- In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America, rather than compromise his moral stance for the sake of 7 billion lives, decides the truly heroic thing to do is to do nothing and let Ultron crash the city into the Earth and wipe out all of humanity. Not only does he do this, he also insinuates the other Avengers are insane for even considering blowing up the city to save the world. Had Nick Fury and SHIELD not arrive there, the entire human population would’ve died, and Captain America had no way of knowing that Fury was on his way. Captain America essentially froze because he couldn’t bring himself to do something pragmatic.
- In Captain America: Civil War, Captain America ignores the arguments presented for the Avengers being under closer governance, because he trusts his intuition and his perspective more than he does any other. This brings him at odds with Iron Man, who believes they should have to answer to someone. In addition to all this, Captain America places the life of Bucky in front of everyone and everything else, and is willing to go to “war” with the people closest to him, for a man who is an assassin for the people Captain America himself considers the worst people alive.
To, again, distill all this down, it’s clear that Captain America is a moral absolutist. Essentially, it’s the belief that some actions are inherently good, and others are inherently wrong. There is no middle ground. For example, sacrificing that one city to save the entirety of the human race is a bad thing, no matter what the context is. To Marvel’s credit, they managed to create a world where a black and white philosophy like that can exist, but that philosophy has no place in the real world, which is comprised of more grays. Let’s take a look at the DCEU’s Superman, to show this.
- In Man of Steel, Clark is taught to be careful about how he uses his powers and who he shows them to. A now infamous scene involves him saving a bus-full of kids, and his father saying maybe he should’ve let them drown. Many people have taken this out of context, but within the context, it’s a father telling his son that even though he did the unquestionably right thing, given what he is it may have been the wrong thing to do. This questioning of right and wrong is something that’s ever-present with Clark.
- In Batman v Superman, Clark turns himself over to the government to have a trial (he also did this in Man of Steel, but for different reasons). He puts himself into the hands of the people to be tried even though he didn’t have to—even though he thought what he was doing was the right thing.
- In Batman v Superman, Clark spends his time onscreen questioning if he’s doing the right thing, despite the fact that he’s saving lives. He doesn’t shun his critics, rather he embraces and thinks about their perspectives.
Clark’s philosophical box is hard to pin down given just two movies, but the best guess is utilitarianism. The Utilitarian view is often the one leaders take. It’s their duty to protect most of the people all of the time when protecting all of the people isn’t an option. In fact, that’s something we want from those with authority over us. We expect them to serve the majority of the population, and do what’s in the best interest of that majority. If you’ve paid attention to the news, we get very angry when those we elect favor a small percentage of the population over the best interest of the larger percent.
We see this, to a large extent, in him as he always puts the majority above the minority (and even so, he still considers them). In Man of Steel, he puts down Zod, even though it hurt him to do so, in order to save the family before them. In Batman v Superman, he goes to deal with Lex and the Kryptonian scoutship because those presented danger to a much larger number of people, so he left saving his mother to Batman.
The comparisons are obvious. Clark, unlike Steve, isn’t cocksure. He doesn’t shut out criticisms and arguments, instead considering them and adjusting accordingly. Civil War portrayed Steve as right when he shut out all criticism and imposed his will on others, but Batman v Superman made Clark suffer realistic consequences for barging into a country just to save one person. His vocal critics, and the government, didn’t care that he saved one person; they cared that he incited a massacre in Nairomi and violated their borders. That’s the world Superman lives in: a world of grays and not of black and white—a world like ours. There’s a reason powerful countries don’t just march into smaller ones and impose their will on the population (and when they do, there’s significant push-back from the global community).