Updated: Jul 15, 2022
In this series, I’m showing how Tony Stark, or Iron Man, goes from being a possum, or a person who freezes and runs away from problems, to a protector in the Avengers series of movies. In the last blog, I covered Iron Man 1 & 2. Today I’m going to be looking at how our hero progresses through the Avengers 1 movie and Iron Man 3.
We first see Tony towards the beginning of the movie standing with Pepper Potts in his newly designed sky riser that is the most energy efficient building in New York City to date. And Tony Stark is very proud of what he’s built. It’s also revealed that Tony and Pepper are officially an item.
It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that Tony is still as cocky as ever and he’s also showing his jealous streak again when Pepper refers to Agent Coulsen by his first name. Agent Coulsen is there to ask Tony to join him for a meeting with Nick Fury and the other superheroes who have been assembled. They find out Loki is causing mischief. Stark and Captain America are sent to apprehend him, but Stark still hasn’t entirely learned to play well with others.
They succeed in capturing Loki, only to have Thor show up and take Loki from them. Captain America wants to come up with a plan, but Stark has his Iron Man Suit on, and being the only one who can fly after Thor, he takes off after Thor and Loki on his own. A fight between Thor and Stark ensues, and it’s only when Captain America shows up and intervenes, that they stop fighting and take Loki back into custody on a ship that has a containment area that was built specifically for the Hulk.
On the ship, Stark hits it off with Banner, but no one else. Cap calls him out on his selfish behavior and basically tells him he doesn’t think about the good of the team, only of himself which is why he won’t sacrifice himself for anyone and will always try to save only himself. Stark attempts to prove him wrong by putting himself in danger when he goes to fix one of the ship’s engines.
After Loki manages to escape, the team gathers to come up with a plan and Stark realizes Loki’s plan involves a very public display in New York that includes his new energy efficient building. He also realizes this situation is a lot bigger than him and he’s going to have to work with the others and he begins to see their individual strengths. Stark heads to his building to start putting their plan into action.
However, when Loki’s army arrives before the others, Stark is doing his best to contain the situation on his own and makes it clear that he’s not happy about his team’s late arrival. He knows he can’t handle this situation by himself and that’s exactly what he’s forced to do until his team show up. The fear and anger he feels causes him to lash out when they do show up. For him to trust them, he needs them to be reliable and so far that’s not going well.
Captain America shows his ability to lead and organize under pressure, and Stark is willing to take orders from Cap, which takes some of the pressure off of his shoulders.
At the end of the fight, Tony has a choice to make. He can do something that might cost him his life, or he can let thousands of people die. Although he’s terrified to do it, he makes the choice to sacrifice himself. Ultimately he survives and earns the respect of the other Avengers, but his experience has left him traumatized. But we don’t find that out until Iron Man 3.
In Iron Man 3, we see Stark struggling almost from the very beginning. This movie starts with a flashback and a monologue from Tony. The year is 1999, and we see Stark in all his cocky pride at a New Year’s Eve party. He’s with a woman who has discovered interesting new science that can make plants regrow themselves when damaged. As they are heading upstairs for some alone time, they are approached by an overzealous man, Aldred, who wants to work with Stark. Stark sends him to the roof and promises to meet him there in five minutes, but never shows up. He also has a one night stand with the girl and leaves in the morning. This scene is not only important in showing us that how he treated people garnered him many potential enemies, but it’s important because it shows how much Stark has grown by the end of the movie.
Current Day, Tony is working on his literal army of Iron Man machines, and testing them. His fear after New York has grown and he still believes his suits are the only way to keep him, and now Pepper, safe. We begin to see a pattern forming when he says “I’m the best” just before a test fails. The second instance of this is when he meets with Rhoades to get information on a new threat, the Mandarin, so he can help. But during their conversation we learn Tony hasn’t been sleeping well since the events that unfolded in New York. A child comes up and asks for his autograph, which Stark is willing to do, but the child starts asking about the aliens and Stark has a full on panic attack and runs out of the restaurant.
Aldred shows up at Pepper’s office to offer a new product called Extremis, which harnesses bio electrical material. A way to upgrade the mind using technology, and recoding DNA, but Pepper turns him down because she knows Tony wouldn’t approve of this new science.
That night, Stark ruins their date night. He’s been trying to appear fine to Pepper, but he’s failing miserably and falling into some of his old habits, and she knows him better than he realizes. Stark finally admits he’s been struggling since the attack on New York and Pepper tells him his suits are a distraction. He agrees to put work away for the night, and focus on Pepper. But that night he has a nightmare. His jerking movements calls one of his suits which threatens Pepper. Even in his nightmares he relies on his suits for protection.
After Happy is put in the hospital, Stark is furious and impulsively addresses the media, giving his home address on live T.V. without considering how this might affect Pepper and their relationship. He tells the Mandarin to come get him. He’s putting his faith in his army of Iron Man suits to protect him.
As he’s reviewing the scene that caused Happy to be injured, his girlfriend from 1999 shows up. As he, Pepper, and the other girl are arguing, the enemy blows up his house. Stark is able to get a suit on Pepper and he is nearly crushed. He can care for himself and one other at a time. An adult level maturity skill.
His nights of being unable to sleep, and his fears, have allowed him to be somewhat prepared for this situation, but not as prepared as he thought he was. He is sucked to the bottom of the ocean and his house starts falling on top of him. Jarvis has other suits pull him out and he’s taken to Tennessee unconscious because of his previously scheduled flight plan.
He leaves a message for Pepper that he’s alive and promises to never put her in harm’s way again, which considering his line of work, seems like an empty promise. But at least he recognizes that this was his fault and he’s taking responsibility for it. Then he breaks into a garage to fix Jarvis and his suit, which is not a fully functioning suit. He meets a kid in the garage, finds out his dad skipped out on the family, and doesn’t have sympathy for the kid, but recognizes the kid has a bully problem and helps him out. But he’s also very demanding of the kid.
The kid starts asking questions about the aliens and Stark has another panic attack. Stark is attacked by two glowing people and one of them gets the kid who is helping him. Stark reminds him about the bully deterrent he gave him and the kid is able to get away and then help Stark. The kid is cocky about saving Stark and Tony tells him not to be because it comes off grandiose. The kid calls him out and reminds him of his own cockiness and Stark can’t deny it.
Stark leaves the suit with the kid to learn more about his enemy. Later, when he calls to get a status on the suit, and finds out it isn’t charging, he has another panic attack. He believes he needs the suit in order to succeed. The kid talks him down from his panic attack.
Without a suit, he has made a lot of discoveries about his enemy, and even finds the Mandarin before he is captured. But he is seen sneaking around, not out in the open and confident like he is when he’s in a suit, and eventually he’s captured by the bad guys. But he escapes with the help of the suit that has finally charged in the kid’s garage. Later he is able to remotely save 13 people from a plane with this same suit that is not fully functional, but that suit is destroyed soon after and he is suitless again.
He calls his army of suits from the wreckage of his house and teams up with Rhodes to save Pepper, showing he learned something about working with others from the Avengers movie. He even lets Rhodes take the lead because of his military experience, but is still a little cocky because he knows his army is on the way.
As the bots fight the bad guys, Stark finds Pepper, but he’s attacked by Aldren. I don’t think Tony has realized at this point that he has done most of his protecting in this situation without a suit. He does not see his own strength yet. Nor is he willing to sacrifice himself for anyone expect those he cares about most, Pepper, in this case. He promises to catch Pepper, but fails. He doesn’t have a suit when this happens and he believes he’s just watched her fall to her death. His anger over this spurs him on. He find a suit and goes after Aldren, but Aldren is winning despite Starks armor.
Another suit bites the dust when he feels he needs it most. Then, realizing his suits aren’t helping him much he puts a suit an Aldren and blows it up. After defeating Aldren, Starks world comes crashing down around him again and the loss of Pepper has him feeling defeated and he lays on the deck of the ship watching the flames and debris fall around him. Aldren reappears and Tony thinks it’s the end, but Pepper is still alive and takes him out.
When Tony is at his lowest, and is ready to give up, his community, the people who are glad to be with him even when he’s at his worst, steps in and pulls him up again.
When the threat is gone, Tony believes he can fix Pepper. He destroys all of his suits for a fresh start with fewer distractions, and to focus on his relationship with Pepper. He puts his relationship before his work, which is a first for him. He fixes Pepper and has finally cultivated enough trust in other people to have the shrapnel in his chest removed as well, effectively separating himself from the Iron Man suit.
He says. “My armor was never a distraction or a hobby, it was a cocoon. Now I’m a changed man.” Everything has been taken away from him, his house, and most of his suits, and he gave his business to Pepper to run. He now realizes those things did not define Tony Stark. They were things he used as barriers between him and relationships. He used his wealth and fame to get any woman he wanted, but didn’t actually care about any of them. He had the money to build and create whatever he wanted or needed, and he used it to keep all but a select few out, to intimidate people. But really, he’s just been afraid. Afraid people wouldn’t like the real Tony.
He realizes the suit isn’t what makes him Iron Man, it’s the strength he has inside of him that does. The strength, determination, and courage he had to build a suit that got him out of a cave in Iraq. That was always in him, and through the relationships he’s discovered through four movies, he’s starting to see that in himself and believe it.