The Subtle Way the MCU Portrayed Iron Man as ‘Childish’

The evolution of Tony Stark is worth reexamining again and again as the Marvel Cinematic Universe films receive new analysis since Endgame released. Stark’s beginnings were clearly brash when looking back at his smarmy ego. If one can say it was inevitable someone with Stark’s abilities would act this way, he sobered up over time.

Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance in making Stark a better person over a decade is also notable, despite him being overlooked for awards. At the same time, some things about Stark were a little more subtle in proving how childish he once was.

In the early Iron Man movies, Stark often said one little thing viewers now say proved he shirked any sense of responsibility.

Tony Stark’s quirky little line

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Reddit users recently brought up this discussion about Stark always using the off-the-cuff line “I don’t like people handing me things”. This line is uttered several times up through Iron Man 3 before Stark starts to wise up to the situations the Avengers face.

Those early days still give off a bit of a cocky Howard Hughes vibe. Fans note Downey was perhaps tapping into this idea, particularly in Hughes suffering from OCD his entire life.

There was never any indication that Stark had OCD, though. The line above seemed more in line with just not wanting things handed to him, especially if it was a lawsuit.

Because Stark Industries was a massive corporation making amazing weaponry, any piece of paper handed to Stark was likely to involve some kind of litigation. Yet, nobody really knew what this line meant. Some thought it came from the comic books, if appearing Downey merely created a brilliant little character quirk.

Just how childish was Tony Stark?

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Consensus from Reddit seems to indicate Stark not wanting things handed to him was a sign he depended on others to take care of business. He could certainly afford to, if maybe some looking at this as being like a child wanting to hide away from important things.

Other things exist beyond this line proving Stark acted only in his self-interest for a while…until he realized how important life is. After making it clear he was a playboy and reckless billionaire who lived on the edge, one death started to change Stark’s outlook.

Going from acting like a child to a real adult seemed to occur when Stark was imprisoned by the terrorist Ten Rings group. There, he met Ho Yinsen who worked with Stark to create a suit of armor that could help them escape.

As fans likely remember, Yinsen sacrificed himself to let Stark go free. When Yinsen died, he told Stark not to waste his own life.

Tony Stark became a thoughtful man from then on

This basically ended the reckless man-child Stark was in the prior films. Yinsen’s death was the punch in the gut Stark needed to start taking life more seriously and use his technological skills for the greater good.

As time went on, other things happened to eliminate any further childish lines, something Downey portrayed with his usual skill. Part of this came in learning to accept working with others was imperative to overcome emerging threats to the planet.

By the time of Endgame, this also meant a further sobering up by having his own daughter with Pepper Potts. Having kids usually changes most people, but it took that and a combination of things to really make him change for the better.

Once it reached the point of sacrificing himself in Endgame, Stark was a world away from the man he was. Maybe his prior childishness was due to his lack of relationship with his father, something amended by Stark taking Peter Parker under his wing. This version of Stark will likely be quoted much more in movie history than his young, ego-driven self.