Iron Man has been an interesting character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially since he was the first Avenger to be introduced. In many ways his story-arc has been the centre of the on-going narrative. To start with his character was selfish. He had an insane ego and disregarded most things in order to pursue his playboy lifestyle.
His reality was shifted after he became a hostage to a terrorist group. Suddenly he was thrown into a situation to which money and wit couldn’t help him. Instead he resorted to his greatest asset: genius. Iron Man built himself a special armour in order to escape. His period of captivity taught him many life lessons, especially when seeing the grim reality of the weapon industry he had invested in and how good people, i.e. fellow captive Yinsen, are caught in the cross-fire and killed.
Iron Man vowed to change his ways and become a better person by turning his knowledge of building weapons into something positive. This resulted in the creation of the Iron Man suit. However, Iron Man failed to understand how a hero functions. He didn’t keep his identity a secret and instead told the world, parading around like a celebrity. Despite him being right about not bowing down to the government’s demands of owning the Iron Man suit he still didn’t act like a responsible adult, let alone a superhero who is supposed to be a symbol of hope and justice.
At least his continuous playboy attitude was explained by his impending death, caused, ironically, by his own life-support system which he created. This was avoided, through the nudge of Nick Fury and his father’s message, after he found a way to build a new life-support system. This led him onto a better path.
His encounter with Loki was where Iron Man started to see the bigger picture in life. Despite his changed attitude from Iron Man, his battle alongside Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye was where he truly matured. He witnessed a battle that couldn’t be won without sacrifice. Also, for the first time, he was out of his depth through dealing with forces that he didn’t understand.
The events of Avengers Assemble left Iron Man suffering with anxiety attacks as paranoia slowly took hold. He feared he could no longer protect Pepper and felt the need to continuously build new Iron Man suits. Between this obsession and his nightmares Iron Man became reckless as he challenged the Mandarin directly to a confrontation, resulting in his home being targeted and himself nearly killed in the process.
Iron Man 3 created the idea that he was now powerless to stop his enemies and required the usage of his suits to win the day. This line of thought continued within Avengers: Age of Ultron as he believed the future to protecting the world was through creating a super-computer. This gave birth to Ultron. This robotic creature quickly learnt to think for itself and turned against Iron Man in an attempt to destroy humanity. Iron Man’s weakness during this battle was failing to realise his mistakes as his fixation of protecting the world grew out of control.
Come Captain America: Civil War Iron Man wishes to follow the government’s new legislation which forces the Avengers to work under the law and no longer act as vigilantes. With Captain America being against this new law Iron Man attempts to persuade his old friend to see differently, resulting in a civil war between the opposing superheroes.
It is interesting to see how far Iron Man has come but it’s difficult to say whether he has followed the right path. In many ways he is a massive hypocrite due to his previous beliefs which had him disregarding rules. Now he has completely switched perspectives and is all for following the rules and making sure his actions don’t endanger others.
Compare this to Captain America and we have the same narrative but in reverse. He was once a man who believed in following orders, believing following the law system brought true justice. Come his appearance in Assemble, having travelled through time, he began to realise, thanks to Iron Man, that his superiors don’t always tell him the truth, thereby hiding secret agendas which can result in unjustifiable outcomes.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed him that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised by HYDRA. This resulted in him learning that he had to make his own decisions and stop following orders. This was aided by the idea that his friend, Bucky, was deemed an enemy despite him being brainwashed by HYDRA. This is one of the main factors that drives him against following the new legislation because he doesn’t want to be told who his enemy is and having his abilities abused.
Out of the two characters it really is hard to say who is right. I personally believe more in Captain America because he follows his heart. Despite his new agenda of doing whatever is necessary he always follows the path that brings about a justifiable result, which usually helps others.
Iron Man on the other-hand is still clouded by his ego and doesn’t fully believe in himself in order to make a fair decision. Instead he has allowed paranoia to alter him in a way where we don’t fully recognise the character we came to love back in Iron Man. He does, however, hold some truth to his new beliefs, especially in regards to having the Avengers disciplined but at the same time he isn’t seeing the bigger picture and how controlled superheroes may hinder the world rather than make it better.
It is fascinating reflecting upon Iron Man’s journey within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In many ways it has been tragic seeing his humour slowly silenced by him growing up and facing a new perspective on life. I really can’t wait to see Civil War and watch Iron Man and Captain America duel it out. It’ll be sad to see the outcome and ponder on how this explosive conclusion will cause ripples in both the MCU and the characters themselves.
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