– by Joseph Jammer Medina

It’s been a topic of debate amongst fans ever since Captain America: Civil War came out last May: Was the film too safe? Too toothless? With so many super-powered beings battling it out, with a wildcard like brutal Winter Soldier in the mix, and multiple villains, was it a kind of toothless decision to not have any of them die? After all, the trailers certainly wanted us to think that the stakes in the film were life or death (as evidenced by the powerful image above).

Well, according to Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Captain America: Civil War, death would’ve actually dulled the impact of what they were trying to do. They argue that the choice to not have a superhero casualty was actually the more bold option because it made it so that what actually happened really hits home. 

Here’s what the Captain America: Civil War directors told HitFix, with a little help from producer Kevin Feige, about the decision to have every Avenger survive:

Anthony Russo: “We never talked about killing  Cap in this one, right? No.”
Joe Russo: “We did for a beat. We talk about everything.”
Anthony Russo: “I think the thing to remember is, we do talk about every possible scenario over and over and over again for months and months and months. We talked about it. But it never made its way into a realistic outline.”
Feige: “Well, the ending was always more about fracturing the team completely before getting into Infinity War.”
Joe Russo: “We talked about lots of potential characters dying at the end of the movie. And we thought that it would undercut what is really the rich tension of the movie, which is this is Kramer vs Kramer. It’s about a divorce. If somebody dies, it would create empathy, which would change and allow for repair, and we didn’t want to do that.”
Feige: “In the amazing comic book story, which certainly the conceit of this movie is based on and some of the specifics — during their big battle, which has a hundred times as many characters, a character dies. And we talked about that for a while. And, ultimately, we thought what happened to Rhodey would be enough of a downer.”
Anthony Russo: “The tragedy is the family falls apart. Not that the family falls apart and then somebody dies.”

When you look at it from that perspective, it does make some storytelling sense. A death would obfuscate the core message of the film: The team has broken apart and, with the Infinity War looming, the earth has never been as vulnerable as it is right now. 

Personally, I think the big problem with Captain America: Civil War was the fluffy tone of the fight at the airport. While it was cool and wonderfully-staged, it was just so danger-free that it cushioned the rest of the film’s blows too much. Had that sequence had more bite to it, the whole film might have felt stronger and more powerful. It didn’t need a death. It just needed to have a sense that someone really could die, and that there were entities within the battle that were really out for blood. Instead it was treated like a fun little romp.

What do you think of this explanation for Captain America: Civil War‘s lack of superhero casualties? Now we know why the Russos never seriously considered killing anyone off, but now we must ask: Did they succeed in making the “Kramer vs Kramer” divorce hit home the way they wanted? Discuss.


Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.