Undeniably one of the most loved characters of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. has portrayed the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Anthony Edward Stark, a.k.a. Tony Stark and most popularly known by the name Iron Man. Since 2008, this character has been introduced to the MCU as the party boy with a billion-dollar name, a billion-dollar company, and a billion-dollar personality. But that irresponsible, free-living feel was soon disrupted by the creation of Iron Man, where Tony learns that being a hero is never easy.
Iron Man (2008)
As mentioned before, Tony was introduced to the MCU in his debut film Iron Man (2008), where us Marvel fans experience the beginning of a new hero. Throughout the film, we experience the life of a billionaire, and what consequences he has to suffer through from the creation of a weapon of mass destruction.
In this film, we are introduced to Tony, his assistant Pepper Potts, War Machine, and the antagonist: Iron Monger, portrayed by Jeff Bridges. Since this is merely the origin story and the introduction to Iron Man, we experience Tony's struggle of creating the first version of this suit in a cave with the help of Ho Yinsen. And with every birth of a hero, there is destined to be the birth of a villain. Iron Man's first villain in the MCU is the Iron Monger, using a similar suit to Tony's only much larger and without the ability to deal with frost in the atmosphere.
By the end of this film, Tony makes the huge and bold statement of declaring himself as the Iron Man. Now, I'm unsure whether this is the smartest of ideas, since he's basically giving himself up to the enemy, allowing them to discover who he's close to and gain the ability to hurt him from the inside.
But this article is not written to give a simple review of Iron Man throughout the MCU. We're here to observe his "mental" states throughout the films. During Iron Man (2008), Tony still appears to be outgoing and party-fun. Nothing has really impacted him just yet, which is due to the fact that Iron Man is fairly new to the world of heroes and is only just exposed to the troubles he shall face ahead.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 picks right off from where the first Iron Man movie ended. The world knows who Tony Stark really is, and people all around are welcoming the hero with open arms. Of course, except for the government, who observes and claims the Iron Man suit to be a major weapon.
Still holding the same cast as the first Iron Man movie (with a change in actor for Rhodes, from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle), Iron Man is starting to face the issues of being a hero. Well, a hero who has a weaponry suit as his accessory to being a hero. A special to this film is the introduction of Black Widow, and the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. led by director Nick Fury. Coulson is brought back in this film as Tony's "nanny." The villain Tony encounters — well, actually villains — are Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer.
Hammer Industries always attempted to compete against Stark Industries, and now with the whole issue of the Iron Man suit in progress, Hammer tries to obtain the pedestal. Of course, he bargains for the help of Ivan Vanko, who already holds a grudge against Tony, as they recreate the US Military with stylized drones modeled after the Iron Man suit.
Besides that, Tony is dying due to the arc reactor failing within his chest; he needs to seek a new element in order to sustain his life. Usually, if someone knows that they're bound to die very, very soon, they keep close to their family and loved ones, or they completely push people away. Then you get the Tony Stark style, celebrating his birthday party to its fullest extent (including peeing in his suit, wrecking property, and a huge fight), which presents an attitude of utter recklessness.
Here, we can already see that Tony is building up his walls as Rhodes comes into his lab one day and tells him to knock off the whole "lone ranger" image. Not only that, but a major part of the film is the fact that the government sees the suit as a weapon and is willing to take it. Tony objects to this idea. You can see here that he is acting very independent with the suit. Oh, and this movie is where the Avengers Initiative is presented, courtesy of Fury, of course.
The Avengers (2012)
Now we get to the big part, where the greatest team of superheroes on the planet (and Asgard) is assembled. As you all know, the team consists of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Nick Fury and of course a fan favorite: Loki.
I'm pretty certain that everyone reading this knows the plot to the Avengers, where Loki comes to Earth in search of the Tesseract, to make a trade in exchange for a place on the throne in the galaxy with the Chitauri. With such a godly villain (yes, I just did that), Fury initiates the idea to bring Earth's mightiest together to fight the war that the human race could never fight on their own. As it is with bringing a new team of people (in this case, extraordinary people), there are always quarrels and disagreements. Thankfully (and also sadly), they are finally brought together by the death of Coulson.
Many of Tony's actions throughout the film already suggest that he's becoming too cautious, careful of who he trusts. Like hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system and discovering why they really wanted the Tesseract. Tony mostly seems to work on his own (well, with Banner), but then finally reacts as a team member after the death of Coulson, realizing how strong they are individually, but how indestructible they could be together. If you recall the scene where Tony and Steve both go back to where Coulson was murdered, you'll see him start to accept the others as a team. Of course, he still appears preserved, hiding back. In some aspect, you can think of this as Tony not wanting to get emotionally involved with other people, or protecting them from himself.
But what really starts to screw with the mind of Tony Stark is when he blasts of that missile into space, getting a mere glimpse of what threats the galaxy has to offer.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Over-protection truly starts showing in this film, which picks up after the Avengers and revolves around the moment when Tony was shown the true threats Earth has to deal with, and how he just has to save it. Characters are the classic Tony, Pepper, War Machine and new villains being Trevor Slattery (the Mandarin — OK, he wasn't really the villain, but we'll count him as one) and the real mastermind, Aldrich Killian.
Sleepless nights plague the mind of this poor billionaire, always trying to make new suits or improve the older ones. Unlike Iron Man 2 where his heart is killing him, it appears that his thoughts are trying to bring him down in this film. As he begins to rely on his suit too much, he designs a suit for basically every possible occasion. Eventually, his own protection threatens the life of his loved one as his thoughts become darker. But to be fair, nearly everything threatens his Pepper in this movie.
As Aldrich Killian reminds Tony about how he treated him years ago, he teams up with The Mandarin in which they reduce Tony's world to ashes. The government is threatened, and an experimentation on handicapped soldiers follows. All in all, this film truly presents a state of absolute torment for Tony Stark as his home is destroyed, his life is at stake, and his loved one is taken away from him.
Tony's mental state in this film is clearly full of despair. I mean, a little boy had to tell him to get his crap together and remind him of what he can do best. His overprotection since the Avengers has truly gotten the best of him, but he soon uses this fear as a force to drive him to save his loved one (though he does blow up his suits).
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Now, in all fairness, this whole problem in the movie was the result of Tony's over-protectiveness. I mean, Ultron was originally created to save the Earth from outer space attacks, on behalf of Tony's account with the alien spaceship. And then Ultron spends, like, ten minutes on the internet (probably going to wrong depths of it) and simply decides that the human race has to be obliterated.
Featured in this film are the original members of the Avengers: Tony, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeyes, Nick Fury. With the new additions: Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, and Vision. As our mighty band of heroes embark again on an Earth-threatening mission, this time the issue comes from within the group. As you hopefully recall, Stark shows Banner that he has been working on AI (artificial intelligence), in order to act as a form of protection around the world from intergalactic antagonists. Being science bros, the two work together to achieve it. As soon as its done, and JARVIS is sent to take care of it, everything goes to whack. I mean, Ultron is a party pooper for Odin's sake.
This film truly reveals Tony to be in a state of panic and confusion, because everything he's worked to use as protection has become a weapon. The one thing that was meant to save humanity has been set on destroying it. Of course, the team is a family now and though they blame Tony for the wrong he has done, they inevitably work together to solve the issue. As the team are introduced to the Maximoffs a.k.a Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver, audiences are exposed to what other issues Tony has caused in the world. Keep in mind that this film wasn't created to appeal Tony Stark as a villain, but they've shown him as a genius who has to rethink actions before he proceeds with them.
Vulnerability revealed, audiences discover a broken-down Tony Stark. Usually he'd be his cocky self, but during this film, we watch as he eventually breaks down his walls and reveals the truth. A scene in the movie in Barton's barn shows Stark speaking to Nick Fury regarding a vision of him being the one to lead his comrades into death and destruction. I think that this movie specifically reveals the idea that some of us tend to forget: Tony Stark is just a human being, regardless of being brilliant and having a multi-billion dollar suit, he still makes mistakes. Which, in his case, can lead to the worst of wars.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
You can really say that the MCU has transformed Tony from an absolutely careless guy to the most cautious genius on screen. Marvel's Captain America: Civil War (2016) is another film, just like AOU, that has shown Tony to be exposed (like a nerve) to others and very, very cautious.
Featured in the film are our Avengers cast, plus a few new recruits: Captain America, Tony Stark, Bucky (finally!), Scarlett Witch, Black Widow, Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Vision, Spider-Man (new guy!), and War Machine. Though Zemo is technically the antagonist of the film, the team is also fighting one another from the inside. To be honest, I think we could all have imagined a film like this happening since Cap and Tony were really iffy, during the first Avengers film.
An unexplored aspect of the Avengers (regarding the MCU), is explored in this movie. People usually perceive heroes to be courageous, brave, and mainly good. But as always, there are two sides to the coin. We have seen them save people before, from near death and what not. We watched them as they fought massive fights with those from Earth, and estranged beings from beyond. But, we're not looking at the other side of the coin. This film provokes that side, claiming that they are too dangerous.
Regardless of them fighting a big war, the debris left behind has to be cleaned up by others. I guess its the idea that they don't clean their own mess, which I can agree with to some extent. But I don't see why they should be put under control. The United Nations wants them to be under their regulations, which would make the Avengers slaves. Tony doesn't see it like that, of course, since he agrees that they need to be under control regarding their missions (and he's going back to being uber careful). Cap on the other hand sees the idea as ludicrous: what if there are people who need saving, and the UN say that they're irrelevant? Isn't Cap supposed to stand for freedom? How will he do that under their constraint? This, of course, begins a war between Mr. Diva and Mr. Patriotic. Oh, and there's also that huge concept of Bucky being harmless. I mean, he was just buying his plums until Zemo bombed the UN meeting and framed the poor guy. Damn you, Zemo.
Tony's state in this film is, as of the latest movies too, super wary. I believe that's due to that woman who goes up to him in the movie that reminds him of the damage he's done. This provokes him to feels guilty, which makes him side with the UN. I almost believe that if that lady didn't tell him what he's done, he wouldn't have agreed with UN. Then this causes him to become reckless with Cap since he'll stop at nothing to ensure that Bucky is taken down. With Cap being himself, he'll protect his long-lost best friend. And I think the real irony (hehe, cause you know, Iron man) here is that during Iron Man 2 he opposed the government when they wanted him and his suit. Now he'll go against his own comrade to give himself in and to stop what he sees as a threat.
His Transformation Throughout The MCU
From the first Iron Man (2008) movie to Captain America: Civil War (2016), Tony Stark has really changed basically everything about himself, in terms of psychology, except for using that cocky, genius facade to really hide everything that's going on in there. Crazy how traumatizing things can be, even for someone like Tony?
The next films coming out for Marvel are Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and then Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (2018). Of course there are others like Captain Marvel (2019) coming up, but I'm only listing these movies in terms of whether or not Tony may appear in them and whether or not his perspective on things will change. From a party-boy to a cautious, overprotective genius, look at how the MCU has really transformed this genius, billionaire, philanthropist, playboy Tony Stark. This only shows how effective the MCU is, and how they can change someone into something completely different.
Check out the most WTF moments from Iron Man's comic book history in the video below: