“Where are the ladies?” Maria Hill teasingly asks at the Avengers Tower Gala in Age of Ultron. Thor explains that Jane Foster is off lecturing the world about the science behind the Convergence. Tony Stark, less convincingly, says that Pepper is off running a company. Why is it I buy Thor’s excuse more than Tony’s? Because at the end of Iron Man 3 Tony and Pepper were very happily together. I can see Jane putting her relationship with Thor on hold for her career. But having been with the MCU since Phase 1, Tony without Pepper is like eating pancakes without syrup: it’s still edible and delicious but it’s not complete. No discussion of Tony’s character is complete without including her (but let’s face it, my last Iron Man post was already pretty crammed). If anything, Pepper’s absence was one of the many reasons Age of Ultron felt “off” to me as a fan.
This is Part 2 of the three-part Road to Civil War series
Let me get to the point: Tony Stark is not a villain. Take away his being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and take away the suit, and he is a person just like every one of us who is trying to do his best.
Granted, he started out as a billionaire genius whatever. What makes Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, a hero is when he realizes he has caused problems he resolves to fix them, usually with technology. In Iron Man, Stark is captured by terrorists while on a business trip–terrorists that have taken the weapons he designed. His solution is to create an armored suit with which to escape captivity and fight the terrorists, and he resolves to put his technology to better use in the future. In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is confronted with the dilemma that everyone in the world wants armored suits patterned after his own. But he thwarts the plots of those trying to steal his design and asserts that the suit is rightfully his. Rhodey gets to be War Machine because Tony trusts him, and because Rhodey understands and supports him.
By the end of Iron Man 2, Tony is not approved for the Avengers initiative, but when Loki arrives on the scene in The Avengers, Tony is asked to help–and ends up doing a lot more than he bargained for.
Tony doesn’t tell the other Avengers that his near-death experience affected him, but it did. By Christmas, Tony has full-swing PTSD. And among other things Tony struggles with in Iron Man 3, Tony wonders how much he can give to keep the world safe. I am writing this post partly because I recently rewatched Iron Man 3 and I got a new insight on Tony. One thing I noticed was the scene in the restaurant where he’s talking to Rhodey. He’s practically begging Rhodey to let him help against the Mandarin. In the end, Tony realizes that he can’t stay away when the rest of the world has problems–not when he has the power to do something.
Tony blows up all of his Iron Man suits, but I don’t think he’s completely hands-off helping with global security. We do hear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that he gave some suggestions for the helicarrier turbines. What if that wasn’t the only thing he had input on? What if Tony Stark made some behind-the-scenes contributions to the Insight program? If he wasn’t going to keep the world safe as Iron Man, then S.H.I.E.L.D. could do it for him through Insight, right?
Well, if that’s the case, he was wrong. Insight turned out to be a conspiracy, and Tony was one of the people on Hydra’s blacklist. He probably wasn’t waiting for Captain America to come to him for help in the fight against Hydra. He was probably already building new Iron Man armor in order to, first and foremost, protect himself.
By the time Age of Ultron rolls around, Tony has figured out that keeping the world safe isn’t a hobby the way he’s done it in the past: it’s a real chore. But according to Tony, this isn’t how the world works. Tony doesn’t just leave problems lying around, he fixes them and moves on. If you remember what he says to Steve Rogers/Cap right before the battle of New York: “We are not soldiers.” And then when they are at Clint’s house, he says, “Isn’t that the ‘why we fight’? so we get to go home?” Tony does not want to commit to a lifetime of saving the world. And a part of him doesn’t quite understand people who would do that–people like Steve Rogers.
What Tony wants is a way to keep the world safe in a hands-off way, something to protect people from the threats on this planet and, most importantly, from outer space. Ultron is the superhero equivalent of a dishwasher or a washing machine: a technology solution to save labor. When Tony gets the scepter in Sokovia and realizes what it can do, he asks himself, why not put it to use? Why not use it to build Ultron? The Iron Legion he created could only do so much: why not make something better? Coming from Tony’s perspective, it was a pretty good idea. It was probably not very well thought-out, but it was worth a try.
The Avengers keep Ultron from destroying the world, but they created an enormous mess in order to do so. And in the process, Tony also strained the relationships he had with his teammates. I don’t think Tony blames himself completely for what happened, but just enough that he feels like he needs to step out of saving the world, at least for a time. He solved the last problem he caused, so now he can go home. But honestly, I have no idea what he could be up to now. It’s not like Tony to just sit back. It is a fair guess, though, that Tony is taking a lot of time to think about what happened.
So why would Tony get himself involved in whatever mess happens in Captain America: Civil War? What would make him side with the likes of Thunderbird Ross and take arms against Captain America? I think what might happen is that Steve Rogers, as leader of the Avengers, does something that Tony Stark, observing from the sidelines, doesn’t like. There might be evidence, in his mind, that the world doesn’t need a full-time superhero force, or if it does then such a force should at least have his input. None of that is really bad, it’s just Tony doing what he thinks needs to be done. It is Tony seeing the issue of superheroes as a problem he needs to fix. And when he realizes he can’t control other superheroes, Tony will believe that Captain America and the people who are close to him need to be stopped, even if it means killing them.
I do not plan on going to the movie theaters next May and seeing Tony Stark as the villain. Hydra will be the real evil at work there, and Iron Man’s opposition will just it harder for Captain America to stop Hydra. Captain America: Civil War is about good versus evil, but Iron Man versus Captain America is about regular people caught in a disagreement–because of misunderstanding and, to an extent, deception–and that is what makes a civil war a tragedy.
This is Part 1 of the three-part Road to Civil War series.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, ANT-MAN, AND CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR INCLUDED BELOW. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I would have been perfectly happy if Marvel hadn’t announced anything and we had no idea who was on who’s side until next May. But now that we have the names, it’s only fair to speculate. I don’t know much about the comics so this is entirely based on the movies, the discussions of other online fans, and what we know so far.
Team Iron Man
Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes is Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick. I did ask a fan website what else would motivate him to take Tony’s side in this controversy. The response was that Rhodey works for the U.S. government, so he will support whatever the government decides. This didn’t make sense to me, but then I remembered the scene in Iron Man 2 where Rhodey took the stolen armor to the Air Force Base. If that doesn’t speak volumes about Rhodey’s priorities, little else will.
I have never liked Spider-Man, but when they announced that Marvel had bought the rights from Sony to include him in Civil War and reboot him within the existing universe, I decided to deal with it. In the comics, Spider-Man plays an important part in the Civil War story. The film version, however, will differ since we are seeing Peter Parker at the outset of his career. Tom Holland was cast as the teenage webslinger based on how he performed with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, so Parker’s relationship with the heads of these two factions, specifically with Iron Man, might be crucial. There was also a mock news interview with Scott Lang released as a promo for Ant-Man, and someone on Tumblr mentioned that in the crawl on the bottom of the screen said Tony Stark had established a scholarship for inner-city students. Peter Parker probably looks to Stark as a patron. Given Tony’s relationship with Harley in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark looking for a protege makes sense.
Vision used to be JARVIS, but I have to scratch my head because Age of Ultron did little to establish how much of JARVIS is left inside of the android. As Vision, however, he might have good personal reasons for siding with Iron Man. Vision states in Age of Ultron, “I am on the side of life.” Perhaps Captain America is doing something he finds morally reprehensible.
In the comics, Vision is in a relationship with the Scarlet Witch, but since they are on different sides I wonder if that relationship is ever going to occur, if it hasn’t already.
Natasha Romanoff making Team Iron Man was certainly a shock. The fandom is disappointed because after everything that she and Steve went through together in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they seemed to have earned their mutual trust. I for one would have expected her to at least fight on the same team as Hawkeye. We may have to wait and see what Natasha’s motivations are more than for the other characters.
Team Captain America
Scarlet Witch was not involved in Civil War in the comics, and her presence alone indicates that the film is going to be very different, Wanda Maximoff was my new favorite character in Age of Ultron, so I am really happy that she is on Steve’s side. It’s not surprising, though, because if you remember in Age of Ultron she and Pietro volunteered for Hydra’s experiments in the first place because of their grudge against Tony Stark. A part of me says that Wanda hasn’t gotten over that. And the twins, if you remember, were close to Clint Barton, it’s no surprise that Wanda is sticking with him.
Sam Wilson, of course, is extremely loyal to Steve Rogers. Considering his role in Ant-Man, Sam will be the one recruiting Scott Lang and he may be the one pulling other people to Cap’s side. He might even be considered a co-leader of the team. I am interested to see how he will interact with Hawkeye/Clint Barton. They both have superhero names based on birds of prey and so naturally the fandom thinks they belong together. In-between all of the other shenanigans there is a chance we might get to see the “bird bros” bonding onscreen.
If you haven’t seen Ant-Man yet, go see it! Those of you who have, you know he’ll be called in to do Steve the ultimate favor. Scott Lang is a huge Avengers fan to start with. But what’s interesting is that in Ant-Man, Hank Pym mentioned to Scott that he could never trust Howard Stark with his technology and he doesn’t want Tony anywhere near it either. That impression probably stuck with Scott. I think Scott Lang will be Steve’s new go-to man for equipment, since he is burning bridges with Tony, and heaven knows Steve and his teammates are going to need some tech to compete with Stark.
This was the surprise for Cap’s team. I mean, he is a really loyal friend to Natasha so I am surprised and disappointed they weren’t on the same side, but that’s what’s going to raise the stakes, right? At the end of Age of Ultron, Clint went back to his family at least for a little while, so I wonder what might get him to go back into the field. The registration act from the comics storyline is not going to work out, but in Age of Ultron the other Avengers except Natasha did not know about his family, so he still had at least some degree of privacy. Something may be threatening his family and he is siding with Steve in order to protect them.
The Winter Soldier
All signs indicate that Bucky will be getting at least some of his memory and personality back, but his external circumstances will remain less than ideal. Other people aren’t going to care that he’s no longer Hydra’s brainwashed assassin, and in fact if you saw the Ant-Man post-credit scene you KNOW that he’s vulnerable for it. The more I hear, the more I think that the resolution of the Winter Soldier’s storyline will be the pin on which everyone hinges. Steve might take his stance based on how people respond to Bucky, and Steve may or may not trust certain people based on who agrees with him.
The Double Agent
When the team lineups were announced, it was also rumored that one of the superheroes was going to be a double agent. Everyone thinks (and wants) it to be Natasha, but I think we need to give the other character a look. To be brutally honest, Bucky fighting at Steve’s side is almost too good to be true. Spider Man is a new character and his motivations are unknown, but if he’s a young teenager who looks up to Tony Stark I doubt he would do anything that gutsy. Scott Lang/Ant-Man might become disillusioned with his superhero idols after watching them fight each other. Maybe Tony does something that Vision disagrees with, but once Vision makes a decision I doubt he would go back on it: he is too much pure goodness.
I would say that Team Iron Man has the advantage as far as technology, but for powers I think they might be even. As for the characters I like I think Captain America’s team took the vast majority of the cool people. However, much remains to be seen about what the actual conflict is and what will really motivate these characters we know and love to take sides.