“I’m sorry, Tony….But he’s my friend.”
“So was I.”
–Captain America: Civil War Trailer
No, Tony. No you were not.
You bickered. You admitted he was in charge while you payed for/ made (with Banner’s help I assume) everything. But I don’t think you’ve ever had an agreement that wasn’t battle related or a discussion that didn’t move the story forward or hint towards this movie.
By my count, Tony, you have two, maybe three, friends out of all the Avengers: Bruce, Rhodey, and maybe Vision since he was once JARVIS and he’s on your side here. Maybe you’re drinking buddies with Thor, but I think he’s drinking buddies with everyone. You don’t know Sam, you don’t like Wanda, you make fun of Clint (who doesn’t), and I don’t think you like Natasha, so…yeah. Bruce, Rhodey, and maybe Vision.
I know that Steve and Tony are friends in the comics and have been for many years, though they are known to butt heads. However, as I’ve seen with the relationship of Tony and Bruce, the movies are not the comics. Relationships have changed. So, while friendships like those of Natasha and Clint have survived, as they’re both SHIELD Agents, Tony and Steve’s has not.
Tony’s perception of Steve is clouded by both men’s relationship with Tony’s father, Howard. In the comics, Howard had nothing to do with Steve’s transformation into Captain America as far as I know, but in the film he shares the role of dual creator with Dr. Erskine. Steve’s relationship with Howard is not a major part of Captain America: The First Avenger, mainly because it focuses more on Steve’s relationships with Bucky, Dr. Erskine, and Peggy. However, there are scenes of the two interacting and having a friendly relationship.
This relationship is expanded on in season 1 of Agent Carter in which, while Steve only appears in mention, archival flashback from the film, and photos, Howard is a recurring character. Howard sees Steve as his greatest creation, the one project he worked on that redeemed him for all the blood his weapons and inventions have placed on his hands. He’s taken Steve’s disappearance and apparent death hard, although like his son he hides it behind his carefree, drunken, womanizing personality. He makes it clear that he loved Steve, whether as a son or something more is up to interpretation.
This is most likely part of what soured his relationship with Tony. Tony mentions in The Avengers that Howard never shut up about Steve. To Tony’s point of view, Howard lamented the loss of his “perfect son” and Tony was a sub par replacement compared to Captain America. In Tony’s own words “…happiest day of his life was shipping me off to boarding school.”
Obviously, this was not true as Howard’s words in Iron Man 2 prove, but to Tony it was and probably still clouds his view of Steve. Perhaps Howard’s words would have worked had Steve not been found, but he was and Tony now comes face to face with his long lost, for all intents and purposes, older brother, by way of also being Howard’s creation. His “perfect” older brother. So, like any other younger sibling, he resents Steve for taking his father’s attention and love.
This sourness of view doesn’t only apply to Tony. In Avengers, for Steve, it’s only been, at most, a few weeks since he last saw his friends, including Howard who he knows is dead. Steve has most likely researched Tony since he’s Howard’s only surviving relative and, seeing the resemblance, expects a younger version of his friend but doesn’t get that. He doesn’t approve of Tony and doesn’t think very highly of him. In his own words: “I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you….You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.” Howard helped the army during the war and, to Steve, clearly would do whatever he could to help his country. He doesn’t see that in Tony. Almost everything he directly says to Tony outside of battle is basically like an uncle or older brother chastising a nephew or younger brother.
That’s almost precisely what their relationship is like. The saying goes “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Through Howard, that is exactly what Steve and Tony are: family. That doesn’t mean they have to like it. So, no Tony. You are not friends. You are family members that argue a lot. Bucky is Steve’s friend. Peggy is his friend. Sam is Steve’s friend. Natasha is Steve’s friend. Clint is, most likely, Steve’s friend. Howard was his friend. You are not his friend. Quit drinking whatever you are clearly drinking and go back to looking for Bruce. Oh, and when you find him, punch Ross in the jaw…with the suit on. Please? For me?
(Photo via Marvel Studios)