The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t just mega-popular because of all the comic book-style action scenes and first-rate CGI effects all over the place. It is the characters that really drive this story, from Tony Stark and Captain America to Black Widow and Bruce Banner, and many more. In fact, the on-screen versions of the characters are so compelling in these films that Marvel comics are adapting to match the movies rather than the other way around.
One of the first MCU heroes to appear was Tony Stark, who built and wore the Iron Man suit to fight evil around the globe. He’s trying to atone for his weapons-dealer legacy, and his brilliant technical mind was used to aid the Avengers. He still had a human heart under that energy reactor, and he was a great man in some ways, but fell short in others.
10 Admirable: Resourceful
Tony Stark had a brilliant mind for engineering and science, but he was not dedicated to just one area of expertise. Instead, he embraced a variety of sciences and would learn an entire field overnight to help (more on that soon).
He used “a box of scraps,” as Obidiah Stane put it, to create his first arc reactor in Afghanistan, and he used a 3-D model of a futuristic city in his lab to figure out how to engineer an entirely new element for his suit’s reactor. He could do anything with anything.
9 Unsavory: Slept Around
This may not be the case anymore since Tony was committed to the lovely Pepper Potts before his death. But up until then, he had the unsavory habit of sleeping around, and the very first Iron Man movie made that fact clear.
Before his Iron Man days, Tony would hook up with any attractive woman who wanted him (as in, all of them). He had a one-night stand with a journalist just because, and he moved right on.
8 Admirable: Team Cohesion
During the events of Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers became divided on the issue of government oversight to minimize collateral damage during Avengers operations. Tony supported the paperwork that would morph the Avengers into a government-led team, rather than a band of do-gooder rogues.
This made Iron Man the antagonist, but he was not entirely wrong to take this stance, and he was greatly upset that Captain America’s defiance was “tearing the Avengers apart.” He was later more of a team player, and he’d defend that team from anything, even itself. Very admirable.
7 Unsavory: Took Destruction Too Lightly
This is another less-than-savory aspect of Tony’s character that changed for the better. In the first Iron Man movie, arms manufacturing magnate Tony Stark made zero apologies for his business and even treated it like a game.
During a weapons demo in the Afghanistan wilds, he made a vain show of all the destruction, making a “behold, and look at me” gesture. He also served cold drinks. Harmless fireworks and savage weapons of destruction are two very different things, Tony.
6 Admirable: Learns Fast
As mentioned earlier, Tony Stark had a flexible and adaptable mind. He is not narrowly focused on just one topic; he’d learn whatever he had to to keep up with demands. He wasn’t arrogant to say that he knew everything.
Anytime a challenge came up, Tony would ransack his research notes to find the answers. During The Avengers, he learned all about astrophysics and related fields (reportedly overnight) just to help Bruce Banner track down Loki.
5 Unsavory: Puts Others Down
Tony Stark was known for his bad attitude, and he certainly didn’t share Captain America’s overgrown Boy Scout persona at all. Instead of honor and virtue, Tony valued results above all else, and he was quick to criticize.
He made all kinds of unkind comments in passing, and under the scepter’s influence, he rudely (and incorrectly) told Steve Rogers, “everything special about you came out of a bottle.” He was completely disregarding Captain America’s shield-using skills, leadership qualities, and charisma.
4 Admirable: Happy Ending With Pepper
For a time, Ms. Pepper Potts was Tony’s assistant and friend, and she had his back in more ways than he realized. She was an important figure in Tony’s life, and after a point, Tony realized that fact quite clearly, and he did something about it.
They ended up a couple after a point, and by Avengers: Endgame, they are married, with a young daughter, too. Tony did a lot of growing up, from wild playboy to dedicated family man. It’s endearing to see.
3 Unsavory: Refuses Help
This was mainly a problem in Iron Man 2, but sometimes, this “leave me alone, I’m fine” attitude pops up at other times, too. At his lowest time, during Iron Man 2, Tony was going on a downward spiral and refused all help.
Pepper Potts and Rhodey were both concerned and wanted to help, and Tony pushed them away each time. This actually came to blows during Tony’s birthday party, when Rhodey demanded that Tony settle down and acknowledge his problems. Tony wasn’t in the mood to listen.
2 Admirable: Friendship With Rhodey
Fortunately, not all of Tony’s interactions with Rhodey were so confrontational. For the most part, Rhodey was a good friend, or at least an ally, and this relationship goes back to the first Iron Man movie. Even then, Tony wasn’t totally alone.
Rhodey is no-nonsense and has a firm hand, just what Tony needed. And when Rhodey is badly hurt, like in Captain America: Civil War, Tony nearly lost his mind. It’s great to see Tony so concerned about another person, especially since he helped Rhodey with physical therapy afterward, too.
1 Unsavory: Not Enough Charity
A quick note: in the Marvel comics, Tony really does create a charity foundation named after his mother, Maria Stark, to help support local communities. And he did support a bunch of MIT students in Civil War.
In most of the movies, Tony mainly used his machines and brilliant mind to fight evil and atone for his past weapons trade, but he could do even more. It wouldn’t have hurt to see him donate huge chunks of money to any and all charities out there, not just MIT. It’s a little awkward to see him living on an infinitely deep bank account but mainly using it for himself.
Iron Man is one of the most beloved heroes of the MCU, and for good reason, but he also has some less admirable traits.