Civil War: The Tragic Tale of Tony Stark

“We need to be put in check. Whatever form that takes I’m game.”

Tony Stark: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Iron Man. Mad scientist. An amazing individual who is currently on the road to self-destruction.

We love him. He has a wonderful sense of humor that we eagerly look forward to. His gadgets are the stuff of science fiction dreams. The whimsical way he sets up his world (Christmas stockings for his robots and AI, people, that’s adorable) charms us. Tony has a charismatic personality that rallies people around him, even if they end up ready to murder him before it is all said and done.

But in spite of all of these things, Tony Stark never feels that he is enough. A lot of this feeling stems from his obviously strained relationship with his father. I’ll save the ‘importance of good fathers’ rant for another day, but Tony Stark really is a very visual image of what the lack of support from a good father can cause. As I said yesterday, Tony Stark is also straining beneath the weight of wealth, genius, and a God complex. And at some point in his life, Tony came to the conclusion that it was his job and his job alone to save the world. And he would do it, whatever it takes.

Where does this deep drive to save the world single-highhandedly come from? Well, Tony truly does care about saving people. The better part of who he is desires to protect innocent and powerless people. Perhaps it is also compensation for all of the years he spent in selfish frivolity. But even bigger than that, Tony loves being Iron Man, and he is good at it. Just imagine for a moment how wonderful it would feel to do something that causes everyone to sing your praises and thrill at the mere sight of you? The rush of adrenaline and satisfaction that would follow saving people. Somewhere along the way, Tony Stark’s source of self-worth and identity became linked to being Iron Man, savior of the world.

“The futurist is here gentlemen! He sees all, he knows what’s best for you whether you like it or not.” Clint Barton

Often when you feel insufficient personally, you find something to attach yourself to that gives you a sense of worth and identity. A job, money, applause. Tony has all of those things, and it is in those things that he finds his self worth. He’s no different than millions of other people, but unfortunately, the consequences of his actions tend to be global.

Tony is emotionally unstable and reactionary. He’s a grown man, but he still makes a lot of decisions from a place of deep immaturity. He’s brilliant, and is used to being able to fix a problem with some coffee and a few all-nighters in the lab. He can build it, buy it, or talk his way out of it in next to no time. He doesn’t know what to do with a scenario where he can’t come up with a solution.

In Age of Ultron Scarlet Witch drew out some of Tony’s deepest fears and insecurities and revealed them to the world.

“You. Could. Have. Saved. Us. Why. Didn’t. You. Do. More?”

It’s interesting to note that Tony rushed to check on Steve first before the others, even though Hulk was still moving around. I think we can take that as a small sign of how much Tony truly loves his friend Steve.

I also find it very intriguing that it was Steve who said the above words to Tony. Steve really represents a very personal part of who Tony is. He grew up listening to his distant, genius father regale the praises of this guy named Steve Rogers who succeeded in saving the world. Given that Tony was never good enough for his father, imagine what it would feel like to constantly hear about someone who was? No wonder Tony is trying to save the world, it’s like he’s trying to be as good as Captain America and be good enough for both himself and his dead father.

Oh, and then, later on, that exact man shows up in Tony’s world with his same handsome heroism, high morals, and great ideals. As much as Tony loves Steve dearly, he is also bitter and holds a bit of hatred in his heart toward Steve. Something which all came out in the light during that final showdown between the two of them.

Tony is reactionary. He feels something, and he tries to fix it instantly. The moment he came out of this vision he was on a mission. While Ultron had been set in motion in his mind before this event, that vision was the inciting event which sent Tony Stark careening out of control.

Ultron revealed more than anything just how far Tony’s downward spiral has come.

“Ultron can’t see the difference between saving the world and destroying it. Where do you think he gets that?” Wanda Maximoff

Ultron is just Tony’s current mindset put into robot form. The results? Death and destruction. Tony fails on a horrifying scale.

The destruction of Sokovia brings Tony’s ideas about creating a suit of armor around the world crashing to the ground. Literally. In Civil War we are introduced to Tony as he is reeling from the guilt of the large amount of destruction he caused. Like I said before, Tony is reactionary. What do we find him doing? Giving out millions of dollars of grants to a bunch of student projects. The scene with the grieving mother in the hallway is just salt in raw and open wounds. This is all amplified by the fact that Pepper and he aren’t together anymore. She has always been his anchor and stabilizing force, without her, he feels like a loose flag flapping in the wind.

He returns weary and raw to Avengers headquarters to be faced with a reminder again of everything that has ever gone wrong. Now, as I have said before, the ONE AND ONLY event that should have even been discussed here was Sokovia itself. None of the other battles involving Avengers were anywhere out of line.

Even so, Sokovia is laid down at the Avengers’ door when really it should all be sitting in Tony Stark’s lap. Tony feels the guilt, but he hasn’t really stepped up to receive the full responsibility for what he has done.  Then the Accords get dropped onto the table and Tony sees a way to perhaps sooth his burning conscience. In an attempt to buy penance for his soul, Tony jumps headlong into a contract with unreliable government. Honestly, I think if he wasn’t reacting and was thinking more clearly, Tony’s more logical mind would have said ‘no’. This yet again proves his immaturity though, rather than take on the blame himself and say, “Hey guys, I need help and I need you to hold me accountable.” He grabs the easy option of signing his name and now becoming the politicians’ golden boy. When you have to face the music, it is sometimes easier and to have someone else regulate your behavior rather than taking steps and initiative on your own.

Steve knows the incredible danger that the Accords present. He has spent his life defending freedom and has learned to recognize when it is being threatened. Every single instinct he possesses is telling him that this is a bad move. While it would be the easy option to make everyone happy and get out from under the spotlight (Natasha’s first instinct), Steve knows that in the long run they will lose more lives.

But an even greater comparison is drawn between these two friends.

“This job….we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that…next time, maybe nobody gets saved.”

Here is one huge, glaring difference between Tony and Steve: Steve can accept failure.

That sounds really lame for a moment. But think about it. Failure is a part of life as human beings (something I discussed yesterday regarding Vision). Tony, whether he realizes it or not, equals failure as not being worth anything. It is a lie that he has believed his whole life. Tony cannot except failure, therefore, he goes so far to try and avoid it at all possible costs that he manages to fail magnificently. With the signing of the Accords, Tony is making a last ditch effort to keep himself from ever failing again.

Steve recognizes that he is going to fail because he is human. He has dealt with that and accepted it. Rather than spending all of his energy focusing on the impossible feat of not failing, Steve puts his effort into doing the best job possible while sticking to his morals.

I think deep down Tony knows that Steve is right, but all of his emotions are warring within him. He’s angry, he’s devastated, he’s scared, and he wants desperately to find redemption.

The airport battle pushes Tony deeper to a place of guilt as his best friend is injured for life because of his stubbornness. Tony begins to think that perhaps he is wrong. Throughout this entire movie I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of the old Tony Stark.

Tony follows Steve and Bucky out to the Russian prison to follow up on their hunch regarding the other Winter Soldiers. You can just feel the impending battle looming heavy in the air like a heavy, gray cloud. The cloud bursts when Zemo shows the footage of December 16, 1991.

The cloud breaks. And Tony is out for blood.

This part is probably one of the most devastating chunks of film footage I have ever witnessed. Tony is so, SO ANGRY! Everything he has ever felt about his father, himself, Steve, and now Bucky are coming to the surface. The grief over losing his mother is probably the most upsetting fact of all. It was obvious from the flashback that Tony loved his mother more than anyone else in the world. But it was also obvious that he grieves over the lack of connection with his father. He had established something of a family and connection with Steve and the other Avengers; but after Steve reveals that he has been keeping the secret of the Starks’ murder under wraps Tony feels that he has been stabbed in the gut. In a way, as much as Steve and Howard were a point of bitterness and jealousy for Tony, Steve was also a connection point with his dad. That is now gone as well.

It all explodes as Tony tries to kill Bucky. He’s only seeing red at this point, it’s pure emotion and adrenaline. Vengeance is the primary directive in his mind. I don’t know about you all, but my heart was hurting pretty bad during this entire scene.

Steve is bound and determined to save Bucky’s life, even if it is at the expense of his friendship with Tony. One thing I did notice during this movie though: Steve never, ever condemns Tony personally for his choices. While he stands firm in what he knows to be true, Steve has an almost compassionate and empathetic attitude towards Tony in this entire movie. You can almost see him hurting for his friend. There is no bitter animosity in Steve’s actions, even as he is punching Tony  repeatedly.

The fight comes to an end as Steve beats Tony down to the ground and is kneeling on his chest. Steve raises the shield above Tony, who moves to cover his neck. The look in Tony’s eyes is one of sheer terror. He truly believes that Steve is going to kill him. But we all know, that is not who Steve is.

Instead, the shield comes crashing down into the arc reactor and stays there. A very poignant image is created, the shield has crushed the arc reactor. Freedom and truth are the victor, Tony and the Accords are defeated. Tony looks both shocked and relieved. In one last quick flair of anger, he yells after a retreating Steve,

“That shield doesn’t belong to you! It belongs to my father!” 

Steve dumps the shield on the ground without a second thought. Tony lies on the ground looking broken and confused.

The movie ends with the Avengers still split, but not shattered. Tony seems to be calmer and walking around with a clearer head. He is still hurting. You can see the pain in his eyes as he watches his best friend Rhody struggle to walk. Tony seems to have accepted the fact that he had a part to play in his friend’s pain, which is progress. Of course, he designs something to help Rhody out, but what I think makes an even bigger statement is the fact that he stands by while Rhody starts rehab. When Rhody falls, Tony moves to help pick him up. I think this is incredibly symbolic of the fact that Tony is perhaps starting to understand his humanity and accept it.

We have the cute “Tony Stank” scene where the package arrives from Steve. Inside is a letter and an old flip phone. #oldguy #oldtech

“Tony, I’m glad you’re back at the compound. I don’t like the idea of you rattling around a mansion by yourself. We all need family. The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine. I’ve been on my own since I was 18. I never really fit in anywhere, even in the army. My faith’s in people, I guess. Individuals. And I’m happy to say that, for the most part, they haven’t let me down. Which is why I can’t let them down either. Locks can be replaced, but maybe they shouldn’t. I know I hurt you, Tony. I guess I thought by not telling you about your parents I was sparing you, but I can see now that I was really sparing myself, and I’m sorry. Hopefully one day you can understand. I wish we agreed on the Accords, I really do. I know you’re doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do. That’s all any of us should… So no matter what, I promise you, if you need us – if you need me – I’ll be there.”

Tony’s face when reading the letter is very healing to watch. He has the look of a man who has just faced his inner demons, but feels freer for having fought them in the open. He also smiles and seems to receive Steve’s earnest apology. There is no sarcasm or bitterness in his eyes this time, instead, there is something resembling peace. Maybe he and Steve can repair the damage and start afresh.

He ends the scene by putting Secretary Ross on hold, an action which I believe is symbolic of the fact that Tony is beginning to change his perspective.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Tony Stark has been on the road to hell for a while, and in Civil War I believe he walked right through it. But sometimes in order to heal and become whole, you have to walk through hell and then climb back up again into the light. Luckily for Tony, he is surrounded by people who will have his back and are willing to walk walk with him. After all, how do the Avengers do anything?


What did you think of Tony in this movie? Were you Team Iron Man, and if so, was it for political reasons or just because you like him? What scenes made you feel the most? Where do you think Tony will go from here?

If you liked this article, you might like these as well! Civil War: Why Vision Needed to Fail Civil War: Natasha Romanoff, Steve’s Friend Civil War: The First Annual Avenger’s Football Game Civil War: Spiderman, Meet Steve Civil War: Why the Sokovia Accords Are a Waste of Paper Captain America: Civil War – Parental Review 5 Things We Will Miss About “Agent Carter”



3 thoughts on “Civil War: The Tragic Tale of Tony Stark”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s