The Future of Iron Man: Alcoholic Tony Stark, War Machine, and Beyond!
by Alex Billington
May 4, 2008
Now that we've all (hopefully) seen Iron Man and experienced one of the greatest Marvel movies since at least Spider-Man 2, it's time to look forward at the future of Iron Man, War Machine, and more. We already mentioned last Friday that Iron Man 2 might be in the works for a 2010 release, but that's not all. There are so many different doors that have now been opened given Jon Favreau has successfully brought Iron Man to the big screen, including other Marvel universe collaborations, but we'll get into that more below. You've been warned - there are abundant spoilers contained within, so only read onwards if you've seen Iron Man and want to discuss the potential future of the character. If you're ready, let's get down to it!
First things first, Robert Downey Jr. will definitely return as Tony Stark. His response to a reporter's question about what makes him think he could do another one: "Are you kidding me? We're just getting started here!" Before we get into specific possibilities for the future, Downey Jr. gives a great introduction (via SciFi) to naturally what the next step for Tony Stark and Iron Man would be, given that at the end of the movie he revealed to the world that he is Iron Man.
"If you ask me, the next one is about what do you do with the rest of your life now that you're completely changed? And you are in touch, and you have created this thing that has the power to take life. Essentially, you have been made into a god. A human being, metaphorically, who's been made into a god is not going to turn out so well. And their conscience is going to come to bear."
Based on recent interviews as well as specific speculations made from hints in the movie, let's look at a number of different possibilities for the future of the franchise.
Demon in a Bottle
Fifteen years after the first Iron Man comic, Demon in a Bottle hit shelves. The comic book follows Tony Stark as he becomes an alcoholic, one of his greatest downfalls. Downey Jr. even mentions it as one of the possible future stories to touch upon, saying, "I think the drinking will be a way to confront his age, his doubts, to confront the fact that Pepper [Gwyneth Paltrow] maybe gets a boyfriend. Then he shows up in the Iron Man suit going, 'What's he got that I don't?'" He then mentions screenwriter Shane Black, of the Lethal Weapon series and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. "I tend to think like Shane Black in these situations. And no one thinks like Shane Black, stuff that really speaks to the truth of what happens between people."
While I love the much darker and emotional plot that could arise regarding a superhero with a drinking problem, I don't think it would ever happen, but who knows. Downey Jr. really brings up a great question - where do you go now that the entire world knows he is Iron Man? Unlike Spider-Man, or any other superhero, this is a different world - they now know who he is and it means the villains will become tougher because they'll start to find his weaknesses. In fact, it reminds me of Superman - everyone knows he is an unbeatable superhero who helps save the world, but this means villains who try to stand up against him must be fairly strong adversaries. Would Marvel ever approve a movie where one of their beloved superheroes becomes an alcoholic? I highly doubt it, but it is a very intersting prospective.
Did everyone catch that moment in the movie where James "Rhodey" Rhodes, played by Terrence Howard, glances at the Mark II suit of armor in Tony's lab and says "next time baby"? Could there have been a bigger hint at War Machine?! Of course that scene, and the future of War Machine in general, was brought up recently with both Howard and Favreau. For those unaware, War Machine is a good guy like Iron Man. Rhodey dons the suit of armor after Stark's purported death in the comics and fights bad guys just like him. There has been talk not only about War Machine appearing in the sequels, but actually getting his own spin-off movie, just like in the comics. ComingSoon chatted with both Howard and Jon Favreau recently and got them both to talk about the possible appearance of War Machine in sequels.
Howard responds first, saying: "The question is whether we will take the time to put on the Iron Man suit first and then have to fight with Iron Man to take it off me and then ultimately build a new suit for Rhodey or whether they go right into the second one of them building the suit. I would prefer to wait for the third one. I'd prefer to let it grow a little bit and then after the third one, they could go into its own franchise of War Machine later on. I don't want to introduce War Machine too early for my own monetary benefits."
However, Jon Favreau seems to have a bit of a differing opinion - he really wants War Machine to make an earlier appearance. "I think you gotta go with War Machine, you gotta give Terrence more to do. He really had to be patient in this one, and he could have been Tony Stark, know what I mean? If we wanted to go against the grain of what was in the books. He characterizes that, and once you break him out of the role that he was relegated to in this one, I think he could go toe-to-toe with Robert, and it could be a cool buddy set-up. Then you need some big bad guys, and I think the bad guys are going to be tech-based for the most part, seeing what's worked about this film."
I don't think I'm alone when I say I think it would be amazing to see a buddy flick involving both Iron Man and War Machine getting involved in fighting against some sort of global villain. Both Downey Jr. and Howard are great enough actors that neither would dominate each other and yet each could hold their own - the perfect combination. I really hope War Machine does get into the suit much earlier than Howard wants. This is a future I'm definitely looking forward to!
Mandarin & Villains
So far there hasn't really been too much mention of prospective villains, however, keen moviegoers may have noticed Mandarin in the movie. Faran Tahir, who plays the bald Middle Eastern villain that is the leader of the Ten Rings, may infact become Mandarin in the future. The Mandarin was one of the arch-enemies of Iron Man that appeared in the comics. One part mad scienctist, one part master martial artist, he finds the Ten Rings of Power that give him the ability to conquer the world. You can read up more on his background over at ComicVine. He sounds like an excellent villain that would be great to see in a sequel - a powerful villain who now has a vendetta against Stark and could easily give him a run for his money. Thankfully his apperance isn't too far away.
Favreau was interviewed recently at SuperHeroHype where he again mentioned Mandarin as one of the villains we might end up seeing in the sequel. "We have the Ten Rings which is a tip of the hat to the Mandarin, which is the greater villain that is going to emerge; the guy who is the head of the bad guys is not somebody who is representing religious zealotry, but is instead really a warlord looking to conquer an empire." I don't know too much more about Mandarin and not much else has been said, but so far he sounds like the perfect villain to include next. Or is there someone better?
By now I hope all the true fans have seen the final scene at the end of the credits where Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury tells Tony Stark he's not the only superhero out there and that he wants to talk to him about the "Avengers Initiative." Every time I saw that scene with a full theater, the crowd erupted in an enormous cheer. An Avengers movie has been rumored for quite some time but now it seems like it could be a reality. Even Jon Favreau has been hinting that it might be a possibility in the future. I remember hearing him say at WonderCon that if everyone goes and sees Iron Man, not only will there be an Avengers movie, but he might get to direct it. Plus, screenwriter Zak Penn was already officially announced as the writer on the film - although even he has said that the film is so far off that what he has written isn't really concrete yet.
There is so much to the Avengers, that I'm not sure where to begin. I'm very curious to know whether people really think now is the right time to finally debut an Avengers movie? I think this will definitely become a more important question after seeing The Incredible Hulk in June, but now that it seems like a real possibility, it's becoming the talk of the town. But what really gets me is that this scene might have just been filmed for the sake of adding something fun for the fans, not for actually hinting at a future movie. Look at X-Men 3, we all know Professor Xavier is still alive at the end of that, but we're never going to see an X-Men 4 with him - it was all just a play. Could this be the same here with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Where do you want to see Iron Man go next? Who would be the best villain to feature?