While the first Iron Man film in 2008 arguably launched the MCU as we know it, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark continued to play a pivotal role in bringing the entire cinematic universe together.
Starting his journey as the genius eccentric billionaire and playboy, Stark went on to lead the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes through their numerous struggles, triumphs, and pitfalls, culminating in Avengers: Endgame, the last movie of the Infinity Saga, that saw him sacrifice his life to defeat the Mad Titan.
As of now, Tony is the ultimate heroic figure in the fictional universe, though looking back at his character arc through the years, we can’t help but notice that some of these defining moments continually undermine what comes after them.
For one thing, an important narrative element in the story of Tony Stark is the fact that his contributions to the world of science and technology do harm more often than they do good, whether we’re talking about Obadiah Stane who stole his Iron Man suit, Ivan Vanko who built his own Arc reactor, or even Ultron, the sentient robot that nearly destroyed Earth.
During Iron Man 3‘s closing moments, Tony uses the “clean slate” protocol to blow up all his suits and leave behind the superhero life, though by Age of Ultron, the inventor is back in action with his fellow Avengers. Even at the end of the second Avengers flick, Tony makes it clear that he’s done with this life and leaves the heroes to Steve Rogers’ supervision.
You can guess where this is going since Stark once again reappears in Captain America: Civil War. It’s almost as if the character can’t make up his own mind. Suffice to say, and considering the progression of the narrative as a whole, the MCU‘s insistence to repeatedly show him retiring is perplexing, to say the least.