The Infinity Saga, the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comprised of 23 movies across 11 years and three “Phases,” before it finally came to an end this summer. It was an ambitious crossover franchise, the likes of which had never been attempted in Hollywood before.
Iron Man and Captain America were undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Infinity Saga, but it’s debatable who was the most vital to the story. So, here are 5 reasons Iron Man is the star of the Infinity Saga and 5 why it’s Captain America.
10 Iron Man: He was at the center of everything
Without Iron Man, the whole MCU would crumble. Tony Stark was the last piece of the puzzle that Nick Fury needed to really kickstart his Avengers Initiative. Tony also literally created the villain in the second Avengers movie, although his support of the Sokovia Accords broke the Avengers up. He was also the only Avenger that Thanos was personally aware of (“You have my respect, Stark...”).
If Captain America’s first solo movie was the only thing that ever happened to him and he was never found in the ice, not a lot would’ve been different about the world. Of course, Cap’s clashes with Iron Man were integral to the progression of the MCU, but Cap on his own didn’t impact many of the stories.
9 Captain America: Civil War was his movie
In addition to being Captain America’s third solo movie, Captain America: Civil War served as a sequel to Iron Man 3, a sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the MCU introductions of Spider-Man and Black Panther, but the crazy thing is, it’s undeniably Cap’s movie. Civil War is often jokingly called Avengers 2.5, but the story really comes down to Cap’s conflicted feelings about Bucky. Cap doesn’t agree with anything the Winter Soldier has done, but Bucky is his best friend and he knows he has the capacity to be good.
Civil War wouldn’t work as an Iron Man movie or probably even an Avengers movie, because it’s more intimate and personal than that. The fact that a movie like Civil War, which is so important to the MCU tapestry and has so many different characters with unrelated motivations, can still be a Captain America solo movie shows that Cap is a strong candidate for the Infinity Saga’s primary protagonist.
8 Iron Man: He was the one who saw the “endgame”
As the futurist who was obsessed with his legacy, Tony Stark was always looking ahead. When he saw all the Avengers dead and a cosmic threat he couldn’t handle invading Earth in a Mind Stone-induced vision, Tony became fearful of “the endgame.”
The Infinity Saga was all about leading towards a literal “endgame” – that’s how Marvel kept audiences so hooked for so long – and Tony was the only character in the franchise who was also looking forward towards that goal. Thanos was the physical manifestation of six years of fear that we’d spent six actual years watching Tony Stark go through.
7 Captain America: His standalone adventures affected the wider MCU
Iron Man’s solo movies exist on their own, telling the story of Tony Stark, mostly unconnected from the non-Iron Man MCU entries. Aside from the forced setups in Iron Man 2 and Tony’s post-Battle of New York PTSD attacks in Iron Man 3, the Iron Man movies tell their own stories.
However, the Captain America movies all affect the wider MCU. The First Avenger established the history of S.H.I.E.L.D.; The Winter Soldier revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. was controlled by Hydra and forced Nick Fury off the grid, and Civil War led to the end of the Avengers. All of Cap’s standalone adventures affected the wider MCU.
6 Iron Man: He had more impact on other characters
Some fans have accused Spider-Man: Far From Home of existing in Iron Man’s shadow. Apart from the graffitied memorials on every wall literally hanging over Spidey, the whole plot concerns Peter Parker’s grief over the loss of Tony Stark and the pressure he feels to live up to Tony’s legacy.
This is indicative of the huge impact that Tony had on the other characters in the MCU. There are countless MCU villains that are motivated by their hatred and/or jealousy of Tony Stark. Tony’s grace under fire inspired the other Avengers, even Captain America himself when he took the nuke through the wormhole above New York.
5 Captain America: He left behind two worthy successors
In the months leading up to Avengers: Endgame’s release, fans debated who Steve Rogers would make the next Captain America: Sam Wilson or Bucky Barnes. In the end, he chose Sam, but most fans would agree that either would do, and Steve mentored them both into becoming worthy successors to him with an unwavering belief in both of their abilities.
This inspired Sam to become a superhero and helped Bucky to shake his brainwashing. There hasn’t been much discussion of who will be Tony Stark’s replacement, because his father-son bond with Peter Parker made that obvious. However, Spider-Man: Far From Home was all about Peter realizing that he didn’t need to be “the next Tony Stark,” and just needed to be the best version of himself. Tony has no successor, whereas Steve left behind two that fans struggled to choose between.
4 Iron Man: He brought superheroes into the public eye
There’s a reason that the deeply interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man. Tony Stark was already a public figure, with the press constantly keeping an eye on him, and when he donned a metal suit and started fighting crime as a superhero, he couldn’t resist taking credit, thus bringing superheroes into the public eye.
This is what kicked off the entire MCU. The later movies revealed a long backstory, with Captain America, T’Chaka’s Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Hank Pym’s Ant-Man, and Janet van Dyne’s Wasp all operating as superheroes years before Iron Man, but Iron Man outing them more publicly is the root of this entire story.
3 Captain America: He was the leader of the Avengers
The first “Phase” of the Infinity Saga was tied together by the origin stories of the six initial members of the Avengers and their formation as a team. The second “Phase” was about the team developing and growing, as well as the coming of Thanos, a powerful cosmic being who would eventually threaten those heroes.
The third and final “Phase” saw the initial Avengers line-up breaking apart while all of these disparate fringe characters were coming together before Thanos actually arrived. It’s clear that the Infinity Saga was anchored by the Avengers, and Captain America was the undeniable leader of the Avengers, which could make him the star.
2 Iron Man: He started the saga
The most obvious reason for Iron Man being the star of the Infinity Saga is that he’s been there from the very beginning. Tony Stark was our introduction to this world. He made his big-screen debut when there was really no such thing as the MCU. When he said, “I am Iron Man,” in grandiose terms, he changed cinema forever, and in more immediate terms, he prepared audiences for a superhero-infested on-screen universe that would keep them captivated for more than a decade.
When Nick Fury appeared to Tony during the credits and mentioned the “Avengers Initiative,” Tony’s mix of skepticism and curiosity began the Infinity Saga properly.
1 Captain America: He ended the saga
Captain America might not have made his debut until a full three years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he was the focus of the final shot of Avengers: Endgame.
Tony had died a few scenes earlier and his funeral had come and gone when Cap went back in time and stayed there. His older self passed on his shield to Sam Wilson and we got a flashback of Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter finally enjoying the dance that they had to wait so long for. This quiet, sweet moment established that the Infinity Saga was all about Steve proving that he really deserved to give up the fight and have that dance.