no but like you do know that even though tony realized that bucky was innocent he still tried to murder him and would have if steve hadn't been there to stop him? the russos confirmed it. i just don't get it how someone can claim to love a character but still support the person who almost murdered said character in cold blood and still hasn't shown any indication that he's sorry for his actions.
Okay, I’m glad you asked this because it gives me a reason to explain my feelings about the Act 3 fight in Civil War. Heads up for anyone reading this that this is gonna be a pretty long post with a lot of visual evidence.
There’s several major points to the final fight scene:
- Had the fight continued, would Tony have killed Bucky?
- Understanding Tony’s reaction both from the perspective of grief and also from the perspective of trauma.
- Is this fight really about Bucky?
To fully understand the final scene, I think we have to look at all three of these. First and foremost - would Tony have actually killed Bucky?
So, the first several minutes of the fight, Tony hits Steve, knocking to the floor, and restrains him. His attention is clearly focused on Bucky who he engages in a fight. The fight continues for several seconds/minutes, until this important moment:
Tony: Do you even remember them?
Bucky: I remember all of them.
Here, Tony has Bucky in a chokehold. Cap is incapacitated somewhere else. Tony could easily snap Bucky’s neck right here, yet he pauses and asks him about his parents. Tony then flies down, still holding Bucky and Cap intercepts them mid-air:
Several things to point out: if Tony was about to kill Bucky, why didn’t he do it just then? They all fall down, Bucky falling onto another platform, Tony and Steve falling to the floor, with Steve rolling forwards. This is an important moment - from here on now the action switches. Tony’s attention is now fixed on Steve solely, not Bucky. The two begin to fight.
Bucky joins in and we have the well known Bucky, Steve and Tony choreography. Then Tony shoots a repulsor beam at Steve, knocking him back, and Bucky attacks Tony, attempts to rip out the reactor at which point Tony’s reactor fires a repulsor beam and Bucky’s arm is ripped off from the blast.
Despite this, Tony doesn’t attempt to use his repulsor, despite having an arm free:
Instead he tries to pry Bucky’s arm away from the reactor. But Bucky is too strong. I’ve rewatched the scene several times and Tony doesn’t actually fire a repulsor with his arm. Instead the reactor begins to glow:
Before it shoots out a beam:
This is also important as it means the reactor has a failsafe in the case of someone trying to remove it.
If Tony wanted to hurt Bucky why didn’t he fire a repulsor from his arm straight into Bucky’s face? Why did he attempt to simply pry Bucky’s hand away? I don’t think he intentionally tried to shoot Bucky’s arm off, instead the reactor has a failsafe and released a repulsor and since Bucky had his arm on the reactor it hit him straight in the arm, causing it to be ripped off from the force.
Once Bucky loses his arm, then Tony hits him with a repulsor in the back which yes, I admit wasn’t necessary and was awful. At this point Cap gets up and we get this iconic shot:
Steve and Tony begin to fight and Steve has the upper hand, Tony is cornered against the wall and has no way of fighting against Steve:
At this point Tony has FRIDAY analyse Cap’s fight pattern and use it against him. Which leads to this point of the fight:
Tony punches Steve several times while he kneels, Bucky’s body behind him. Then he grabs him, and tosses him away from Bucky:
Tony: Stay down. Final warning.
The camera pans to a wide shot, and this, this moment is visually INTEGRAL to this entire fight. Wide shots are intended to show the audience the entire scene, they focus on everything as a whole, revealing to the audience what is going on.
That’s why this shot is so important. Bucky is on the floor, incapable of protecting himself. Steve is several feet away from Bucky and Tony is in between the two. Tony could easily turn around and kill Bucky - so why doesn’t he? The camera pans to this, revealing to us that Bucky (and Steve) are completely vulnurable - note even the visual difference between Tony, standing up, and Bucky and Steve, both on the floor. Here, Tony is solely in control. Yet he issues Cap a warning, and completely ignores Bucky.
This also majorly answers the third point as it keys the audience in completely that at the core, this is not a fight about Bucky. It solidifies the idea that this is not a fight between Bucky and Tony, but a fight between Steve and Tony.
Bucky attempts to intervene as Tony raises his reactor - presumably to hurt Cap - at which point Tony kicks him in the face. Steve lifts Tony and throws him to the floor where he begins to hit him over and over. He rips off Tony’s helmet and raises the shield. Close shots prevent us from seeing what is going on, until we see this:
Visually we expect Steve to kill Tony. He doesn’t. Again, this is very important to the narrative as it mirrors Tony’s attempt to kill Bucky.
Tony attacks Bucky.
Steve attacks Tony.
Tony looks like he might kill Bucky. We never find out if he really would as the fight shifts, but it seems he wouldn’t have actually gone through it.
Steve looks like he is about to kill Tony. He doesn’t.
The two practically mirror each other - the difference is we actually see Steve on the verge of killing Tony, only for him to choose not to. The audience knows then, that no matter how hurt or angry they are, no matter how broken, how furious, how much they fight each other, that ultimately at heart, they are not people who would kill each other - at least in my personal opinion. Steve’s attempt to kill Tony, only for him not to, parallels Tony’s attempt to kill Bucky, only to choose not to - in my personal opinion.
I know that I’ve mainly focused on the first and third point. The second point is also important, in understanding Tony’s reaction. Firstly, someone seeing someone’s murder is highly unsettling to any human being. Tony seeing his parents murdered, hearing them being murdered, is very much the equivalent of someone being exposed to footage of a shooting - it is highly traumatic to witness that type of violence, no matter what it is, and many people actually have to get therapy for this.
Tony’s reaction is also heightened though because what he is witnessing is not strangers, but his own parents being murdered - he is shown his father’s face being caved in, and his mother begging for her husband as she is strangled to death. So not only is Tony exposed to something extremely violent, upsetting and triggering, but it is also done on a personal level to him. Does that mean what he did was right? No. Attacking Bucky was completely wrong, of course. But is it understandable? Yes, in my personal opinion.
Your parent’s death is not something you get over. Now I understand that the difference is that Bucky was brainwashed and made to do what he did. I understand that Bucky is as much a victim as Maria or Howard in this situation completely. But grief and trauma don’t work logically - Tony does not have the time to process what he just saw, he lashes out.
And in the end, despite the fact that he has the chance to kill Bucky, he doesn’t. His focus shifts to Steve.
As to what the writers/directors say, I don’t particularly trust what the writers or the producers say - they are the same people who thought it was normal to have Steve kiss Sharon only 48 hours after Peggy died, so their opinion is not something I trust. Plus, that perspective clashes with the perspective of the stunt choreographer (I think) who says that Tony aims to incapacitate, not harm, throughout the movie.
I don’t in any way think that what Tony did was “right” - but I understand why he did it. If we can understand Steve for nearly trying to kill Tony, if we can understand T’Challa for several times attempting to kill Bucky (note that T’Challa specifically stated that he “will kill Bucky himself”, so there is no doubt as to his intentions), then we can understand Tony’s attempt too. If you decide to continue to dislike Tony for attempting to kill Bucky, then I hope you are prepared to dislike T’Challa too.
[Note: Please do not comment on this post as to how Tony and T’Challa’s cases differ. Canon facts are that T’Challa, like Tony, also attempts to kill Bucky and states his intentions himself: “I’ll kill him myself, Ms. Romanoff”. What he does is premeditated.]