However, the place where this theme gets brought up most is in the MCU. You’d think that after 9 years there’d be an attempt to sell-out on this front, but the MCU hasn’t lost sight of that quite yet. Which is good, because collateral damage and the accountability that comes from that has played a big role in at least 4 of the movies. So let’s see why that is. Be warned: spoilers ahead.
The first of the movies is The Avengers, a film that's about conquering Earth and the fight to defend it. But while accountability for damage is mentioned throughout the first two acts, it’s in the third-act that everything hits the fan. Buildings crumble, windows break, debris flies everywhere and people die. Yet even amidst the chaos, The Avengers try their best to keep the fighting contained to a small part of the city.
Early on, for example, Captain America co-ordinates with his teammates to limit the fighting to the immediate area. He also demands that the police, in a humorous moment, section off the nearby blocks. In addition, he even takes one for a group of civilians by blocking an exploding bomb with his shield. And, lest we forget, Iron Man drives a missile launched by SHIELD operatives into space to end the war, risking his life in the process. These are as much a part of the film as the fighting, and they’re one of the reasons The Avengers, despite its flaws, works so well.
The issue of collateral damage resurfaces in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the highway fight, Black Widow openly yells at civilians to “get out of the way” before she’s shot in the shoulder. It’d have been easy to “screw the civilians”, but Captain America and his team limit the number of deaths to approximately zero. This comes back in the climax when Captain America and The Falcon override Project Insight’s “kill a million to save a billion” programming. They succeed, and Project Insight crashes to the sea.
In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, collateral damage takes frontal stage. The opening scene has Iron Man keeping the casualties to an actual zero. He sends out The Iron Legion, aka an army of robotic peacekeepers, to make a barricade and keep civilians at bay. Said civilians aren’t happy by this, one even throws acid at the robots, but mission accomplished.
Where it becomes more complicated is in the Hulkbuster VS The Hulk fight. The objective is to subdue a brainwashed The Hulk long enough to get him out of harm’s way, but seeing as The Hulk is an invincible monster with rage issues it ends up being difficult. Iron Man tries to knock him out by repeatedly punching him at first, but that doesn’t work. He then tries to take him outside of town, but that doesn’t work either. Eventually, Iron Man has no choice but to plunge him into a semi-demolished building, creating a shockwave that hurts many civilians. The Hulk is finally subdued, but not before seeing the aftermath of their fight.
Fortunately, the final battle in Sokovia, against Ultron’s minions, fares better. Oh, there’s still a lot of destruction, don’t get me wrong, but up until Ultron’s final attempt at carnage, in which a few police officers, as well as Quicksilver, die, no one gets hurt. There are many fake-outs, including a woman nearly falling to her doom when her car skids off a cliff, but the objective of the fight is to minimize deaths. It proves successful, a stark contrast to the New York City battle of the first film.
The situation gets worse when, in an ironic twist, the building where the Sokovia Accords is signed gets blown up by an impersonator of The Winter Soldier. Said impersonator, Zemo, has a vendetta against The Avengers for “murdering his family” in Sokovia, and he’s using this as revenge. He hopes that the Sokovia Accords would split the team apart and force them to destroy one-another. He, ultimately, both succeeds and fails, as while he gets caught, the damage is done.
It also sets the stage for the big set piece, in which The Avengers duke it out in a vacated airport in Leipzig, Germany. It’s easy to call this fight inconsequential, seeing as Iron Patriot’s injuries are the worst of what happens, but that misses the point. The fight was never about killing anyone, it was about the clash of ideals. Both sides understood that civilian casualties were inevitable, but government chains versus complete freedom to do as they please was what was at stake. It’s a more personal conflict, essentially.
Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice, but there it’s more of an afterthought. And this is why the MCU stands out so much. Because while you can argue technical prowess, this is one area where it really shines.
Also, it leads to some interesting discussion. But you can do that on your own.