AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR marks the end of a few different things in the MCU. It’s the concluding chapter in a decade-long story and the potential end for more than a couple of beloved heroes. It’s also the end of a treacherous path. One that Tony Stark, (Robert Downy Jr.) believes he began for the Avengers, which leads them to Thanos. Let’s look at Iron Man and the choices he’s made that have created this path.

Tony Stark: The MCU’s Godfather

IRON MAN was the MCU’s first film way back in 2008. As a result, Tony Stark has been in more MCU films than any other hero. From the IRON MAN films to the first two AVENGERS films, the end of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and most recently in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING.

Tony Stark as a character operates almost as the nucleus or center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in that most everything within it revolves around him. His influence and decisions arguably have made the most impact on the path that the MCU has taken, for better or for worse. In Tony’s eyes, probably for the worst.

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Tony Forges the Path with His Vulnerabilities and Fear

Say what you will about IRON MAN 3, if it did one thing right, it was showing that the Battle of New York in THE AVENGERS messes Tony up. In the film, Tony struggles with processing the alien invasion, seeing himself as just one man who is ill-equipped. This leads to him having panic attacks and high stress throughout the film, feeling as though he can’t protect himself or the ones he cares about.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

His solution is a poor one. He begins to obsess over making more and more suits to better arm himself. This does little to actually help his struggles and begins to make the situation worse, as he begins to lose Pepper, the one he loves and cares for the most. After defeating Aldrich Killian, a villain formed as a direct result of Tony’s past mistakes, Tony blows up his suits.

This supposedly signals a clean slate for Tony, his new resolve to be with Pepper, and to no longer let his suits be a crutch for his fear and vulnerabilities. In spite of that, we soon see that Tony’s fear still remains after IRON MAN 3. This is only the beginning of the path Tony starts.

“I See a Suit of Armor Around the World.”

When the second AVENGERS film begins, the Avengers are taking down a Hydra base and Tony finds Loki’s scepter. As he takes it, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) tampers with his mind and he sees a vision. The vision he sees is all of the Avengers lying dead in space, while a massive alien force is headed to Earth to invade and assumedly destroy everything and everyone Tony loves. A dying Captain America (Chris Evans) grabs him and says with a dying breath:

“You could have saved us…Why didn’t you do more?”

This is Tony’s greatest fear: All that he loves dead, his potential to save them, but not doing enough beforehand to make a difference.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

When Tony discovers that Hydra was planning on creating advanced A.I powered by Loki’s scepter, Tony sees an opportunity to create Ultron, a peacekeeping A.I to help defend the world against future invasions. Ultron (James Spader) would help Tony arm the world. Unfortunately, Ultron becomes too advanced and determines that humankind needs to start over and evolve.

While the Avengers are able to stop Ultron, the nation of Sokovia is destroyed.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Ultron Leads to Tony’s Guilt in CIVIL WAR, Another Part of the Path

With the destruction of Sokovia, the U.N decides to form the Sokovia Accords, which will put the Avengers under the supervision of a U.N panel. While Captain America that this would take away their freedom to choose where and when they help, Tony sides with the U.N and works with them.

This leads to a rift that splits the Avengers in two. One team led by Tony under the Accords, and the other led underground by Rogers as a group of fugitives. This rift is made even larger when Tony and Steve discover that it was the Winter Soldier who killed Tony’s parents in 1991.

Tony initially seeks vengeance, overcome by grief, and yet Steve still tries to protect his brainwashed friend from him.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

I’d like to think that Tony Stark most likely would have agreed with Rogers if not for Ultron. Tony rightly sees Ultron and the resulting events with Sokovia as his fault. His large feelings of guilt drives his choice to go under the U.N’s supervision.

“We need to be put in check. Whatever form that takes I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, if we’re boundary-less, we’re no better than the bad guys.”

He then goes on to compare his choice to when he shut down his company’s manufacturing of weapons. When he saw their capability for destruction and chaos, he stops making them. Steve argues by saying that that was his choice to make and that the Accords would take away their ability to choose.

Regardless, Tony’s focus on his guilt causes him to stick to his perceptions.

INFINITY WAR: What the End of the Path Looks Like

“This is the end. The end of the path I started us on.”

These are the words that Tony Stark tells Nick Fury during AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON when describing his vision. He says that it’s not a nightmare. It’s his legacy.

It certainly looks like AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR might be Tony’s vision coming to life. Several of the shots from the trailer certainly seems to indicate that Tony thinks so. Thanos’ arrival, the Black Order, and his hordes of outriders… things don’t look good for any of the Avengers.

If that wasn’t enough, Tony’s actions have put the Avengers on what seems like the worst footing possible, in that they aren’t even a whole team. Broken from the Accords, the Avengers will have to figure out how to all work together once more, putting aside their issues both political and personal in order to combat Thanos.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Tony’s Death at the End of the Path?

There have also been several shots of Tony personally that might suggest the end of the path results at the end of Tony’s life. As previously stated, Tony Stark was the first MCU hero audiences met a decade ago. It might very well be time for Tony’s (and RDJ’s) exit from the MCU, allowing other heroes to step in (Spidey perhaps?)

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One can only hope that, after reaching the end of the path that Tony began, he might be able to have a happy ending: knowing that he did enough. The path he started, made largely from his fear, vulnerabilities, and guilt, could end with Thanos being defeated, and a new chapter for Avengers who would live on.

Tony Stark has many issues and caused several problems for the heroes of the MCU. However, he is still a hero, an Avenger. His strengths have caused just as much good for the MCU as his flaws have done harm. His desire to protect the world and his loved ones are pure. At the end of the day, he’ll still always be Iron Man.

Tony Stark Path
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR releases April 27th. Get your tickets here!

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