You remember Captain America: Civil War — Sokovia Accords, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) on opposite sides, heroes fighting heroes, and so on. And if you remember Civil War, then you remember that Tony Stark is the absolute worst person in it. Worse than Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). Worse than Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt). Worse than the man with the plan, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Stark lectures everyone about the need for government regulation, only to flip and go rogue to try and murder a tortured POW who was never consciously in control of his actions, which included killing Stark’s parents. Harsh? Maybe. But then you look at the events leading up to Civil War and the events in it, and well, it’s not long before you realize Tony Stark really is a total, grade-A d**k.
Tony Stark Is the Only Avenger the Sokovia Accords Need to Keep in Check
Robert Downey Jr De-aged in Captain America Civil War
Image via Marvel Studios
So let’s start with the actions of the Avengers leading up to Civil War. They successfully stopped the Chitauri invasion in the so-called Battle of New York, saving the lives of thousands. They successfully stopped Ultron (James Spader) and his plan that would have resulted in global extinction while evacuating hundreds of innocent Sokovians from the area. And while the event at the start of the film sadly resulted in the death of innocent Wakandans, thousands, again, were spared from what inevitably would have been the nefarious use of biological weaponry. All things that clearly require the need for a UN babysitter. Stark is on board with the Sokovia Accords why? Because he built Ultron, and he was accosted by a mother whose son died as a result of the happenings in Sokovia.
It isn’t the Avengers as a collective that needs to be kept in check: it’s Stark himself. It was his own initiative to complete the “Ultron” global defense program, with only Banner (Mark Ruffalo) aware of his plans. It was his Ultron that came up with the splendid idea to eradicate humanity, which led to the capital of Sokovia being lifted into the sky, which ipso facto resulted in the deaths of innocents. In fairness, he wasn’t responsible for the other two events, and his creation of Ultron was driven by some hardcore PTSD, but c’mon, Tony — the Avengers saved more lives than were lost and cleaned up your mess. It’s akin to a group of people walking into a shawarma restaurant that all get turned away because one person has no shoes or shirt.
Tony Stark Shouldn’t Be Enlisting a Teenager in an Avengers-Level Fight
Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War
Image via Marvel Studios
Steve Rogers and the gang have gone rogue and are taking Barnes to stop Zemo. Tony Stark has been authorized by the U.S. Secretary of State to assemble others to stop them. His first stop? Queens, New York, to solicit Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland), to join him and his colleagues against the faction led by Rogers. Sure, dude’s got mad skillzz, so why wouldn’t you? Maybe because Parker is only a teenager who hasn’t gone up against anyone more dangerous than neighborhood thugs. Basically, Stark is asking the boy to come and likely be called in to fight seasoned combat veterans with powers, ones that have battled global threats. But hey, Stark gave him a new suit, so that has to count for something. At least he’ll have something nice to wear at his funeral. Why stop there, Tony? Maybe you can recruit Cassie Lang (Abby Ryder Fortson) to kick shins or something.
Tony Stark Is an Egotistical Jerk
After the big showdown, a gravely concerned Stark checks on Rhodes (Don Cheadle), whose back has been left shattered following his fall from the sky. He then approaches Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and lets her know the extent of Rhodes’ injuries. Natasha suggests that both he and Rogers need to stop, before someone gets hurt far more seriously than Rhodes. Tony claims, rightfully, that she let Rogers and Barnes go. Natasha then retorts with “We played this wrong.” Now, pause scene. An appropriate response may be to look around at the damage caused and admit that there has to be a better way. You know, open a dialogue on what went wrong, brainstorm how to set things right. Not Stark, though.
Instead, Tony Stark snaps back, “‘We?’ Boy, it must be hard to shake the whole double agent thing, huh? It sticks in the DNA.” Now ponder that for a moment. Stark pushed for the Accords, sided with Ross, put together a group of superheroes (and one child, see above), took that group into a confrontation he knew would escalate, and that confrontation resulted in his friend getting injured. Oh, and lest we forget, the whole thing is on him (see above above above). Yet he takes no share of the blame for any of it.
Tony Makes a Bad Situation Even Worse
Don Cheadle as War Machine in Captain America Civil War
Image via Marvel Studios
After Rogers’ allies are taken into custody, Stark visits them in the Raft super-max prison. Barton (Jeremy Renner) addresses him first, calling Stark out on knowing “what’s best for you, whether you like it or not.” At first, Stark tries to play the good guy, explaining that he had no idea they’d be placed in a high-security prison out in the ocean. Where the hell did you think they’d go, Tony? And talk about missing the point. It’s not that they’re in the Raft, the issue is them being imprisoned at all. Then, he has the audacity to justify it! “Well, golly, Clint. It was against the law and, shucks darn, you signed it and everything.” Even better, Stark still sees the situation as black and white, with Barton and the rest paying the consequences of choosing the wrong side. Not the side that sees things differently, but the side that didn’t choose his side.
By Going Rogue, All Tony Stark Does Is Punish the Already Traumatized
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America Civil War’ (2016)
Image via Marvel Studios
After discovering that Barnes was framed for the bomb that killed T’Chaka, and that a brainwashed Barnes was a tortured POW who suffered greatly under Hydra, forced to act against his own conscience, Stark goes off to find Rogers and Barnes… without telling Ross. For all the rhetoric about being accountable and the need to be kept in check, Stark withholds this information and goes out on his own anyway. If you’re going to disregard what you agreed to at the first moment it doesn’t side with what you want to do, then why bother in the first place?
Stark shows up, makes peace with Rogers and Barnes, and they confront Zemo. Only Zemo has a film for them to watch, one that shows Barnes killing Stark’s parents in 1991. Despite knowing that Barnes didn’t consciously do so, and that he too is suffering from PTSD, there’s no empathy here. Stark goes bat-s**t crazy and starts beating the crap out of Barnes and Rogers. And before you argue that Stark was more angry that Rogers knew and didn’t tell him, when would Rogers have had the opportunity to do so? And even if he did know, how does one even bring that up? “Hey, Tony – you know that robot arm dude I was fighting but you guys weren’t involved at all, and then we had to fight the robot that you built — the one you never told us about — that tried to kill everyone where he wasn’t involved, and then you were trying to keep us from coming here? Yah, he straight up killed your mom and dad.” There’s emotional response, and then there’s emotional response that involves high-tech weaponry and punching in heads with a metal glove.
In The Avengers, Tony Stark stopped the Chitauri threat by taking a nuclear missile through the wormhole, and in The Avengers: Endgame he sacrificed his own life to stop Thanos and bring those lost in the Blip back again, so it may be an understatement to suggest he made his penance for his Civil War actions. Let’s just hope that St. Peter didn’t stop watching the MCU films there.