Last week, I wrote about why Captain America, after starting as a good, obedient soldier, is now opposed to having to answer to a higher power. This time I’ll talk about the reasons why Tony Stark is pro-government, why he’s in favor of having superheroes answer to a higher power. I mentioned previously that this is tougher to explain, primarily because Tony Stark has always been against having to answer to someone else. For him to side against Steve Rogers is seen by some as being out of character – but it’s not. I’ll point out the key events that point to Tony Stark’s growth and explain how those turned him into a man who’s now willing to give up his autonomy.
If you haven’t seen all of the Iron Man and Avengers films by now, I’m not sure you’ll even click on this article but in any case, spoilers ahead. I’ll talk about important details here so if you haven’t seen any of those films, you’ll definitely get spoiled.
Unlike Steve Rogers who has been fairly consistent with his beliefs and ideals, Tony Stark’s character underwent several changes, thanks to a few lessons that he learned through the events that he experienced. At the beginning of Iron Man, Stark didn’t mind developing weapons for as long as he was supplying them to the U.S. military, but he became more conscientious after he got abducted by terrorists (the Ten Rings) who made use of the same weapons that his company developed.
This marks the first change in Tony Stark – he not only decided to stop making weapons and focus on more beneficial forms of technology, he also created the Iron Man armor and became the first modern day Marvel Cinematic Universe super hero.
Despite becoming a “superhero”, Stark still had a major flaw – his ego. He didn’t want to turn over his Iron Man technology when the U.S. Government went after it Iron Man 2, firmly believing that he can handle anything and everything on his own. Thanks to a fatal problem with Stark’s original arc reactor technology, he reluctantly allows his friend and U.S. Air Force officer James “Rhodey” Rhodes to keep one of his Iron Man suits. By the end of the film, Stark learns to trust Rhodey completely and lets him continue using the armor.
Tony Stark doesn’t change completely though. In The Avengers, Stark butts heads with Steve Rogers and plants seeds of doubt in his head. He even hacks into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and reveals S.H.I.E.L.D.’s plan of using the Tesseract for developing weapons, furthering the discord amongst the heroes. Whether due to necessity or something else, Stark eventually learns to trust the other heroes and especially Captain America, whom he explicitly cedes leadership to during the Chitauri invasion. This wasn’t a one time thing – throughout Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man clearly sees Captain America as the leader of the team, letting Rogers call the shots.
Let’s go back to the first Avengers film though, because the third major change in Stark’s character is triggered by an event in that film. In an attempt to save New York from total destruction by a nuclear missile (authorized by Fury’s superiors, mind you), Stark directs the missile through the wormhole created by the Tesseract. There, he sees the entire Chitauri invasion force and Stark is traumatized by it. For most of Iron Man 3, Stark is a mess after realizing that there are threats bigger than him, even bigger than the Avengers, that are lurking outside Earth. His ego can’t accept this and goes to work on dozens of different versions of his armor.
He eventually gets over this trauma, but not completely. During the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch went after Tony Stark, making him the first victim of her dark hallucinations. Stark’s nightmare? The lifeless bodies of his Avengers comrades.
This, combined with his previous experience during the Avengers, causes Stark to once again take action. His intentions were noble – to create an artificial intelligence that is better than J.A.R.V.I.S., one that would perpetually watch over and safeguard the Earth from any and all threats. A “suit of armor around the world” so that we could achieve “peace in our time”… that was his mission. The result? Ultron, a sentient intelligence that saw mankind as Earth’s biggest problem and thus sought after mankind’s extinction.
In Iron Man 3, Stark came to the conclusion that sometimes, we create our own demons. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, this was certainly the case. Despite Stark’s noble intentions, his actions indirectly caused massive destruction and certainly the loss of many lives, especially during the Wakanda and Sokovia incidents.
Ultron was certainly Stark’s fault and while we never got to see how this affected Stark other than his onscreen retirement from Avenger duty by the film’s end. Given everything that happened, it’s easy for me to see how Stark lost trust in himself – he made a judgment call and lots of people, civilians, paid the price. With Ultron hanging over his head, isn’t it easier to see why Tony Stark would want himself and others like him to answer to a higher authority? This is pure conjecture on my part, but I think Stark doesn’t want others like him to commit the same mistakes, hence his stance in Civil War.
And that’s why Civil War so interesting for me – not only do both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have good reasons why they’re on their sides, but they essentially flipped sides during the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I don’t mean to crap on Batman V Superman but this conflict is so much more than “I don’t like him because he’s a mean vigilante/I don’t like him because he’s not human” that DC gave us. But that’s another topic for another week.
Civil War is almost here, with a wide release for most countries (including the Philippines) on April 27 – a full 10 days before the U.S. wide release! If you’re reading this article, I don’t think I need to ask you if you’re excited about the film because you probably are. The more important question is… Whose side are you on?