The glitz, the glam, the suits (both silk and iron)—Tony Stark is the Avengers' front man. Notice that we didn't say "leader"—they have Captain America for that (just check out his listing in "Cast" if you don't believe us). But Tony is the face of the franchise, giving the team a swanky place to train, conduct research, and then wind down when the Avenging day is done. Really, Tony couldn't have explained it better himself:
Maria Hill: Lab's all set up, boss.
Tony Stark [pointing to Captain America]: Actually, he's the boss. I just pay for everything, and design everything, and make everyone look cooler.
Given this exchange, you would think that Tony Stark's character is bringing nothing more than window dressing to the table. But you'd be wrong. (And who brings a window to a table, anyway?)
Stark's got a vision, and we don't mean the android that springs to life at the end of the movie. At that point, he technically has two visions, only one of which looks like an in-shape beetroot sporting a green cape.
For the sake of simplicity, we'll focus on the first vision here: Ultron. When Tony, with the help of J.A.R.V.I.S., discovers the intelligence that's locked inside Loki's scepter, he sees an opportunity to finally make Earth safe once and for all. It seems like his run-in with the Chitauri invaders in the first Avengers has left a lasting impression, and he wants to avoid having a similar experience—like, ever again.
At first, he's on his own with this idea, but eventually he brings Bruce Banner around with some grade A future-casting:
Tony Stark: What if the world was safe? What if the next time the aliens rolled up to the club—and they will—they couldn't get past the bouncer?
It sounds great to us, and it's enough to convince Banner, too. It's also enough to nearly bring about the end of humanity, but let's not be nitpicky.
Tony's reasoning is not the only thing that enables him to sway his pre-Hulk colleague. The guy exudes confidence. To be fair, he is a handsome billionaire with the most powerful friends on the planet. But does that mean he should be reading his own press?
In truth, there's a fine line between being self-confident and being over-confident, and Tony stumbles right over it in Age of Ultron. He decides—on his own—that Ultron is a good idea, and he moves on it without checking in with any of his teammates. As you can imagine, not everyone's on board with his plan, least of all Captain America:
Tony Stark: Isn’t that the why we fight? So we can end the fight? So we get to go home?
Captain America: Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.
Captain America makes a good point about the dangers of preventing crimes before they happen. Should folks be arrested for just thinking about committing a bad deed? That's a hard one to say "yes" to. Still, Tony thinks that his way is the best way.
Even after his idea for Ultron runs off the rails, he tries essentially the same approach again, only this time by uploading J.A.R.V.I.S. into the android body that the Avengers steal from Ultron. Talk about doubling down. Cap is understandably displeased:
Captain America: I'm gonna say this once.
Tony Stark: How about nonce?
Captain America: Shut it down.
Tony Stark: Nope, not gonna happen.
Things escalate from there, with some repulsor rays being fired and a certain shield being thrown around the room. Thor shows up and makes an executive decision that interrupts the fight, but clearly Tony hasn't learned any meaningful lessons from his first screw-up with Ultron. He still thinks his way is the best way.
That kind of attitude, bordering on obnoxious, would be pretty unforgivable in a superhero, but we still gotta root for the guy. That's because his motivation is coming from a good place. After Wanda Maximoff zaps Tony's brain and shows him the horrors of his dead teammates and a re-invaded Earth, he's determined not to let that happen. He confesses as much to Nick Fury:
Tony Stark: I'm the man who killed the Avengers […] I wasn't ready. I didn't do all I could.
In Tony's spell-addled brain, he's already "killed" his pals, which is kind of sweet when you think about it. Sure, he's obsessing about a speculative future that may or may not happen, but the very possibility that it could is enough to drive the man to extremes—even if it means not listening to the very teammates he's trying to save.