Iron Man: From the MCU's Merchant of Death to Heroic Avenger

It's been more than a decade since Robert Downey Jr. made his spectacular debut as Tony Stark in Iron Man (directed by Jon Favreau) back in 2008. And while the film is significant for a variety of reasons, the largest is that it began the epic story recently branded the "Infinity Saga," which currently spans more than twenty films. It seems fitting now, then, that as that story nears its end, we'll likely be saying goodbye to Tony Stark.

Iron Man has been a significant figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning. Marvel Studios' cinematic behemoth has been shaped by him in numerous ways, and now seems like the perfect time to take a look back and explore his journey, if for no other reason than to see Stark's journey likely end in Avengers: Endgame wholly aware of who he is and how far he's come.

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Tony Stark was far from heroic when we first met him in Iron Man. He was a brilliant but somewhat immature son of a billionaire, focused on ensuring the financial growth of Stark Industries and never sparing a thought for how his weapons affected the lives of people around the world. He just wanted to enjoy his money because -- even if we didn't know it at the time -- he needed to fill a void in himself.


Everything changed when he was kidnapped by the Ten Rings and forced to take a good look at both the destruction his weapons caused and the evil he had indirectly empowered, evil that he discovered had been operating beneath his notice this entire time in the form of his business partner and longtime family friend Obadiah Stane. After confronting that issue, he used the Iron Man suit to set things right. It was a huge step in the right direction but still only the beginning of his journey.

With his trust in the world shaken due to Stane's betrayal, the next significant turning point for Tony took place in The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon), in which Stark had to learn to trust others and work with them to protect the world.

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One of Stark's greatest enemies had always been his own ego. He was used to working alone and distrusting everyone, so he bugged the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier and seemed to think himself better than those around him. It took some time, but after the loss of Agent Coulson, Stark learned to trust his teammates and put his ego aside, making his willingness to take orders from Captain America in the Battle for New York that much more meaningful.

In the wake of Avengers' big finale, Stark's eyes were now open to the dangers that threatened humanity, so he began lending support to those he trusted to aid humanity. We started seeing it early on in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo), when Nick Fury pointed out that Stark offered his help in redesigning the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarriers.


It didn't stop there. Stark was now making certain his superhero allies were equipped with the latest tech to help them in combat. The next time the Avengers assembled in Avengers: Age of Ultron (also directed by Whedon), we saw Natasha Romanoff armed with an upgraded Widow's Bite and Cap sporting electromagnetic panels for his shield.

But that wasn't enough. At this point in his story it was clear that Stark was all about progress. For him, the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D were just temporary solutions. As he expressed to Cap in Age of Ultron, his mission was to bring an end to all threats. "Isn't that the 'why we fight?' So we can end the fight, so we get to go home?"

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