When Marvel launched their Cinematic Universe back in 2008, it was a gamble — but it's certainly paid off! Now, fans are eagerly awaiting next year's Avengers: Infinity War, a film like no other before it. Infinity War will be the culmination of Phases 1-3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, drawing every thread together into a dramatic climax. It literally isn't possible for fans to be any more hyped about this film.
The #MCU launched with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, who immediately proved to be an unexpected hit — so it's logical that Stark will play a major role in Infinity War, and #Marvel's delightful featurette has just revealed how that's going to play out. It's given us a couple of crucial clues that help us make sense of Tony Stark's whole character arc through Phases 1-3 of the MCU!
Welcome To A New World
"Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet."
Those words launched the entire MCU. Tony Stark had donned the #IronMan armor, and made a controversial choice: He went public with his identity. In the aftermath of his press briefing, though, he found himself confronted with a stranger who'd just walked into his apartment: Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.
In just a few words, Fury welcomed Tony Stark into a wider world of superheroes, and signalled to thrilled viewers that the MCU would be like nothing we'd ever seen before. The series of films that followed were designed to link together into one seamless timeline, and the characters were created to interact with one another in a fantastic way. Soon, Marvel was making it clear where this was headed; mention was made of the #Avengers Initiative.
Tony Stark's first character arc is a simple one — can he truly be the hero he hopes to be? Iron Man 2's answer was an emphatic "no": while S.H.I.E.L.D. was interested in the Iron Man armor, the man himself was unfit to be a true hero. Sure, Tony Stark has the technology, and he has the genius — but his personality, Black Widow decided, meant that he wasn't suited to working as part of the Avengers.
That theme runs on into The Avengers itself, where #CaptainAmerica challenges Tony Stark — would he be willing to make the hard call? Would he be willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of others? At the time, Steve Rogers's view is pretty clear — he can tell at a glance that Tony Stark is no hero. But at the end of the film, Iron Man rides a nuclear missile into a wormhole, not expecting to return. He proves his detractors wrong, demonstrating that he will indeed make the hard call. He proves that, for all the problems you may have with his personality, he is indeed a true superhero.
Too Big For Stark To Handle
The problem, though, was that Tony Stark had just been introduced to a universe far wider than he could handle. As we saw in Iron Man 3, he was left psychologically scarred by the experience. Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a Clinical Psychiatrist who enjoys discussing superheroes, points to one extremely traumatic moment in the film:
"In a particularly unsettling scene, Tony is dreaming about the alien attack. While still asleep, he conjures his Mk 42 Iron Man suit to protect himself, but the suit assaults Pepper, who screams in horror. This isn’t an unlikely scenario. One of my patients used to sleep with a bayonet next to his bed, a protective habit he picked up while in the military. He confessed to me that he had woken up several times hunched over his wife with the bayonet pressed against her face."
Most clinically-trained fans agree that Stark doesn't quite meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (nor, according to Letamendi, did her patient with the bayonet). Whether that's the case or not, though, it's clear that his experience of the wormhole has deeply scarred Tony Stark, and Iron Man 3 is largely about his journey in dealing with that trauma. At the end, in a conflicting and contradictory scene, he both destroys the Iron Man suits, and declares once again that he is Iron Man.
Desperate To Protect The World
Whatever this strange, conflicted moment was supposed to mean, though, it didn't stop Stark returning to the Avengers. Even in Iron Man 3, his choice of confidant is Bruce Banner! By Avengers: Age of Ultron, he's more active than ever before, using his genius and wealth to equip the team with everything they could ever need.
But Avengers: Age Of Ultron demonstrates the conflict in Tony Stark's heart. He is terrified by his glimpse of a wider universe, having learned just how small and puny the planet Earth truly is when placed on a galactic scale. This is why he can't stay away from the Avengers — because he sees the threat, because he fears that the Avengers won't be enough, and because he can't just sit back and do nothing about it. When Scarlet Witch conjures Tony Stark's worst fears, she sees the Avengers defeated. No doubt these fears have only been amplified by the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ultron is the product of Tony Stark's fears. He seeks to create another defender for the world, one greater even than the Avengers. With Ultron active and the world defended, Stark dreams of being able to step back, of retiring as a superhero — but Ultron goes tragically wrong, and Tony Stark's attempt to create a better defender for his world almost destroys the planet. That, surely, is a burden bound to weigh heavily on Stark's shoulders.
Preparing For 'Infinity War'
Tony Stark's hope of creating a planetary defence had failed, and he was left only with the Avengers. If dialogue in Captain America: Civil War is anything to go by, at first Stark took Ultron as the evidence he needed to step back. But the fear was still there, and worse still the futurist began to foresee a time when the world would turn against its defenders. Stark understood that the world's heroes needed to somehow be held accountable, and the Sokovia Accords seemed to fit the bill. Unfortunately, as we all saw, that didn't exactly turn out well — the Avengers were left splintered, with half of them on the run, and Stark's past demons lead to an attempt to kill the Winter Soldier.
Here's the sad truth: The MCU so far is the story of the world's defences failing. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. was crushed, and for all we may be revelling in the ongoing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, the organization can never be more than the faintest shadow of what it was. Stark's attempt to create Ultron went wrong, and resulted in AI being banned. And the Avengers have been divided.
In the recently-released Infinity War video, Marvel openly admit that Civil War was all about getting the pieces in place for the denouement. Tony Stark plays a major role in this — he's been left scarred once again, haunted by what he's done, but still aware that the world is in real danger. S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen; Ultron has failed; the Avengers have failed. Now, he's once again trying to do it himself, and concept art in the video clearly shows him working on a new Iron Legion of the type we saw in Iron Man 3. He's taking the burden of protecting the world upon his own shoulders.
More Marvel reading:
- Marvel Gives First Look At 'Avengers: Infinity War' In Production Launch Trailer
- Exploring The Comic Book Roots Of 'Avengers: Infinity War'
- Which Cast Members Have Been Confirmed For 'Avengers: Infinity War' So Far? Here's Your Ultimate Guide!
But, of course, Thanos is coming. For all Tony Stark may dream in his hubris that he can save the world, he can't. The Mad Titan aims to acquire the Infinity Stones, and should he succeed, all of creation will tremble. Tony Stark will need all the help he can get — and there's one lesson he needs to learn.
The Avengers haven't failed yet.