The release of Doctor Strange has drawn many comparisons to the very first Iron Man film that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008. Both are about brilliant yet arrogant men who after surviving a tragic event, eventually become superheroes. It’s a bit hard to judge where the Doctor Strange is going to go as he has only had one appearance so far. Tony Stark has had many appearances and frankly I think he is probably one of the least likable characters in the MCU. So while there are many parallels between the two, I can already say that I prefer Strange over Stark.
When we first met Tony Stark, he was arrogant and a philanderer and something of a war monger. But after the events that led him being injured, captured, and losing his mentor, he seemed to mellow out by the end of the first film. The second film ultimately changed my view on the guy as he arguably became worse. He became much more of a motor mouth and would cause many of the incidents that he would have to save. This is pointed out in The Avengers by Captain America where his more negative traits from Iron Man 2 carried over. Iron Man 3 we do see a younger Stark who once again eventually caused the problems that he had in the film. Age of Ultron was really the straw the broke the camel’s back for me as he once again caused the incident that the heroes had to clean up and was frankly more condescending about it. Captain America: Civil War more or less rectified the two extremes of Stark as he was more mellow and less of a know it all but still had his huge ego.
The ego and arrogance are two of the biggest drawbacks for me to the character. How he is regarded as such a great hero in universe has always been something I’ve wondered about. Other than The Avengers, all of his conflicts have been ones that he either caused or aggravated. His treatment of Scarlet Witch in Civil War was a real point of contention for me. Telling Cap that “Wanda didn’t want to leave” her forced house arrest yet when Wanda calls him out on it he only responds, “It’s not what it seems”. There is also his general hypocrisy about registering yet he willingly drags an unregistered teenager into his pissing contest with Captain America. I think his attitude being all over the place is something intentional on the creative teams behind the films but doesn’t mean I have to like the character.
Doctor Strange from the get go we do see that he can be nice. Sure he only takes cases that interest him or won’t risk his perfect record but when called for help, he doesn’t hesitate. By the end of the film, he willingly put himself into a time loop to endlessly be killed by a more powerful enemy. It’s left unclear as to how many times that this loop happened but it was surely enough. This was a far contrast from the man we saw at the beginning of the film where everything was about him. Halfway through the film, it was implied that he had all forgotten as to why he even sought mystical training (to fix his hands) and just enjoyed his new life. But when faced with the responsibility of being a Master, he shirked at first but by the end he somberly accepted the new role in his life.
Then there is the post credits scene with Thor. Clearly taking place during Thor: Ragnarok, which will presumably be set about a year after Doctor Strange, we see the meeting between the two. It’s cordial but there is seemingly some tension there and presumably has to do with Loki being on Earth. Strange has accepted his role as a protector of the realm and thus wants Loki gone and also Thor and Odin. So we do see the snark of Strange in the scene, he is much more focused on his role. It’s not hard to see why he wants the Asgardians gone as they have caused plenty of problems for Earth.
It’s easier for me to buy a hero who takes his job seriously. I never really got that with Stark with the constant quips and snark. Though Strange does not seemingly lose his sense of humor by his next appearance, we do see he has eased more into the role. It will be interesting to see Strange and Stark meet when Thanos comes knocking on Earth’s door. You can imagine that Strange will not be in the mood for any of Stark’s shenanigans. He jokes when he needs to but during all combat situations, he is utterly focused on what he needs to do to survive and win. So that’s why I prefer Strange over Stark.