WARNING: Mild Captain America: Civil War spoilers ahead.
The first romantic kiss in Captain America: Civil War happens about an hour and a half into the movie. Captain America—known to his friends as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)—locks lips with Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) as the two of them prepare to break international law in the name of superheroic justice.
It's a tender moment meant to highlight the fact that, in a world of super-soldiers, Asgardian gods, and vigilante billionaires, there's still time for a little heterosexual tenderness.
It's also a classic misdirect.
Cap might have kissed Agent 13, sure, but the true loves of his life are the two guys sitting a couple of feet away in a Volkswagen Beetle, watching him—Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
Marvel wants you to think that Civil War is about a team of heroes divided over the issue of governmental oversight, and it is, but at the movie's heart is a thoughtful exploration of the power of the straight bromance.
As film studios have cranked out more and more big-budget superhero epics, it's become increasingly easy to read their queer subtext and bold text. The chemistry between Finn and Poe has less to do with the Force and more to do with the fact that their love is meant to be. Batman and Superman may feign hatred for one another, but beneath those Kevlar-spandex polyblends are the bleeding hearts of two misunderstood orphans longing for intimacy.
Early in the film, Steve walks out of a meeting with his fellow Avengers when he receives word that Peggy Carter, the woman he fell in love with back in the '40s, has died of old age. You have to remember that Steve's a super-soldier who spent a few decades frozen beneath the Arctic Sea. With this death, he'd officially outlived everyone he ever knew and loved from his old life.
Later, Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), tells Steve that he and his longtime girlfriend (and business partner) Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) have more or less called it quits. The more time Tony spent risking his life playing superhero, he explains, the harder it was for Pepper to stay by his side.
For both men, the Avengers have become the family that neither of them ever really had the chance to start. Civil War tells the story of how that family is torn apart.
After an accident during a routine encounter with supervillains kills dozens of civilians, the United Nations insists that the Avengers can't just go around causing collateral damage without supervision. Tony agrees. Steve doesn't.
Things get more complicated when Steve's friend Bucky (another cryogenically preserved dude from the '40s) is implicated in a bombing at the UN General Assembly building. Steve's convinced that Bucky's innocent, Tony's convinced that Bucky's a terrorist, and the rest of the team is forced to pick a side. The battle between #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan makes for epic set pieces, but it's the relationships that define these factions that make Civil War a different kind of superhero movie.
The bond between James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Tony is what drives #TeamIronMan from the jump. Even though he's never been an official Avenger, Rhodes immediately takes Tony's side on the UN agreement and follows him into battle.
As for Steve, Bucky's his last real connection to the past. Even though Bucky was brainwashed into becoming a Russian assassin in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he's still the one person that really knows Steve. That relationship's something Steve's willing to turn his back on the world for.
While Tony's bromance with Rhodey is pretty cut and dry, Steve and Bucky's dynamic is made even more complex by Sam Wilson, a former Air Force pilot who joined the Avengers as the jet pack-clad Falcon. While Bucky was off playing villain in the previous film, Sam was there for Steve in a way that none of the other Avengers could be. As a fellow soldier, the two shared a bond grounded in their patriotism. If Bucky is what kept Steve tethered to his past, Sam is the person helping him to let go and move on.
"I just want to make sure we consider all our options," Sam tells Steve when he hears about his plan to smuggle Bucky out of the country, "because people shooting at you usually wind up shooting at me too."
The tension within this triangle simmers just beneath the surface for the entire movie, reaching a near-fever pitch more than once (Sam blames Bucky when the both of them get whooped in a fight with Spider-Man) only to settle back down when Sam and Bucky realize what they have in common: loyalty to Steve.
For all the feel-good vibes flowing through the movie's various friendships, Civil War is ultimately about how some of those bonds fall apart. Things end…messily. Both Steve and Tony believe passionately in the positions they take, and they're each willing to destroy the other to defend their beliefs.
Tony wants to ensure that people like himself and Steve can't cause more harm than is necessary in their pursuits of justice. Steve doesn't just want to shield the world from reckless, corrupt governments—he wants to protect the only family he has.
"I'm sorry, Tony. You know I wouldn't do this if I had any other choice," Steve says towards the end of the movie. "But he's my friend."
Tony stops for a moment to take that in.
"So was I," he replies.