Avengers: Endgame is finally out in theaters, and we finally found out what Marvel had planned for the original six Avengers in the aftermath of that brutal Infinity War ending. We’ve known for a while now that the Marvel contracts of several actors expire after Endgame, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth. And we’ve been anticipating retirement plans or deaths for at least two of the original Avengers.
It didn’t help that Kevin Feige told us all along that Endgame is a story that brings closure to the first decade of MCU movies, or that the same directors who shocked MCU fans on three separate occasions were in charge of Endgame as well. With that in mind, some fans might not like the ending or the arcs of some of their favorite characters. We’ve just explained why Thor’s arc makes sense in Endgame, and we’re about to do the same with Tony Stark. As before, several major spoilers follow below, so proceed only if you’ve seen the film.
From the moment the first Endgame leaks that accurately explained the plot of the film dropped, many fans expressed their dissatisfaction with what happens to Tony — and now is your final chance to avoid Endgame spoilers:
Some fans were unhappy that Tony Stark died in Endgame, having sacrificed himself for the greater good. They believe that Marvel was wrong to kill the character now that he was finally able to settle down with Pepper and have the family he always wanted. Focusing only on Tony’s second chance at happiness, however, isn’t enough, as there’s a much bigger picture to look at here. Tony’s character is a lot more complicated than that.
Having a kid with Pepper is probably the best thing that happened to Tony in the 15 years since we’ve known him — and I include here the ten years of MCU films and the five-year time jump to 2023. He’s been a father figure for Peter Parker, and even Nebula, but being an actual dad is a huge step for the character.
Tony isn’t the same self-centered “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” from the early days of Iron Man, but he still needs to be in control of everything. He still looks for a way out that will save the others, and can’t give up on trying to bring everyone back once a solution is presented — a solution that only he is able to work out. Let’s not forget for a second that his biggest nightmare is him surviving while everyone else around him dies, the feeling that he could have done more to save the others and he didn’t.
Robert Downey Jr.s’ performance in Endgame is easily one of the highlights of the film. If you’ve seen all the Marvel films so far, his Tony Stark will feel very familiar. In many ways, this is the same Stark that we’ve always known. But in many ways, he’s a completely changed man.
He may have held a grudge against Cap for all these years, evidently exacerbated by the events in Infinity War, but he’s finally reached a place where he’s able to put all that behind him. As does Cap, by the way. The scene we’ve been waiting to see in Infinity War, the Stark-Rogers reunion, was delivered in bits and pieces in Endgame, and it’s great to see these two argue and then reconnect.
In addition to fixing his relationship with Cap, Tony was also given a chance to see his father one last time. Even if it’s in the past, and even if Howard Stark doesn’t know who “Howard Potts” really is, the meeting between the two brings Tony much-needed closure on this personal front.
Then there’s the highly emotional satisfaction of having helped the Avengers bring everyone back, especially Peter. The two of them hugging in the middle of the battle is an excellent callback to their previous interactions, and proof of how much Tony has grown.
That said, we can’t ignore the demand that Tony made while negotiating his involvement in the time heist. He agreed to try to undo the snap only if they didn’t destroy the past five years. It’s understandable why he does it, too. He’s married to the love of his life, and he has a kid. But not everyone else in the universe gets to have this particular type of failsafe happy ending at their disposal, in case the time heist fails. Like I said, Tony is still Tony.
On the other hand, the fact remains that there was only one way to beat Thanos, and that involved this entire timeline of events, including the five year period between the Infinity War loss and the Endgame win remaining unchanged.
This brings us to his last action in the film. He took back the Infinity Stones from Thanos, and snapped his fingers while reminding everyone else, Thanos especially, that he is Iron Man. With his final sacrifice, Tony ensured victory over the Titan and his armies, which were all decimated in a very familiar fashion. And we have to appreciate how much Tony has grown from arguing with Cap back in the first Avengers film about how he’d handle “the wire” to making sure that he would be able to lay down his life if needed.
Some will say that Tony already proved he was willing to sacrifice himself at the end of The Avengers, and that is true to some extent. But that battle gave Tony a massive worry as well — that he could not save everyone else from a similar threat; that he could not offer complete defense against threats; that he could not be in total control. That was a fear that consumed him for years.
Just because Tony proved his worth before doesn’t mean that he deserved to retire at the end of Endgame, as some people seem to think. You should notice the major differences between Tony’s two heroic deeds. When he hijacks the nuke and pilots it through the portal in The Avengers, he does it as an instinctual response to an unexpected situation. But when he goes for the Stones in Endgame, he’s well prepared for that specific course of events. He planned for it.
The Stones work with his Iron Man suit because he built the gauntlet tech in, likely, without telling others. Tony always had a spare gauntlet. He was likely anticipating that someone would try to abuse the Stones, a situation in which he’d have to be prepared to react and secure them. They nearly killed Thanos and hurt Hulk badly, so they’d undoubtedly take a major toll on a human, even if that human was made of iron. And Tony knew all of that well ahead of that final fight. It’s also why he recorded his farewell message to his family, knowing he might die trying to save everyone else.
With all that in mind, I think Tony’s fate in Endgame is a beautiful ode to a character that RDJ perfected over a decade. Even if it’s not the perfect happy ending fans may have wanted, Tony’s journey in Endgame is still amazing and deserves recognition. He was blessed to have a family and temporarily retire, he made peace with his father, and he made sure that his closest friends and allies would not die on his watch. Ignoring all that and wallowing in grief just because Stark didn’t get to grow old with Pepper and Morgan does a disservice to his whole story.