…comes great responsibility. And I’m not actually talking about Peter Parker. This could also be titled, “Everything bad in the MCU is Tony Stark’s Fault.”
Okay, okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. The bad things that have happened on Earth are pretty much his fault. No, not Nick Fury’s fault, which I will explain.
Money for Nothing:
As we learned from Iron Man, Tony Stark is an egotistical rich genius playboy. From Iron Man 2, we learn that Howard Stark probably had issues with alcoholism and that Tony did not get along with his father. That is cemented in Captain America: Civil War, and we find out that Tony never reconciled his differences before his father died. So, even before the events of Iron Man, it is clear (to me) Tony is immature and deeply insecure about living up to his dead father’s expectations. He also harbors guilt because he feels he didn’t let his father know he loved him before he died. The insecurity and guilt manifest in Tony’s Mad Man levels of casual drinking.
Steady as She Goes:
So, in Iron Man, he undergoes a life-changing crisis of conscience and decides he can be more than just a spoiled playboy. One can debate about how well he actually does this because in the end Agent Coulson is trying to convince him to keep the whole Iron Man thing under wraps and instead he declares it to the world because if anything is better than being a rich genius playboy it’s being a rich genius playboy hero. His ego swelled dangerously from this event.
Don’t Fear the Reaper:
In Iron Man 2, Tony ended up having to face his own mortality. This did not help his mental state. He decided to try to protect his legacy and instead Ivan Vanko set out to destroy it, and very nearly succeeded. Tony protested the loss of his War Machine armor, but he didn’t take back because he wanted someone to carry on his legacy. He finds out his father kept secrets from him but did really love him, which made his guilt about parting on bad terms even worse. Then instead of dying, as he expected, he again cheated death and was responsible for the creation of another hero. However, because Vanko nearly destroyed everything, he has a new fear/insecurity that he isn’t really good enough to be a hero.
A crucial point to make in my lengthy psychological argument is that Tony Stark’s ego is paramount. Yes, he’s still a rather immature person trying to live up to his Dad’s legacy, but he’s also a genius with money which means he’s been very spoiled. His ideas make money. People tell him he’s awesome all the time. He’s been literally hero-worshipped. He is out to prove he is right and not a loser or slacker. The more he’s right, the more he’s invested in being right.
Holdin’ Out for a Hero:
Now comes the Battle for New York. Tony proves himself capable of fighting the living embodiment of American ideals, Captain America, and Thor, who is practically a god. He knows at least that the Hulk is the ringer and says as much to Loki, but when a “Big Damn Heroes” moment presents itself, he takes it. He runs the nuke into the portal with the understanding what he’s doing could be a suicide and manages to survive anyway.
Iron Man 3 is very much the psychological aftermath of the Battle for New York. Tony is suffering from obvious and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s self-medicating with alcohol and really doing his best to kill himself. This is manifested in his refusal to ask for help for a crisis that clearly calls for it (only Scott Lang seems to have the sense to call in the Avengers) and by using the newest model of the Iron Man suit that is clearly just in beta testing. The end of the movie shows he has over 40 perfectly functional suits at his disposal but he still keeps going back to the one that’s buggier than a new Microsoft release. Why would he do that unless it’s a) a subconscious desire to kill himself or b) a fatal desire to prove everything he invents is awesome despite evidence to the contrary. Actually, I think it’s probably both, which brings us to…
Cat’s in the Cradle:
By now it’s pretty clear the world is becoming a very dangerous place, and as one of the first superheroes on the scene, Tony Stark feels responsible for the death and destruction. Should he shoulder the burden of guilt? Probably not, but remember, everything that happens is about him. He’s already faced his mortality and survived situations he shouldn’t have, but he knows that death is only a matter of time, so he gets in his head to again preserve his legacy because Tony absolutely cannot conceive of anyone else making a different decision than he would (because he’s better, faster, smarter, richer, etc.), he removes the human element. Well, mostly. Ultron’s artificial intelligence is based somewhat on Tony and somewhat on Jarvis, the AI that runs pretty much all Stark tech. In theory, Tony has created an immortal guardian for humanity that is immune to human failings and could be considered Tony if freed from emotional baggage. In reality, well, even heroes can’t get away with building superweapons. Tony ended up making a mechanical teenage version of himself without the libido. Whoops.
In the End:
Even though the Age of Ultron really only lasted a week or so, it did result in the near utter destruction of an entire country and the deaths of tens of thousands of people. The governments of the world were probably rightfully freaked out about how dangerous super-powered individuals can be. Of course, the same world governments forgot how willing they were to contribute to the death and destruction of their own citizens. Enter the movie analogue of the Superhuman Registration Act to keep them in check, which as HISHE correctly points out, should have just been aimed at Tony. Did Scarlet Witch mess up and accidentally allow people to get killed? Yes, but that’s not even close to the level of damage done by Tony’s mistakes. Cap, who understands from “Winter Soldier” how potentially dangerous a governmental agenda can be, declines. Tony is the one who escalates the situation and he does so because a) he must be right and b) he messed up royal, so it’s just a matter of time before the others do something as bad or worse. I’m not absolving Cap of responsibility here; he dug in his heels pretty good, but if he had just gotten Bucky out there, he would have been done with the fight. Tony’s line about wanting to punch Cap in his perfect teeth just highlights how much he hates being wrong. He knows intrinsically that Cap won’t make his mistakes. Cap just isn’t that kind of man. Tony won’t stop at anything to prove he’s right and Cap is wrong.
The best example of this is the introduction of Spider-man. Tony wants some more super-powered types on his side but there really aren’t that many out there (yet), so he heads to Brooklyn to recruit Peter Parker. Peter is a teenager. I want to emphasize that. Peter Parker is 17 years old. He’s not old enough to vote. He’s not old enough to enter into a legally binding contract. He’s certainly not old enough to drink. He hasn’t even graduated from high school. Despite all Tony’s clear guilt at endangering others (see Happy Hogan, see Pepper Potts, see Rhodey), he still recruits a child to his team because by Stan Lee he needs those superpowers. He knows he’s wrong to do that, or at least he knows his team members would object to bringing in a kid because when Rhodey asks how old Spider-man is Tony lies and says he doesn’t know. In Iron Man 3, he didn’t think the kid would end up in any danger. In “Civil War,” he asks Spider-man to join knowing he’s going to be in danger. Sure, he probably knows Cap and his team won’t try to kill anyone, but accidents can happen and no one really knows what Spider-man can do, nor has Spider-man ever fought super-powered people before either.
And in the end, Cap apologizes for his part in the whole fiasco and to Tony for withholding information from him and Tony still won’t admit he’s wrong. Of course everyone will have to come together to save the galaxy from Thanos in the Infinity War, but that’s a few movies away. I suppose it’s not fair to say everything bad is Tony’s fault. The alien invasion wasn’t his fault (although it was in the comics) and thus far he doesn’t seem to have any culpability in the Infinity War. However, most of the bad stuff that went down after the Battle of New York can be traced back to Tony. The whole world of the MCU would have been a lot better off if he’d just gotten over himself and seen a competent therapist.