I’ve been a fan of Iron Man since I started reading comics as a wee lad. He was always my dad’s favourite super-hero, and for the same reason many people enjoy Batman so much. Iron Man is human. He wasn’t born with the X-gene; he didn’t get caught in a nuclear blast or get bitten by a radioactive spider. Everything he’s accomplished was done because of his brains and hard work. He’s a regular, boring human being, just like the rest of us.
Well, growing up rich and inheriting a multinational company from his dad probably helped, but still, he manages to go toe-to-toe with gods, aliens, mutants, and anything else you can think about, purely because of his aptitude for designing weapons.
So, as an Iron Man fan, I’m a little curious to see how his character is handled in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. My interest stems from the fact that, like many other characters, Tony Stark was written rather poorly in the comic story the movie will be based on. In the comic version of Civil War, Tony was, for all intents and purposes, a villain. He lied to, manipulated, and even imprisoned several of his former super pals during the course of the event. So much so that it permanently damaged the reputation of the character and gave more credence to those annoying fans of the Marvel’s most boring and increasingly dated golden boy, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Hell, by the end of it, even I was cheering for Cap’s side. Marvel kept touting the phrase “Whose side are you on?” like it was even a choice. The way it was written, no reader could possibly justify picking Tony.
But things have changed.
The explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be directly traced to the success of the first Iron Man movie and, more specifically, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark. RDJ’s portrayal of the character immediately became a fan favourite and there’s an argument to be made that without that movie, we never would have had an Avengers, and almost certainly no Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, or any number of upcoming movies based on rather obscure and lesser-known characters like Dr. Strange or Black Panther.
Herein lies the issue. Comic Tony during Civil War was a dick, and a bad guy; so much so that it made long-time readers dislike the character. Movie Tony is Marvel’s cash cow and one of the biggest draws for viewers. Obviously, a story changes a lot when translated to the big screen, but Tony is still on the pro-registration side and will be battling Cap and company’s rebel forces. How much can they possibly change while sticking to the basic plotline of the original story? Will Tony still force Spidey to expose his secret identity? Will there still be a gulag for un-registered heroes?
Another worrying aspect is Fox retaining the rights (probably not for much longer, considering the flop that was the recent movie) to the Fantastic Four; the only character that was a bigger jerk in the whole event was Reed Richards. Without him to highlight what heroic qualities Tony was still barely exhibiting, he’s going to come off as an even worse person. (At least there won’t be a Thor clone running around.)
At least Marvel has built up his character in the movies in a way that his stance on registration will come off as more natural and believable, as we saw in Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I can’t really see how they’re going to pull off keeping RDJ’s Tony as a fan favourite while keeping any semblance to the plot of the comics. Then again, if you ignore some of the questionable ethics of Tony’s decisions and look at the story from a more modern and realistic perspective, as the movies have been attempting to do, registration makes a lot of sense. There’s no way a group of costumed individuals could go around fighting aliens and mad robots in crowded cities without facing some form of accountability. The whole idea of a “secret identity” doesn’t really work as well in this age of ubiquitous cameras, outrage culture, and social media.
I’m sure they’ll all be pals again by the end of the movie; after all, they’re going to have to bury the hatchet eventually when the Mad Titan comes a knocking, but that takes away from any tension or conflict the story has. It’s known that RDJ has said he’s more or less done with the character; perhaps the old adage of “die a hero or live long enough to become a villain” is applicable here. Wouldn’t that be a fun twist!
Highly doubtful though, as there’s no way Infinity War won’t feature the big three battling it out side-by-side. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
And yeah, as much as it pains me to admit this, Cap was right.