In AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, Thanos encounters Tony Stark and says, “You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.” And it turns out, that’s one of the most pivotal lines in the MCU.
Why? More below… And this does contain AVENGERS: ENDGAME SPOILERS!!!
Tony Stark becomes Iron Man. He goes from being a guy who lives in his father’s shadow to a man who rejects his father’s legacy, transforms Stark Industries, and goes on to co-lead the Avengers. Most of what he does is based on his own merit. Most of it is enabled by his knowledge. Besides Shuri, he’s easily one of the smartest people on the planet. And he applies that knowledge in order to overcome those who wish to do harm to the earth.
And every time Tony utilizes that knowledge, it becomes a burden. He starts to experience PTSD, in large part because he finds it hard to connect to others. He recognizes that despite his knowledge, he still makes mistakes. He’s human. He yearns for accountability, both for himself and the Avengers. In some ways, it’s a cry for help. As if he’s screaming, “I can’t be the guy who everyone relies on.”
He’s also a guy who goes from being a womanizer (along with abusing substances and being a workaholic–all coping mechanisms) to loving Pepper Potts. And, as we see in Avengers: Endgame, he goes on to become a father.
Enter Thanos. A “titan” who “knows” that the universe needs to change, otherwise all living things will destroy it. And Thanos, a titan cursed with knowledge, meets Tony Stark, a man cursed with knowledge. And when Thanos sees Tony, he thinks he’s seeing a reflection. It’s almost like Thanos is saying, “Ah, Tony, you’re also cursed with knowledge. If only we could have a longer conversation you’d agree with me. You would come around. You’d realize that what I’m doing makes sense.”
But, as we see in Avengers: Endgame… It’s not ONLY knowledge that saves the universe. It’s also some far more important. Sure, Tony uses his knowledge, but when it comes down to it… when lives are on the line… Tony Stark doesn’t need to use his knowledge. Thanos’s sacrifice to “save the universe from eventual extinction” (if that’s even a thing) does “exact a price.” It forces him to choose knowledge over people. So much so that Thanos goes on living (at least until angry Thor turns up).
But Tony’s sacrifice at the end of Avengers: Endgame is far more powerful. Both Thanos and Tony make a decision about the universe. But unlike Thanos, Tony doesn’t get to live in his post-snap paradise. And it turns out that while Tony is most certainly cursed with knowledge… he’s blessed by something far more important that literally saves everyone in the universe:
Tony Stark is blessed with a heart.
Knowledge, when pursued at all costs, begets a mad titan. But a heart, in the end, results in a hero.