In the Avengers movie, why didn't Loki's staff work on Tony Stark?

My theory is that it had something to do with the Arc Reactor, given the 'clink' sound it made when Loki tapped Tony on the chest.

  • 2
    Wayne I would recommend you check out this question over on the Movies and TV site
    – chcuk
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 21:48
  • It's really really ridiculously obvious that the Arc reactor stops it from touching his skin. Why even ask this question?
    – Daft
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 12:54

8 Answers 8


The staff needs to make contact with skin (as vsz says, skin near the heart) to affect the person.

Tony's skin wasn't touched, it hit the reactor instead.

While the magic can penetrate a thin layer of clothing, apparently the metal of the reactor was sufficient shielding.

  • 2
    I'm not sure the magic can penetrate clothing - the tip of his staff is fairly pointed and may have poked a bit through the clothes. Or was it shown to work on armored SHIELD members?
    – Izkata
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 23:03
  • Doesn't it has to do something with the hearth? If skin alone would suffice, Loki could have poked Tony's arm instead.
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 6:12
  • 3
    @vsz: Yes. Loki has to touch above your heart. That's why I think a thin layer of clothing won't matter - the magic is already penetrating flesh and bone to reach your heart. It can't penetrate the metal of the reactor, though.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 14:31
  • TVTropes WARNING! The relevant trope is tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PocketProtector
    – b_jonas
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 10:59
  • This doesn't make sense though, when he affects Hawkeye, Clint is wearing at least two layers of clothing including a thick jacket and probably body armor. The jewel in the staff has been confirmed to be an Infinity Stone, don't tell me one of the most powerful objects in all of creation can go through clothing but not metal. It's the Vibranium core that protects Tony.
    – Monty129
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 9:20

The reason Loki's staff will not work on Tony has nothing to do with the ARC reactor technology per say, and everything to do with the core element of the 4th generation reactor, Vibranium. One of the main abilities of the fictional element is absorbtion of energy directed at it. This is also why Thor's mystical lightning bolt overcharges Tony's reactor to "Over 400%"

It is stated in the novelization of Iron Man II that the metal is indeed Vibranium.

Vibranium Core

  • I like this! An entirely different thought flow... quite possible that the Vibranium(??) saved him... Was it Vibranium for sure though? Can you get any reference confirming this?
    – Stark07
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 7:18
  • @ash_k29 did you follow the link to Vibranium in my answer?
    – Monty129
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 9:16
  • indeed. I added the relevant references.
    – Stark07
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 9:28

From the comments Loki made when converting previous victims, it seems he has to poke very close to the heart with his staff. Tony Stark just had his arc reactor in the way.

In all previous "conversions" Loki touched his victims on the chest, very close to the heart, so it seems that this was necessary, and it was not enough to touch the victim's skin on their hand, for example.

From the metallic clack, Loki could assume Tony has something there (e.g. a cuirass), so if it weren't necessary to "touch the heart" he could have instantly touched Tony elsewhere (on his arm, on his face, etc.), instead of trying once or twice again and then giving up.


When he takes over Hawkeye at the beginning of the film, Loki says Barton "has heart". When it doesn't work on Tony Stark the director is poking fun that Stark is 'heartless' in the emotional sense that he is extremely vain or self interested. Although the movie shows the staff always touching close to the physical heart of the victim, the only time Loki explains its workings is in regard to Hawkeye, speaking of a metaphorical 'heart' vs a physical one. We can confirm this through the reasoning that the arc reactor is in the center of Stark's chest where the physical heart lies to the left, Loki would have the sense to tap the second time on the left of Stark's chest if near physical contact with the heart is required.

  • 4
    Also the dialogue is very comical and playful, with Loki's "this usually works" and Stark's "2 out of 3" comment", the scene is clearly poking fun, and meant as comic relief.
    – Gorden
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 20:44
  • Now that its clear from the director that the arc reactor prevented the possession of stark, does he offer any explanation why Loki wouldn't possess other avengers as he did Hawkeye?
    – Gorden
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 19:21

I believe it was because of the energy field produced by the arc reactor in Tony's chest. The metal had nothing to do with it. It just interfered with the manipulation of energy that occurs when Loki uses the staff to augment his mind control.


I have something to add, as I went back to watch all the other movies and something came to me.

If you look closely at the book Tony is reading in Iron Man 2, you will see the Tesseract and I thought the new element his father was talking about might have been the Tesseract. I think that he was able to create his own Tesseract for his heart and suit. That is why the staff didn't work on him.

  • 1
    That is actually a pretty interesting theory. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 12:32

When he takes over Hawkeye at the beginning of the film, Loki says Barton "has heart". Since Stark technically doesn't have a heart, at least not in the way ancient Asgardian magic would understand, Loki's spell doesn't work

  • 5
    Stark does have a heart. The Arc Reactor does not replace his heart, it simply keeps the shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him.
    – Zoneman
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 17:55
  • 5
    @Zoneman: In addition, he has heart in the other sense of the word, too - he cares about others deeply, though he pretends not to.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 3:38
  • 2
    And all these time he couldn't get rid that damn shrapnel?
    – user4951
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 11:15
  • @Jim Thio - Does get rid at the end of Iron Man 3. How he goes forward with his new deal should raise comments after Age of Ultron debues.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:35

I'm fairly sure it would have to do with the Arc Reactor. This is the design after Iron Man 2, so it is powered by (what looks like and is alluded to as, in Iron Man 2) a fragment of Tesseract-like material. The Tesseract is heralded as a magical and all powerful device. It would only stand to reason that it would effect other magical items, such as Loki's staff.

  • The arc reactor is powered by a completely new element. I don't believe it is Tesseract-like, unless Tony Stark Sr based that element off of the Tesseract
    – The Fallen
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 16:44
  • The new element was supposed to be the re-discovered fictional element "Vibranium", I believe. I'll see if I can find a source on where I read that. Howard Stark had worked with Vibranium for Captain America's shield, but they had used up all that they had in the shield itself.
    – Zoneman
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 17:50
  • "The new element Tony creates is the metal the Cosmic Cube is composed of, which is studied by Howard Stark after finding it in Captain America: The First Avenger." From the Iron Man 2 Entry marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Iron_Man_2. If the element were Vibranium then Cap's Shield would glow like the Tesseract and the element in the Arc does. Also, Vibranium would be available from Wakanda, rather than having to synthesise it. It would also explain why Thor's magic boosted Tony's power while Vanko's electrical plasma drained it.
    – ThomasG
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:04
  • My source was here: link and it claims the novelization of the movie says the element was vibranium. I don't have the novel so I can't confirm this, but the Wikipedia no longer has that information it seems. Cap's shield wouldn't necessarily glow (especially since in canon I think it's an alloy), but your other points are valid and very interesting!
    – Zoneman
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:57

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