The Beauty in Marvel’s Story Telling

Citizen Kane, Silence of The Lambs, The Shining, all three movies that have one thing in common: beautifully hidden story telling. The Shining especially, is one of the many movies that has become famous for all of it’s hidden meaning. With meaning behind certain room numbers, logos on cans, and many more, fans have spent decades talking about the hidden secrets inside the famous film. Well, what if I told you that one of the secret Thoughters introduced me to the beautiful story telling that was hidden in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? At first, I laughed and thought he was crazy, but after doing some research, I’ve seen the light. It’s time that we start comparing the level of story telling that Kevin Feige has brought us over the years to such classics as The Matrix and Memento.


I know most of you have probably tried to forget Iron Man 2, but it’s this under rated film that brings us our first moment of masterful storytelling. We see here, Tony’s entire left arm completely engulfed in flames, but what exactly does this represent? In the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, there is a discourse known as the Adittapariyaya Sutta , or ‘Fire Sermon’. In this discourse, the Buddha said:

“The mind is burning, ideas are burning, mind-consciousness is burning, mind-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.” 

So immediately, we’ve already cracked an element of the MCU puzzle. By discovering the truth behind this meaning of the flames, we can start to piece together certain aspects of the story. First we have the quote, “The mind is burning.” This may seem obscure and meaningless at first, but digging into another MCU film, Captain America Civil War, the deep, hidden story telling of the MCU can be found. Below is a video where we see all of the Avengers discussing an important matter and during the discussion Black Widow makes the comment that Tony has been very quiet. Captain America makes a comment about it and that’s when Tony Stark corrects him and explains that he’s dealing with an electromagnetic headache… in other words, the mind is burning.

“I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

This line reveals even more of the secret storytelling that’s being done by the masters at Marvel. As seen in the video above, Tony mentions the pain he’s feeling and then delivers a speech to the other Avengers about the grief he feels because of the innocent lives that have been lost during their adventures. Is there more of this quote hidden through out the Marvel Cinematic Universe though?

Typically when a story takes place in the comics, the characters never age. With the exception of a few stories, Spiderman has always been the young kid trying to figure things out, Tony Stark has always been the guy in his late 30’s, maybe early 40’s, doing whatever it is that Iron Man does in the comics, and the list goes on and on. With the MCU you though, things are handled very differently. While in theory, the actors could have been recast and remained the same age, Marvel has decided to address the fact that the characters are aging. “I say it is burning with birth, aging, and death…”

When we first met Tony Stark in the original Iron Man movie, he was a young happy-go-lucky man who had the whole world in front of him. With every hard fought battle though, the super hero without any actual super powers seems to breaking down.


As mentioned, Tony first brought up the pain he was dealing with in the early portions of Civil War, but it would be later on in the film when Tony would deal with even more pain as several cars fall on him. To be more specific, his left arm taking a direct hit.


Since that scene, we’ve seen Tony continue to be bothered by the left arm. There’s of course one of the final scenes near the end of Civil War where Tony grasps at his forearm.


And then there are two scenes in Spiderman Homecoming that also make subtle references to Tony arm.



It’s the 2nd image in particular where we see a slight tremble going on with Tony’s arm. Is this a nod back to the PTSD that Tony was dealing with in Iron Man. The shaking of the hand is reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ character in Saving Private Ryan. While I’m not trying to make the claim that what we’re seeing is a direct homage to the Spielberg film, I do think there’s an interesting correlation between the relationship Hanks’ had with Matt Damon’s character and the relationship that Tony Stark has with Peter Parker. Tony is an old beaten down hero, meanwhile Peter is a young kid who clearly just wants to do the right thing and be the best person that he could possibly be.

Much like how Tom Hanks’ character was willing to sacrifice himself for Matt Damon, the question has to be asked when discussing Tony Stark and Peter Parker. Is that what we’re going to see with Stark in the upcoming Infinity War film. We’ve already heard from Kevin Feige that Spider-Man will be the character that guides audiences into the next wave of Marvel stories because the world will be very different and audiences will need a familiar face. This of course goes back to the quote “I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.” 

The usage of the word birth is very interesting. We assume that “birth, aging, and death” are referring to one individual, but what if the genius of Kevin Feige took that quote and used it to reference something more. The birth of a child or a new super hero (Spider-Man), and then followed by the aging and eventual death of the parent (Iron Man). But what about the flame that engulfed Tony’s arm. The beautiful imagery that was the original stepping stone that brought us here.

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We’ve seen images from Infinity War of Tony having what looks to be an Arc Reactor in his chest again. There is, of course, speculation that this is just a device that allows Tony to switch into the Iron Man armor whenever he wants but if it is in fact a new arc reactor, why is it there? While some would look at the references to the left arm and just think it was coincidence, historically the left arm and any kind of pain dealing with that limb, has to do with heart conditions, and as we know, Tony Stark has a history of heart problems. There it is. The big hint that’s been in our faces the entire time. It’s been there ever since Iron Man 2. The fate of Tony Stark. The demise of Iron Man. No matter how strong he and his friends are, eventually the human body will fail and unfortunately for Tony Stark, his seems to be breaking down much sooner than he would hope. Obviously, I don’t expect Tony Stark to go out by way of heart attack, but I do believe this leaves open the door for Tony to sacrifice himself to stop Thanos. He’ll have nothing left to prove or live for. He’ll only be interested in making sure that his one last action is saving the people he cares most about. It’ll be a sad, yet beautiful end to a great character and the most amazing thing is, even though the signs were there from nearly the very beginning, most of us will never seen it coming.


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