The Nature of a Hero in Iron Man 2

Next up in my retrospective of the Avengers’ cinematic adventures to date: Iron Man 2.

This is a complex movie. Tony Stark enjoys a much more significant character development that the other Avengers, by virtue of the fact that the writers have had two films in which to develop him. I’m interested to see how this will balance with the other characters in the Avengers film this weekend. As I mentioned in my post on the first Iron Man film, here we see that Stark, while choosing to make the most of his second chance at life by acting as a hero, has not overcome his narcissistic tendencies. We also discover why: a father who, by Stark’s description, was cold and calculating and never told Tony he loved him, and that the very power source that is keeping him alive and enabling him to function as Iron Man, is also killing him.

As Tony begins to feel his own mortality, he begins to push away those closest to him, notably Rhodey and Pepper. He begins to act self-destructively, giving fuel to the fire of government officials that want his technology shared. Here we see Stark’s fear: that more of his technology will fall into the wrong hands, and be used for evil. When Rhodey takes one of the Iron Man suits for government use, and it becomes weaponized into the War Machine armor, Stark begins to see his fears materialize. Yet, still he acts courageously to protect innocents who are in harm’s way.

Compounding all of these stressors is a new villain, Anton Vanko, whose father was exiled to Siberia because he tried to exploit Tony Stark’s father’s technologies for pure profit. Vanko blames Stark for this, saying that Stark comes from a family of “thieves and butchers.” Having began to put the arms-development past of his father’s company behind him, Stark is now once more forced to face the ghosts of his past that threaten to bring him, and everyone he cares for, to their knees.

Ultimately proving the victor, Stark recognizes his own self-destructiveness, and chooses to move beyond himself to act in others’ best interests once more. This includes professing his love for Pepper at the end of the film. What Stark learns, though, is that he cannot continue to carry the enormous role of a hero in which he has found himself alone. That role is too big for one man, now. In this film, Stark wins with the aid of the War Machine and Black Widow.

Stark accepts his own limitations, and faces his own demons, to overcome his own fear of mortality and again act to help those who cannot help themselves, even against overwhelming odds. While he flirts with becoming a sort of anti-hero in this film (and who among us wouldn’t?), Iron Man remains a hero by choosing what is best for others over what is best for himself.

I’ll be interested to see how the writers will develop the potential friction between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in the Avengers film, as the two will  compete for leadership of the team.

Next up in my retrospective: Thor.

Photo Attribution: mikequozl 

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