With the release of the new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer this week a new dynamic has been introduced to the MCU, Iron Man has become an antagonist.
Now, before you disagree with me, hear me out. It all started in Avengers 1, during the altercation in Banner’s lab. With the scepter influencing everyone’s minds, words were shared. Mostly the words shared were along the lines of how each one was better than the rest. The real altercation came between Steve and Tony, when Steve asked Tony “… Take away that suit of armour.. what are you?”. Tony responds with the ever famous “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”, which thereby establishes his ego-centrism and narcissism as well as pointing him on the path that he is now on.
Later in the movie a nuke is launched by the World Security council in an attempt to stop the invasion and close the portal. Tony intercepts the missile and angles it through the portal to the Chitauri invasion force. Tony saves the world and saves billions causing the narcissism to grow.
Skip ahead to Avengers: Age of Ultron, where unlike the comic book source material, Tony creates Ultron. This deviation was a necessity because Hank Pym wasn’t established in the MCU until the Ant-Man movie which was released after Age of Ultron. In Age of Ultron, despite the objections of Bruce Banner, Tony decides to take it upon himself to create the Ultron program; a program he says will “end the team”. Obviously it doesn’t go to plan and the shit hits the fan, causing the Avengers to unite again to combat the new threat. This movie began sewing the seeds for the eventual conflict that would be Captain America: Civil War, the distrust has begun to grow and the antagonistic behaviour had begun to show itself.
The culmination of this is during the moments when the team is hiding out at the Barton farm as they lick their wounds. Steve and Tony are both chopping wood and begin with a philosophical discussion.
T- You know Ultron is trying to tear us apart, right?
S – Well I guess you’d know… whether you would tell us is a bit of a question…
T – Banner and I were doing research…
S – That would affect the team!
T – That would end the team! Isn’t that the mission? Isn’t that the why we fight? So we can end the fight, so we get to go home?
S – Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.
This banter is coupled with the incident in the lab in Avengers 1, and the creation of Ultron to set the stakes for Civil War. Already in the second Avengers movie, Tony is being painted as a rogue element to the team and given antagonistic characteristics. The movie concludes with no other altercations amongst the members of the team, save Hawkeye giving a very inspiring speech to Scarlet Witch amidst the war zone of Sokovia.
In comes Captain America: Civil War; one of, if not THE best MCU movie to date. This movie introduces the Sokovia Accords, aptly named for incident in the previous Avengers movie. This legislation that is being passed comes in response to an attack by Crossbones in Lagos Africa, which kills dozens of people. The Accords is a mirror to the Superhuman Registration Act from the comics, which does exactly as its name entails. The Sokovia Accords would cause the Avengers to come under the direction of a governing council from the United Nations.
The friction starts when Tony along with several other avengers, believe they should be held accountable for their actions; and that if they don’t willingly sign now, they will be forced to later. Steve and several other avengers believe that they need to be able to discern where they need to go based on need. The argument Steve uses is that “the safest hands are still their own” and “what if there is somewhere we need to go and they won’t let us”? This scene coupled with Steve’s unwavering loyalty to Bucky is what sets the two opposing sides on the warpath. The movie ends with Steve siding with longtime friend and ally Bucky over Tony and his quest for revenge against the Winter Soldier for murdering his mom. One of the most gut wrenching lines is delivered during this final fight when Steve stands between Tony and Bucky and says ” Sorry Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice. But he’s my friend”. The scene switches to show Tony’s heartbroken face as he mutters the words “So was I”.
The end of Civil War saw Tony losing the fight to Steve and in retaliation telling Steve he didn’t deserve the shield his father had made. In a very definitive statement, Steve drops the shield as he picks Bucky up and helps him to their Quinjet. The movie ends with Steve sending Tony a letter and a burner phone saying that he can’t support the Accords, but if Tony ever needs him he will be there.
Flash forward to the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, Tony is back at being Iron Man full time and has taken Peter under his wing to mentor him. Peter is doing his best to stop the vulture but in one of the most adrenaline filled scenes of the trailer he ends up having to hold a sinking ferry together to stop it from sinking. Tony comes to the rescue with his Iron Man armour and what appears to be a swarm of mini jet engines that attach themselves to both sides of the sinking ferry pushing it back together. The trailer next shows a scene where Tony and Peter are talking on a building top as tony steps out of his hovering armour (so cool!). He tells Peter that he doesn’t respect the suit and that he doesn’t deserve it, eerily echoing the same thing he said to Steve at the end of Civil War.
All of these actions are showing Tony to be an increasingly antagonistic character in the MCU. The argument could be made he is just making sure the people out there fighting are the best they can be; however, that doesn’t excuse his actions from Age of Ultron and the final act of Civil War. While the MCU has been teasing Thanos as the big bad for the next 2 Avengers movies; but mark my words, with his narcissism and ego-centrism coupled with the increasingly antagonistic behaviours, Tony could very well be the real villain they face.