Who is Tony Stark?

With all that fame, money and an endless array of tech it is quite difficult to pin down who Tony Stark is as a person. From film to film (sometimes even within the same film), it is Stark who goes through the numerous character and personality transformations.

After Infinity War- Part I, MCU will most certainly seem very distinguished from the past films – and maybe, one of those changes will occur in the Iron-Man character arc.

Every Marvel superhero goes through a series of test-runs that firmly establishes them in the universe making their existence imperative.

Through these trials and tribulations, Marvel often uses Stark’s arc as a metaphor for Marvel Studios itself. Iron-Man, aka Tony Stark, is the centerpiece of MCU. The cinematic-universe saw its launch with the first-ever Iron-Man movie and since then, the rush and reception have been unstoppable.

Viewers/ comic-book fanatics and general audiences often return to Downey for his performance as Iron-Man not just because he is written as a strong and comically engaging superhero/business tycoon in NYC but because his dominant presence in the 7 MCU films thus far ( 8 if we consider his Hulk cameo) is ever evolving and susceptible to unpredictability. And maybe, no other MCU character arc can come anywhere close to such written-character-evolution.

His origin story is much like DC’s Bruce Wayne aka Batman, but not so, entirely. Tony Stark comes from privilege and a dark past due to loss of parents, who can already claim to have done good for the world using his might and wealth. Reads like a common superhero origin story, doesn’t it?

From privilege, moving onto a forceful journey towards becoming humble and accepting, unlike Cap whose origin story needed him to accept his own powers and abilities and take on the world to save it. Similarly, Bruce Banner or Hulk, who was seen rejecting his own might initially, out of plain fear, had to eventually come to terms with its use for the well-being of the world.

Thor has had a somewhat different yet easy origin of having to express humility in order to respect his own powers and thereby regain them. The closest that comes to Stark’s arc might be Strange’s but not so much.

Through his progression, Stark shuts off the arms manufacturing unit of Stark industries that he unwittingly benefited from. From setting an impression of the spoon-fed privileged benefiting son of Starks to the effortless rich world-saving hero, he’s coming through quite a transformation but that’s not all.

There’s one and only flaw that Iron-Man holds in his heart, literally. The Arc-reactor. A piece of metal that holds the power to control the man’s confidence as Iron-Man. By Iron-Man 2, Tony Stark confronts another stage of his transformation, i.e.- his mortality.

Now, Tony is a man, caged by time and resources. Keeping a piece of metal between him and the world, the palladium that is ending his insides every minute when he puts it on – knowingly, brings out the escapist in him. His “what is to worry?” attitude is proof of the protective blanket he’s created to shield himself against all demons.

Increasingly isolated as he becomes with every new MCU film, it is a strange, strange journey that Iron-Man goes through.

ENTER: transformation stage 3 – conflicting past with the father.

In efforts made to match his father’s legacy, Stark becomes the maker of his own. After joining hands with Rhodes to fight against Ivan Wanko and opening up to Pepper Potts, Tony Stark goes through a need for connecting to the rest of the world – a world that already knows of his existence. He then joins Fury and becomes one of the Avengers, where his snobbish self does not find any warmth.

ENTER: Loki and problems. 

Stark now understands the might of the God of Mischief and decides to help save the world, yet again. However, the only constant that remains is Stark’s ego and pride. The first Avengers and the journey that the superheroes embark upon is the sole proof of the fact that Iron-Man isn’t a born leader, as he thought of himself to be.

While constantly at loggerheads with Cap’, Stark fails to realize that he is needed to be his soldier self. The ‘Call it, Cap’ moments of the films, is yet another stage of transformation. With these moments, come Stark’s acceptance of his abilities and inferiority to Cap. By the end of the film, Stark flies into the wormhole to save the world from the explosion, gets lucky and falls back into the world, formulating moments of comprehension for the audiences – Tony Stark isn’t the man he used to be.

Iron-Man 3, deals with Stark’s trauma from The Avengers and his incessant need to build stronger armor for himself. Being deprived of his suits and tech, Tony Stark is forced to be Tony Stark, only. To have to throw his arc-reactor into the ocean is another kind of acceptance, one that made him grounded.

In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Stark is now a humble man, completely aware of his capabilities and restrictions faces newer transformations through his personality and being. To save the world is his new drug.

Partnering with Banner, he now tries to design an AI that wreaks havoc on the people and their lives. His vulnerability is his only lesson. Ultron is left defeated but Stark has another dimension added to his personality.

His vanity at the end of this film and at the start of Captain America: Civil War is his new struggle towards change. His argument offering preference to authority over the Avengers makes sense if seen independently. But the argument was shared in light of his most personal intentions. The man who once upon a time asked the U.S. government to fuck off is now the tidy-soldier.

And as we finally tread towards The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, Stark faces his biggest demon: fear and guilt. Out of experience as an Avenger, Stark now decides to mentor Parker, a kid who is fascinated with the Avengers not knowing the damages that it can cause to self. Come to think of it, Parker and Stark are men who depend heavily on validation. One who needs to be validated and the other exercises superiority by offering validation. Both, in their own ways, have needs that only the other can fulfill. Only Stark can snap at Parker for making “pop-culture” references, much like a father addressing a generational-gap with his son.


Iron-Man is now making amends with Potts and his other responsibilities. However, when push comes to shove (read: THANOS), he confronts war head-on. That might just be his biggest strength.

Snooty Stark is now bringing the ‘broken Beatles’ back together to fight the world’s biggest enemy and that sure does seem like one hell of a ride.

Smita Ganguli

Numskull of the sorts, repulsed by almost everything -- cats, people, and the world. Cannot live without cinema, pizza, and sushi.