"I Am Iron Man": An Affective Engagement Study of MCU's Tony Stark

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Mark Pedersen
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis examines character engagement in movies. In particular, how the engagement structures empathy for a character and how that gets produced. My focal point is how particularly spectacle scenes can create and establish empathy for a character. During my thesis, I label my own concept of affect as a way to way alongside Murray Smith's structures of sympathy to create an amalgam of narrative features and spectacle scenes. I argue that a spectacle scene can provide more than stunning imagery. Likewise, it can provide in-depth character insight. This hybrid installs what I call affective engagement within a diegesis. A bond between a spectator and a movie character arises through this engagement process.
My thesis provides a theoretical review of spectacle as a concept, coupled with prominent character engagement theorists. These later shape the framework for my analysis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe character Tony Stark. The serialized story world of MCU is vast, and to gain transparency for my thesis, I intend to focus on the character growth of Tony Stark, eliminating various other prominent characters also worthy of surveying.
Through my theoretical walkthrough of spectacles and character engagement, I begin by analyzing Tony Stark's character growth from start to finish. The arc of Tony Stark can be argued to be the most notable one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is a notion I agree with, as this thesis argues that Tony Stark elicits the most empathy throughout the first three phases. Through Tony Stark, the story unfolds, as his story embodies uniqueness.
What mainly makes Tony Stark intriguing to examine is how his arc changes throughout the phases. This thesis argues that Stark presents himself almost with morally grey characteristics at the very beginning. It is exact argued that he presents the traits of arrogance and selfishness. However, at the end of phase three, Tony Stark has matured into making the ultimate selfless sacrifice and gains a grand emotional payoff from the spectators. What makes this possible, my thesis argues, is that the accumulation of empathy for Tony Stark increases exponentially throughout the phases. That is made possible by letting the audience gain access to Stark's traumatic past, which helps him elicit empathy. In addition, Tony Stark shows maturity through the diegesis by making amends with his traumatic past and failures. The maturity of Tony Stark transpires through three Iron Man movies and four Avenger movies. My analysis consists of the last two movies of phase three, focusing on Tony Stark. That will transfer into discussing the character and the actor's sheer significance. In particular, how Tony Stark / Robert Downey Jr. has assimilated his personal experience and characteristics into the role.

LanguageEnglish
Publication date30 May 2022
Number of pages56
ID: 471712518