Till before I watched Captain America- Civil War, I was decidedly team Steve. Maybe it was the after effect of watching Agent Carter, the spin off the first Captain America movie had led to. It did have a lot to do with Avengers – Age of Ultron, wherein Tony Stark had decidedly come off as a bad guy for me. But I went into the movie blue and came out red. And now that we have all faced the aftermath of Infinity War, here is my take on why Tony Stark is the Marvel hero.
For those who joined the circus late, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been there, top of the charts, with one stunning movie after the other in a continuum that is just as unprecedented as its success is surprising. But for those of us to have been there from the start, Tony Stark was the one who launched the MCU.
Till then Marvel had produced a slew of forgettable movies in cooperation with others. With Iron Man, an obscure (!) character at least to the non-comic public, they hoped to start something new, something that was their own. With a naturalistic feel, majorly improvised script, and the stunning acting by a problematic young man everybody thought had seen the last of the limelight, Iron Man came into being.
The rest is history.
Many who dislike Tony Stark as a character point to a few issues. The first is of course, ego and arrogance. They find him to be cocky, rude, and quippy, features that didn’t gel well with the traditional notion of a hero. At the end of Iron Man, he announces his alter ego in front of the press, a far cry from the fierce way in which superheroes protect their identity. These grating personality features became more apparent with the introduction of Steve Rogers into the MCU, an idealistic soldier.
But what I, and many others across the internet who form the Tony Stark Defence Squad, have seen from the very start, is vulnerability. This is a man who lost his parents at a young age, left in the shadows on a great empire he had no choice but to take control of. He was kidnapped, made his own escape, saw people die, and then had a massive change of heart which pulled his company out of weapons manufacture. Iron Man 2 explores his reaction to what he believes is his inevitable death – and again, it is very human. And then in Iron Man 3 we see the toll being a hero has taken on him, the experience of living through the extraordinary events of Avengers. It is a human-ness not really seen in superhero movies. Tony Stark’s future arc revolves around what he saw in Avengers – an entire universe much more powerful than Earth, and he being amongst the few who do something, anything, to defend it.
This understanding, which perhaps comes from watching all the movies in chronological order, is why I understood, and to an extent even supported Tony’s actions in the Age of Ultron. You have to remember, he is not a powered person – not a God, not a century old super soldier, not an assassin trained since childhood, not an enhanced being with near magical powers. He is just an ordinary guy with some extraordinary intelligence and skills. The reason why he continues to work on his AI barrier for the Earth is because he knows, and he feels, just how vulnerable the Earth is – something his powered counterparts may not be able to grasp.
Perhaps the reason why I and so many others have increasingly singled out Tony Stark to connect with over Marvel’s ten years is because he is the most humane of them all – a man who is flawed, who is quippy, who faces danger with a humour that only just manages to hide how terrified he is. This, contrasted to Steve Roger’s stoic decision making, Natasha Romanoff’s lesser screen time, and Thor’s giant puppy God persona, is the one that anchors the fantastical MCU to reality. Tony Stark is the character who hurts and feels, who realizes that there are consequences for what heroes do, who, despite it all, tries to have some fun.
So, this one is for Tony Stark, for truly having a heart. Also one for Hawkeye because he is awesome.
And perhaps one for us as well, as Avengers 4 will surely bring to a conclusion the MCU we have grown up with the past 10 years.
By Niharika Rawat