“I think I would just cut the wire”
Let’s talk about this line. In Avengers, Steve tells Tony he wouldn’t “lay down on a wire” to let somebody else crawl over him. In other words, he accuses him of not being able to sacrifice himself (btw what kind of insult is that, Steve?? It’s not something to accuse somebody of?? But that’s a different subject). We all know it’s not true, as Tony himself proved many times. Carrying the nuke through the wormhole is probably the clearest evidence of that – and a direct contradiction of Steve’s accusation. Maybe the dialogue itself was put there just to emphasize Tony’s sacrifice later in the movie. To me, though, it’s something more. “I think I would just cut the wire.” It’s Tony’s way of looking at problems.
It’s what he did in Iron Man 3 when Rhodey said “We gotta make a decision. We can either save the president, or Pepper. We can’t do both.” The choice was to save someone very important to Tony or someone very important to the country. Which option did he choose? Both. He sent a remote suit to the president’s plane, all the while being on a boat, heading towards Pepper’s direction. He cut the wire.
It’s what he did when one of those living-bomb-guys caught Harley. Tony could either give the man the information he wanted or sacrifice the boy. Which option did he choose? Neither. He gave Harley a hint to use that anti-bullies device which helped him escape. He cut the wire.
It’s exactly what he did when he created the first suit in that cave! He could either build a weapon for the terrorists or die. What option did he choose? Neither. He used his brilliant mind to escape. He cut the wire.
Heck, even Tony’s response to Steve’s insult is cutting the wire in a way. Steve probably didn’t even expect a response at all. I mean, neither “no, I would do that” or “you’re right, I wouldn’t” was a good thing to say in that moment. Without hesitation, Tony chose a third option.
Of course, when he cannot find his own solution, when he is unable to cut the wire, he is more than ready to lay down on it. We’ve seen that, I’ve already mentioned it. The point is, the sacrifice is not always necessary and he knows it. Presented with a choice to save someone and save himself, he’d rather find a way for them all to survive. Laying down on the wire may be noble, but cutting it is just freaking smart. He uses his mind, his technology, to create a third option when there are only two. His mind is his superpower.
It’s not really surprising, then, that he worked so hard to create Ultron. Can you see? The world ending, all of them dying? Steve had a simple solution: we’ll lose together. Well, thank you, Captain, I’d rather not. Tony didn’t agree to just sit there and let that happen. He used his brilliant mind, his superpower, to try to protect the Earth and everybody he loved. This time, like we all know, it didn’t turn out well. But I hope you see the pattern here.
The guy just won’t give up. Bless his heart.