In Defense of Tony Stark
*SPOILER ALERT* Although I’m assuming most of us have seen ‘Endgame’ by now..
So I’ve watched Endgame a couple of weeks ago and it’s an incredible movie. Just like the comics, it turns out that minute details of the plot and careful planning by Marvel have been woven through the MCU all the way since the beginning to bring the Infinity event to its dramatic conclusion. Whilst I loved the film and felt it was the perfect end to a brilliant eleven years, there’s one part of its ending I am less happy about and it appears that Robert Downey Junior may have originally felt this too.
According to comments the Russo brothers made to The Hollywood Reporter, it would seem that initially Robert Downey Junior wasn’t particular on board and was confused about Tony Stark’s fate. Anthony Russo states:
‘I think Downey may have had mixed emotions about thinking about [where Tony ends up in Endgame] but I think at the end of the day, he totally accepted it’.
The thing is, I feel this way too. When Tony Stark kickstarted the MCU back in 2008, each Iron Man movie that followed was dealing with the characters tormented battle with himself. We see him suffer from his own ego, his own anxiety, fears and inhibitions holding him back. His addictions, isolating himself from others and inability to deal with own failures and limitations meant that throughout the elevens years of the MCU Tony isn’t really battling villains but rather having an inner fight with himself and his own responsibilities and worth.
He’s one of the most tormented characters in the MCU and the one most ill at ease with himself. He spends the eleven years emotionally suffering with little access to support and things deteriorate the more movies that RDJ features in. It starts with Age of Ultron when he makes huge mistakes in creating Ultron and can’t live with himself, followed by Iron Man 3 where he struggles to cope with his own inabilities and deterioration. Civil War serves to alienate Tony from some of the few real friendships and relationships he has built with his fellow superheroes and he gets a pretty rough deal in this film. Through his upmost belief that the law and legalities always wins he once again alienated himself, suffers emotional loss and stress and then has to live with the consequences whilst discovering that his parents were murdered by his fellow avengers’ best friend.
The movies don’t really allow Tony any time to deal with these emotional hurdles or give himself time to recover and the character himself doesn’t give himself any time to heal. Instead he is next helping to mentor Spider-Man in Homecoming but unable to fill the role of responsible mentor that Peter so desperately craves whilst all the time feeling more and more guilt and responsibility that he is not being the leader, mentor and idol that the Avengers, Spider-man and even the fictional general public need him to be.
It starts to weigh too heavily on his shoulders which leads to his downfall. He starts to crumble and by Infinity War he meets his ultimate failure as half the universe snaps away, he fails Peter and abandons his wife, family and friends in their time of need whilst he is stuck in space. Even in Endgame, Tony gets five years to spend with his wife Pepper and daughter Morgan but he is still just as tormented even then. He never finds peace, and instead responsibility, grief, loss and memories eat away at him until he loses himself trying to be what everyone else needs him to be: a superhero.
My problem with Endgame’s ending and the death of Tony Stark is that when we meet Tony Stark in 2008 in Iron Man he is tormented and emotionally distraught, guilty at his father’s munitions legacy. In Endgame in 2019, Stark is still just as tormented and emotionally distraught. In this way, I feel like the character doesn’t develop and he never finds peace or emotional ease. I wanted the character to find some form of end to the torment, or peace, freedom and the end of this difficulty, some kind of emotional happy ending in the same way that Captain America gets in his alternative future where he spends it with Peggy.
Instead Tony Stark just dies. His wearing of the infinity gauntlet, his snap and saving the world is one thing that can make him feel worthy. He has finally prove himself that he can protect his family and his loved ones, that he can save the world and can drop the guilt, torment and grief constantly surrounding him. The character finally gets peace.
My problem is that the character dies and so the audience never get to see him in that peace. We don’t get to see that character development. We don’t get to see this version of Tony Stark with all the weight of the world lifted and that is my problem with this. The character and it’s legacy deserved a chance to tell that story and to show that side. He deserved a happy ending, he should have had a positive end to that legacy and to see a bigger character change.
He deserved an ending like Cap that wrote the actor and the character out whilst giving some justice and some peace to the character. He has proved himself to himself and we needed to have the chance to see him revel in some of that success. Instead, it’s the other characters who end up getting their happy ending with Tony and Natasha being the only characters who miss out on this fairytale ending.
It seems particularly unfair that the two characters that battle with their own demons, never get their minds free and never get that peace, and it offers a pessimistic outlook. At least Thor sees hope beyond his PTSD but why doesn’t Tony get an escape from his own PTSD and anxiety. He deserved that redemption arc of himself. We’ve seen other characters like Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow change in their presentation and persona they present of themselves but Tony Stark doesn’t get that obvious remodel. RIP Tony Stark and his heart.