. But knowing now how his fallout with Stark and the break-up of the Avengers would give Thanos the perfect opportunity to strike, there's no doubt that Rogers would've been more open to finding a middle ground than refusing to budge.
In the end, while Marvel Studios and the Russos didn't pick sides in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Endgame clearly concludes that the heroes would've had a better chance against Thanos in Infinity War and prevent the catastrophic snap if they stuck together. And as established in Captain America: Civil War, the only way they could've done that without becoming hunted vigilantes was to approach the situation smartly and sign the Sokovia Accords. While this limited their personal actions, it would've allowed them to continue being the Avengers, making them more properly prepared when the Mad Titan attacked.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019