Diego Crespo on Behalf of Tony Stark
Tony Stark is the forefront of character development for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Within a span of a single film he goes from careless playboy, to facing down the very enemies he created, in doing so makes an unspoken vow to help clean up the planet. Tony lived a life of luxury without consequence for decades. Now the consequences are catching up to him, constantly regurgitating themselves and his past demons.
A common complaint leveraged against the Iron Man movies is that the villains end up feeling a little “samey,” with domestic American businessmen in cahoots with foreign terrorists (seriously, every movie) but this repetitive set-up coincidentally helps us get into the mindset of Tony in Civil War. Every villain he’s faced off against is one of his own creation with the exception of Loki, and even then it’s hard to imagine an off-screen discussion with Tony not relating to Thor’s guilt over Loki. Obadiah Stane used his own technology against Stark to personify his worst fears. Vanko basically did the same thing as Stane but with electric whips, or something. Tony’s protective suits of armor were used against him. Alrdich Killian had no interest in the suits beyond lighting the president on fire in one, but he came back with a vengeance to destroy the man within the suit.
From Iron Man to Avengers, Tony tried to protect himself and his newfound beliefs with the Iron Man suits. By the end of Iron Man 3, Tony is forced to come out of the suit and bare all in his most personal battle yet. In Age of Ultron, Tony has overcome his need to protect himself in the suit and is more willing to go into battle without it. Where Iron Man 3 starts with Tony having a panic attack at a crowded restaurant and running to the suit for comfort, Age of Ultron has Tony step out of the suit in a Hydra base to explore catacombs filled with deadly secrets. After an unfortunate mind mumbo jumbo, Tony finds his PTSD kicking into high gear, as heavily inflicted trauma never fades, and you just learn to live with it. Only now Tony isn’t working on 40+ suits for himself, he’s trying to come up with an infinite amount of suits to safeguard our planet.
“I see a suit of armor around the world.” Has a nice ring to it. But in its place comes Ultron. “Everyone creates the thing they dread,” says Tony’s latest creation. He feels rightly responsible for the damage not only to himself and his closest allies but to the world as a whole. Even with that information, Tony picks himself up and begins trying to fix problems yet again.
Not all of Tony’s problems try to destroy the planet. By association with Ultron, Vision is created in the image of humanity; it’s a spectacle highlighting the next evolutionary process of mankind. The character gets the thematic statement of the movie in a conversation with his murderbot father. “Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.” Vision is one of Tony Stark’s graces, a life raft of order in the ocean of Ultron’s chaos.
Tony Stark isn’t the perfect, good natured-icon that Captain America is. He’s flawed, trapped in a flux between hero and monster. When he’s seen firsthand what lack of superhero oversight can do to the same world they currently protect, can anybody say what he’s doing is anything but the work of a self-sacrificing hero?
Featured Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures