DISCLAIMER: POSSIBLE MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: IN THIS POST I DISCUSS EVENTS FROM THE COMIC BOOK VERSION OF THIS STORY. NOBODY ACTUALLY KILLED TONY STARK YET (OR MAYBE THEY DID! HAH?!) BUT THERE ARE OTHER THINGS IN THIS ARTICLE THAT MAY SPOIL THE STORY FOR YOU. I ALREADY ACCIDENTALLY SPOILED IT FOR A FRIEND OF MINE AND I FEEL LIKE A TERRIBLE PERSON FOR IT. PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
Civil War is one of the most energized story lines in the history of Marvel Comics. Bringing it to the big screen was a challenge so lofty it was assumed both impossible to accomplish and a sure-fire smash hit among ticket-purchasing fans. In the comics, it goes like this: virtually every Marvel hero on earth (and beyond) is forced to choose sides between Captain America and Iron Man in a gutsy, emotional war of ideals.
We’re talking about all the characters you know and love from the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man– the works. When the series was first published, it seemed impossible to corral so many personalities into one 2.5 hour time slot. Post-Age of Ultron, though, we’re not so skeptical. To be sure, the film version will not feature the depth of the comics with respect to franchises owned by Fox (X-Men and Fantastic Four), but Marvel Studios has negotiated a pretty sweet deal with Sony to secure Spider-Man for at least one appearance.
One plot point pivotal to the events of the comics series (SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT) has to do with the climactic death of a decades-long fan favorite of the comic book page- the events leading up to the demise of Captain America. For the purposes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe though, I’m convinced of something totally different: I believe the hero slain should be Tony Stark. I have several wonderful reasons why.
Reason #1: It would establish a unique timeline for the MCU.
(Possible spoilers) Like I said before, in the comic books version of Civil War, our own Captain America, Steve Rogers, bites the dust. Sad, right? And it’s super epic as a plot point shock wave, sending ripples throughout the entire universe in which it happens. But what if it didn’t happen that way in the movies? What if instead, Tony Stark was the one eliminated from the timeline? It would play out as an equally epic moment of impact for storylines in the MCU, with one important difference: it would be a clean break from the continuity of the comics once and for all. The movies would be able to use the characters in brand new storylines, perhaps inspired by the comics, yet freed up from any nerdy canon nitpicking.
By the way, in case you’re new to Marvel comics, alternate timelines is kind of a very Marvel thing to do.
Reason #2: It would provide a thematic reboot for the MCU.
Besides establishing a new timeline, killing off Tony Stark would give Marvel Studios a way to rebrand the franchise for its second decade. Let’s face it: the first decade of the MCU was Tony Stark’s baby. It was born in 2008 (Iron Man), as Stark created something new inside a terrorist hideout bunker, and it teetered its first sprawling steps in the end credits scene, as Nick Fury asked Tony to dream a little bigger. From there he helped pull the strings to bring the Avengers together, eventually lending his own skyscraper as their headquarters. The mission of the Avengers through all these years has been tied up in Tony’s dream to protect the world from galactic threats. These first ten years have been the Song of Stark.
They needn’t be the Song of Stark forever. Right now, there’s a good enough balance to keep the palate fresh. Beyond this, I’m not so sure. Marvel doesn’t have to suffer from the “Wolverining” which plagues the X-Men movies, molding the franchise in the image of one character at the expense of newer, untapped perspectives. Getting rid of Stark would not just allow, but would force Marvel to reinvent the franchise for a brand new decade. It sounds risky, but it will be necessary eventually if they’re going to retain their freshness.
Reason #3: It would help Marvel do something other than juggernauting.
These days it seems the only way to up the stakes in the MCU is to throw more characters on the screen. Even the most die-hard Marvel fanboys are starting to fatigue (I’m looking at you, me…), and one day it’s all going to be too much. In one of the upcoming Wars (Civil or Infinity), this screencrowding will eventually reach critical mass and need replacement with a new form. Yes, I’m saying eventually the more superheroes you have won’t automatically lead to super-bucks.
I would suggest Marvel explore other options for its epic event-ing, such as this concept of emotional attachment. I know, I know… it’s small-scope rather than grand, but the “thing” all the fans talk about doesn’t have to be how many different versions of huge muscle punching happened in the movie. You could have fans talking about the emotional depth of the gaping void left in the wake of a vanquished longstanding character, and what it means for the relationships and goals of the heroes who survived. I know, I know. Pie in the sky hopes.
Reason #4: It could actually make the Avengers… avengers.
We’ve been Avengering for a quite some time now, and these heroes arguably still have nothing to actually avenge. Sure, Agent Coulson went down in the original film, but he rose from the dead to get his own TV show, and the target of avenging, Loki, seems to be doing A-Ok these days. So…I’m gonna call no avenging so far. Ultron knocked off Jarvis at the onset of his flick, but Jarvis came back, and the real reason the team went to war against Ultron had nothing to do with Quicksilver. I’m gonna call no avenging on that too.
If Tony Stark goes down- especially if it can somehow be at the hand of a new villain… maybe to set the stage for Infinity War (?)… it would actually give the Avengers a reason to band together one more time, for the most “avengery” outing yet. Isn’t it about time the Avengers really lived up to their name?
Reason #5: Tony Stark is the fan favorite.
Marvel’s audiences are due for some stepping-up-to-the-plate. The cast is bloated, and people have clamored for a meaningful demise of a hero for a long time. These are semi-annual films, not monthly trades. Sooner or later, a big domino has to fall or Marvel loses street cred. In The Avengers, we prepared for the death of a Hawkeye or a Black Widow; what we got was Agent Coulson. Lame. With Ultron, we were specifically promised someone big would die. We braced for Hawkeye again, at the very least; yet what we got was one of the two new guys we hadn’t even met before the movie started. Lame.
It’s time for Marvel to prove they’ve got balls (or at least to pretend like they do), and Robert Downey Jr. gives them the perfect opportunity. His contract is about to run out; everyone knows in this franchise he has the exposure of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and seemingly the age of Professor X. Stark even retired in Iron Man 3, before Ultron, for crying out loud. This is a chip they’re ready to cash in. If they put Downey’s inevitable exit on a grand enough stage, they might can even look edgy doing it. Plus, if they’re worried about toy sales, Iron Man is the one character they’ve got who doesn’t have a human face. They could easily follow up the death of Tony Stark with the mystery of a new person in the suit. Toys would keep moving off the shelves.
Yes, Tony’s the most beloved Marvel character.
Yes, Tony’s the face of the franchise.
Yes, Tony’s got them to where they are today.
And that’s why he’s the one who should go.