'Avengers: Endgame' Has To Give Iron Man More Than A Noble Sacrifice
Avengers: Endgame is widely expected to be Robert Downey Jr's final Marvel Cinematic Universe film. 11 years and ten appearances down, the fourth Avengersmovie could well be Iron Man's last.
One theory is that he will retire and ride off into the sunset, but of course, many believe that he will save the universe from Thanos by sacrificing his own life.
But, in our opinion, it isn't enough that Tony Stark die so that others may live. If Endgame is his last hoorah, it needs to complete his story and leave a legacy in the MCU worthy of his epic adventures.
You may have forgotten by now, but Tony started out in 2008's Iron Man as an arms dealer happy to sell weapons to the highest bidder, no matter how shady they were. The first film dealt with his realisation that he was a terrible person and his transformation into a hero (although his solo movies would repeatedly force him to confront mistakes from his past).
Having become a true hero, he made a noble sacrifice in Avengers by flying a nuclear warhead into Loki's portal and destroying the Chitauri ship. He survived, but there's no doubt that he didn't think he was coming back.
Iron Man was left with PTSD after the Battle of New York, and something else—a vision of the terrible threats awaiting the Earth, one that was compounded when Scarlet Witch caused him to hallucinate the death of his teammates and another invasion of Earth in Avengers: Age of Ultron. And so Tony entered the second phase of his story—his obsession with protecting the planet from the threats he foresees. In his own words, "I see a suit of armour around the world."
So far his attempts have gone horrible wrong. He created Ultron as a system that would protect the world, only for the artificial intelligence to decide its number one mission was to kill everyone.
Attempt number two came in Captain America: Civil War and involved Tony signing up to the UN's Sokovia Accords, which would put all superheroes under the control of the authorities. The decision was fuelled by Iron Man's guilt over the harm that he had caused in the past, particularly Ultron's destruction of Sokovia.
As we know, his support of the accords put him in conflict with his old buddy Cap, eventually leading to a schism in the Avengers that had the team fighting amongst themselves. Earth's defenders were left divided—would they have been better prepared for Thanos' attack in Avengers: Infinity War if Tony had succeeded in holding them together?
When Howard Stark appears in Iron Man 2 (via the magic of home movies), he predicts that his son Tony "will change the world". We haven't seen the fulfilment of that yet. The closest we've come in recent years to seeing Iron Man as a force for change outside of punching villains (and his friends) was in the Civil War scene in which he presents his BARF technology that allows people to relive their memories.
His role in Endgame can't be as simple as sacrificing himself to save the world. We've seen Tony make that decision before in Avengers, so it would just be the same act with a more final outcome.
Iron Man's narrative has been about trying to make the world a safer place, and however he leaves the MCU, whether by death or retirement, to complete his story he needs to leave the Earth changed for the better when he goes. For the sake of future MCU stories he can't of course solve all the world's problems, but we expect to see some act, the creation of some technology or some organization that will be Tony's lasting legacy—and his final victory.
Any other send-off won't be worthy of him.
Avengers: Endgame will be released in April.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.