SPOILER NOTE: This is a review of a character from the 2012 film “The Avengers”. It will contain spoilers. I recommend avoiding this review until you’ve seen the film.
“Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?”
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”
“I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”
“I think I would just cut the wire.”
“Always a way out. You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.”
-Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, The Avengers
“I Had My Eyes Opened”
We’ve investigated the other three Avengers, but Iron Man is a bit different, a bit more layered than all of them. Is he a savior? A showboat? A suave vigilante? Maybe all of the above? Captain America seems to be concerned about that in The Avengers, and he tells Tony so.
And when we met Tony Stark back in 2008’s Iron Man, that concern was justified. Happily building weapons that could kill millions, it took a bomb that literally had his name on it to help him realize the depth of his heart’s sinfulness and the weight of what he had done. After an almost literal heart change, Stark repented. He sought to repair the damage he had caused, trying to make amends by saving the world.
“I’ve successfully privatized world peace.”
Tony soon found out that Iron Man isn’t strong enough to solve all the world’s problems – or even all of Tony’s problems. Despite his boast that his was the first and last name in world peace, there are threats in the world that even JARVIS can’t predict or analyze. From Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer to Loki , Thanos, and the Mandarin, there’s no shortage of threats with Tony in their sights. To top it all off, his life-saving arc reactor is poisonous. The remnants of his past sin and the threats of the future both have him staring down a proverbial gun barrel. His sinful hubris is killing him just as certainly as the palladium in his heart is, and without help he’s going to die.
He finally discovers that Howard Stark alone can save his life, finally reconciling with a father he never really knew. With his help, Tony creates a compound that rids his body of the poison that was killing him, freeing him to do what he was made for.
Big man in a suit of armor
Still, his solo drive continues to endanger him. As hard as he tries to be a lone wolf, he continually faces problems he can’t solve alone. By the time of The Avengers, Pepper Potts has become a sustainer-beside-him (more on that in a future post), but the Iron Man suit is still an expression of the type of man he is – insulated, detached, separate from the world around him. In the four years since the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark has changed more than any other Avenger, but he’s still a solo act – or at least he tries to be.
Like Captain America points out, “You may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.” All alone, he has been improved – but he’s not a team player, he doesn’t want to rely on others, and in the Avengers, that comes to a head.
“Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” type thing.
He still needs others. He needs Banner to find the Tesseract; he needs Rogers to keep him from being shredded by the turbine; he even needs Hawkeye to point out the pattern in the Chitauri’s flight paths to defeat them. He’s simply not able to do it on his own.
Tony Stark had it all: money, power, the woman of his dreams. But it wasn’t until he was fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with a team that he realized that his greatest need was the brotherhood-in-arms that the Avengers provided. With them, he was stronger – and more than that, with them he found the strength to “make the sacrifice play,” as Capt. Rogers chided him for earlier in the film – to lay down his life in protection of millions of people. It was the friendships and bonds he had formed that finally gave him a reason to prove Rogers wrong.
“And Shawarma After?”
Are you alone? Are you staunchly refusing to join the fight? If a man in a staggeringly amazing suit can’t do it all alone, how can you hope to?
Jesus saved us solo, but He never intended us to stay solo. He put us into a team that – while it may “take us a while to get any traction” – is where He intends to use us to save the world. Yes, as Loki says, we seem to be “such lost creatures” – but He never meant for us to be heroes on our own. It’s impossible. Join the team he’s assembling, to avenge the destruction sin has wrought.
• • •
This was post 4 of 5 in the “Avengers Disassembled” series. We’ve already reviewed the lives of Captain America, Hulk, and Thor; watch for a look at the Avengers‘ nemesis, Loki.
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This review was originally written prior to the release of “Iron Man 3“, and published prior to a Film and Theology event about the newer film. Follow us on social media for our upcoming reviews of many more Marvel movies to come.