Monday, October 28, 2013

Character Examination: Tony Stark


     Last week I reviewed Iron Man 3. I was asked afterwards to dig a little deeper into Tony Stark's character in this new movie, being questioned on whether or not Stark was more vulnerable here. The answer being yes, I decided it would be a good idea to examine how his character changed from Iron Man to The Avengers to Iron Man 3.

    If you haven't seen any of these movies, you may not be able to relate to this in the fullest sense. However, I'd still encourage you to read it for two reasons. 1) It's always good to read about how a character grows through his/her story, whether you're completely familiar with the character or not; it can give you ideas on how to add growth and depth to your own characters. 2) My slightly selfish reason: I'd like to know what you think of the post and if you'd like to see more "Character Examinations" in the future.

Tony Stark

     In Iron Man, we met Tony Stark, a genius on just about everything scientific, mathematical, and...who knows what else. He was arrogant, self-confident, and you could almost allow with good excuse; he is, literally, a know-it-all. I don't know about you, but I enjoy characters with such personalities and knowledge. I'm by no means even slightly knowledgeable in those areas, so it's fun to watch someone else who is, plus his snarky attitude can be a fun character on which to play off. Also, usually a character such as he comes with baggage, a ghost, some sort of secret. (Throughout the movies, we discover a big factor with this in that his father was also a genius and didn't show his son much attention or love.) 

      Does this stop Tony from being his usual self-serving persona? Nope, not really. We do discover he has a heart, of course, but a personality such as his can never truly be changed; at least certainly not overnight, or for that matter over the course of a couple movies. 

      In The Avengers, we see Stark is still ticked off about not being chosen to join the Avengers Initiative, the elite of the elitist. However, when he is finally recruited to join the ranks, his ego is boosted and his pride replenished. We start to see probably his first sign of real change in this story, though. For instance, his repulsion at being called a soldier by Captain America. Why do you think this is? Perhaps he doesn't want to be associated with the government; he'd rather keep himself free, dependent on only himself, not hindered by someone telling him what to do. Perhaps it's the association with war, death, and tyrants that makes his blood boil. Maybe it's because he's reminded of the soldiers he traveled with that died in the beginning of Iron Man
        He also makes a self-sacrifice by risking his life in order to protect his fellow superheroes and friends and the earth itself; a seemingly very contradictory action to his usual. 
        Finally, he opened himself up completely to a relationship with the woman he loved, Pepper Potts, and at the end of The Avengers we saw they were engaged (which, if you read my review on Iron Man 3, was never mentioned afterwards...annoying!!)

      However, in Iron Man 3, we see a side of Tony Stark that is shocking and never-seen-before. The confidence is gone, the self-reliance still there but full of doubt. He experiences PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and panic attacks (which, I pause to say as someone who has experienced PTSD and has anxiety/panic attacks, those scenes were done quite well). He's literally scared to open up to anyone, to be close to Pepper, though his only desire is to keep her safe. As he said to her, "Things are different now. I have to protect the one thing that's important to me. That's you." Vulnerability isn't something we're use to seeing in this character, and yet you could say "overnight" it became his biggest issue.  
        When one's normal routine is heavily interrupted and the things we love most threatened, it's natural that we should experience raw emotions and discord. Stark's transition is a human process, but due to his previous disposition, the addition of these elements is a bit of a shock for the viewers. Empathy more than likely will arise with this character we are so used to, and the writers have employed this to catch our undivided attention and make us care about Stark's journey through dealing with his struggles.
        This brilliant component is a great tool for writer's when adding, as I mentioned before, growth to a character needing depth. In warning, though, just be sure not to give your character an immediate reversal. Stark still had his sense of humor and sarcasm. He wasn't made a new man from this experience, just a changed one.
What did you think of Tony Stark's change?
Have you ever written a character who had a complete turnabout as result of trauma?
Would you like to see more Character Examinations? 

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