We promised you spoiler free, and we will remain true to our word. But we have to begin by saying that Captain America: Civil War somehow manages to live up to the massive hype generated over the past few months. And whoever made the executive decision to place the rest of the Avengers in the hands of Anthony and Joe Russo after [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973) deserves all the gold stars the world has to offer.
Captain America: Civil War isn't just a great superhero movie — it's a great movie period, balancing serious themes and well-developed, motivated characters with laugh-out-loud jokes and over-the-top action sequences.
And perhaps no character was as well-handled as Robert Downey Jr.'s beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe Iron Man, known beneath his armor as Tony Stark: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist — and irreparably damaged.
During the filming of Civil War, RDJ told USA Today that he doesn't think the much-speculated Iron Man 4 is "in the cards," (for a different take, read Will Marvel Make 'Iron Man 4' After All?) but that he considers his Civil War outing to be the equivalent:
"In a way ['Civil War' is 'Captain America 3'] but for me it’s like my little Iron Man 4."
And it is. Joe Russo promised that [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) would introduce almost a new Tony Stark to us, one with a guilty complex and very specific, mature motivations — and both the directors and RDJ more than delivered on that front.
Civil War's Iron Man
The movie opens with Tony in a strange place — still carrying the weight of all the lives lost as a result of his Ultron creation in the Avengers' last cinematic outing, and feeling alone again in the world.
His inability to fully shed the mantle of the Iron Man persona, as he promised Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at the conclusion of Iron Man 3, is causing problems in his personal life, and the damage wrought by Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron weighs heavy on his soul.
All this raw guilt and emotion, coupled with his struggle to work through the death of his parents in his youth, is brought to a head following a confrontation with grieving mother Miriam (Alfre Woodard), a confrontation which plays a large part in his choice to back the Accords. It's a very different, more visceral take on Tony that does wonders for his character development.
The Comic Book Iron Man
The MCU Tony Stark hasn't been all that far removed from the one we've seen in the comic books, at least in terms of his playboy personality, genius intelligence and quick wit. But one thing the films do downplay is his post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism — a big part of his internal struggle (check out 1979's Demon in a Bottle).
Though we saw Tony fighting with the demons of alcoholism during Iron Man 2, and the PTSD being touched upon in Iron Man 3, they've not really been explored in that much depth in the MCU thus far. The exception might be his bag of daddy issues that stem from both the emotional distancing and tragic death of his father Howard Stark (John Slattery), and the betrayal of surrogate father-figure Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) in Iron Man.
It's Always The Parents
The unresolved issues Tony has with both his father and his mother Maria Stark (Hope Davis) — who is perhaps more pertinent here, if you've seen Civil War and remember that line from the final battle — are dragged right back to the surface over the course of the film, and this is made immediately obvious straight off the bat as the movie opens.
But Civil War isn't just about his unresolved issues; it's about Tony finally taking responsibility, not just personally, but within the terms and conditions of government — something that he fought fiercely against in Iron Man 2.
Ever since Tony discovered that Stane had been selling Stark weaponry to terrorist groups in Iron Man, the basis of his entire character arc has been about taking responsibility not just for his actions, but for his creations and the effects they have on the world.
Tony repeatedly loses control of his creations due to his personal issues (with his parents, with Stane, with PTSD), just as he rebelled against his parents and lost them. In Civil War he is willing to be put in check by a governing power, because he's seen what the machines and intelligence he creates can do and what the cost can be.
So, Iron Man 4?
We might never get a fourth Iron Man film. Even though RDJ told ABC's Nightline yesterday that he feels he could have another solo film in him, nothing is officially set in stone.
But he's correct when he says that Civil War is his Iron Man 4; even though it's Captain America in name, Iron Man steals the show. But if this character development all sounds a bit too serious, worry not — he doesn't spend the whole movie moping about, saddled with his guilt complex, and he doesn't pull any of his punches when it comes to the crunch.
Whenever he dons the Iron Man suit, the fight scenes are fantastical and engaging. Whenever he makes a joke (which he still does often) it hits the mark, and the scenes he shares with Tom Holland's young Spider-Man are a hilarious delight.
The ending of Civil War is going to have massive repercussions for the MCU and will likely see Iron Man being drawn back into the world of the Avengers like never before.
Perhaps most pertinently, it might just be Tony Stark's best outing yet; and in terms of character and performance it's definitely the shining star of RDJ's take on the long-running Marvel character. As it turns out, after Civil War we may never actually need that Iron Man 4.