Tony Stark needs a hug? Yeah, he does. But never forget that Tony Stark is strong as steel underneath the armor and the frail flesh and the troubled mind. Tony Stark has come back again and again, from childhood trauma, from the horror of his captivity and torture, from betrayal after betrayal by those he loved, from the ashes of his own mistakes – and has grown and learned and become a better person for it.
In “Civil War” he’s STILL becoming a better person – he’s trying like hell to keep his team together and out of jail or worse (even though he’s stepped away from the Avengers and become an “active non-combatant”). He sees the wide view of the world – not just America, because Tony the futurist is a global citizen – and agrees that beings who have the destructive force of nuclear weapons need to submit to some form of oversight, and that such beings do not have the unilateral right to enter other countries’ boundaries.
His mistake is not this – because it IS the right thing to do, and the “New Avengers” ARE a mess, with no oversight and – as we see in Lagos – the capacity to do real harm when they make errors. His mistake is that in his guilt over Ultron, he puts his trust in the wrong people (Ross and his minions) – and he learns this very quickly. Tony Stark is one of the smartest people in the world - and as soon as he sees evidence that he was wrong, that he put his faith in the wrong people, he sets out to make things right. He even admits he was wrong - which is something NO ONE ELSE in this movie does. (Steve’s patronizing letter does not, even though Steve is wrong throughout most of the movie…) Tony Stark knows and mourns for every life that was needlessly lost because of the Avengers’ actions - he’s NOT a soldier, and the concept of collateral damage is anathema to this reformed weapons maker. He’s grown, as a human being, way past that. He knows the life of one innocent person - like the young man whose mother confronted him - is worth a million times more than the “freedom” of the Avengers.
The only one who bolsters Tony, and who, at the end, even though he’s the most cruelly injured of all, speaks wisdom and truth, is Rhodey. Tony made the choice to follow the Accords because of his emotions, and ended up being right (even though, as usual, Bad People with Agendas let him down). But Rhodey followed the Accords because he KNEW it was ethically the right thing to do, right from the beginning. He didn’t do it just to follow his friend Tony – like the clown-circus gang that ended up following Steve apparently just for the heck of it or because, hey, it’s Cap. Rhodey did it because he knew in his soul that the Avengers DO need some form of oversight, and that they can’t keep trampling into other countries and cowboying around and causing huge collateral damage and loss of life without answering to the world. Rhodey’s speech at the end is like a balm to Tony’s soul, and you can see it.
Tony Stark is in pain, and he’s been wounded to his very soul – but he will rise again. Because he always does. That’s why so many of us love him – he’s a metaphor not only for science and technology, but for humanity –trying and failing and trying again; falling down and getting up again, only to fall again; nursing our wounds both physical and emotional, learning as we go. There’s courage in that, and heroism, and grace.