This is an idea I’ve had percolating for a long while and become really passionate about.
Let’s consider the value of making Iron Man 3 follow Age of Ultron:
- Firstly, thinking about the Avengers story. Working chronologically, phase one gives us all of the individual Avengers solo, bringing them together in the first Avengers movie. At this point, they’re a super-team who have handled Earth’s first galactic threat. That’s pretty huge. Why do they not then handle all of Earth’s domestic problems? Well, because fairly quickly, in Captain America 2, it turns out that SHIELD, who are tied to the US military and brought the Avengers together, were really Hydra, the resurgent Nazis. Age of Ultron continues and concludes this thread, implying that the Avengers have been focused on tracking and defeating Hydra in the intervening time. That’s a good, large-scale (offscreen) focus for the Avengers.
- Age of Ultron also concludes with Rhodey (who was still aligned with SHIELD/Nick Fury/US military) joining the Avengers.
- What follows Age of Ultron? Most importantly, tension between the new Avengers and Tony Stark, where he leaves the Avengers since he created Ultron. Then a few more solo origin stories, but primarily, Captain America 3: Civil War. A few of the new solo players get roped in here and/or expanded on later, but in terms of the Avengers and Iron Man, Civil War comes next, followed by Infinity War/Endgame.
- But also importantly, in Civil War, Rhodey has actually switched back from the Captain America Avengers to the side of the US military/regulation, apprehending the Avengers after the Lagos incident (where the Avengers caused collateral damage, triggering the Sokovia accords).
- So ulitmately, in Civil War, which establishes that the (new, Captain America-run) Avengers HAVE been focusing on more serious international threats, both Tony and Rhodey end up on the side of “superheroes need to be regulated”.
- So, now let’s consider Tony Stark’s story throughout these films. Iron Man 1 & 2 give us his formative solo missions. The first Avengers movie, via the attack on New York, gives him both his first Avengers gig and his first realisation that the alien threat is huge and real. Then Nazis pop up, so sure, that’s an easy bad guy to decide to fight. But in Age of Ultron, we see that (quite rightly) he’s still obsessed with the alien threat. He wants “a suit of armour around the world”, so he invests in his AI, building his network of drones.
- Then discovering the Mind Stone’s AI mind, he egotistically tries to merge it with his Jarvis AI to create Ultron, his intended super-AI to defend the world, which becomes genocidal, and takes over his AI drone network, becoming a global threat of his own creation. He gets lucky with the birth of Vision, a combination of Wakandan vibranium, Jarvis’ AI, the Mind Stone, and Ultron’s own design, (and Thor’s, uh, lightning?,) but ultimately Ultron remains a huge fuck-up by Tony.
- Now following this by the Iron Man 3 story, Tony’s huge guilt over Ultron (and rejection by the Avengers after Age of Ultron) has forced him to go solo again. He still fears the alien threat, and now AI/drones also, so instead he’s invested in only himself, creating dozens of custom Iron Man suits. He’s anxious, and without friends, and over-planning for every possible threat, because he knows what’s out there, and he knows the Avengers aren’t focused on it. (He is, of course, proven right by Infinity War, where the alien threat wins, and as Steve Rogers so sanctimoniously told him, “we’ll lose together too”, which they actually do apart.)
- So Iron Man 3 gives us the opportunity to show not just a Tony Stark scared by the events of the original Avengers, but also (from his perspective) scarred by the rejection of his friends in Age of Ultron. Across Iron Man 3 he comes to accept that he is just one man, destroying his multiple suits, removing his arc reactor, and ultimately becoming Iron Man - just one guy.
- Doing it this way explains a few things:
- Why didn’t the Avengers get involved when the Mandarin was terrorising the USA? Because they’d cut ties with the US military after the reemergence of Hydra, going more independent/international under Captain America’s guidance after Age of Ultron.
- Why didn’t the Avengers get involved when Tony was in danger? Because they’d just kicked him out of the Avengers for the Ultron incident and weren’t taking his calls.
- Why did Rhodey join the Avengers in Age of Ultron but then hunt them in Infinity War? Because as soon as they started acting independently/internationally under Captain America he defaulted back to US military (since Hydra/Nazis were defeated), formented by a legitimate threat to the US president, in time to start sympathising with Tony/regulation again.
- In Iron Man 3, Tony has a positive relationship with a technically and morally competent child. When we see him next, in Civil War, he’s invested heavily in a similar child, Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man.
- In Age of Ultron, Tony is still with Pepper. But in Iron Man 3, she goes through some real trauma at Tony’s hands. In Civil War, they’ve broken up. In this order, she’s got a far better reason to have split from Tony.
- In Iron Man 3, Pepper successfully uses the Iron Man armour. They’re split for a time, but when they’re together again in Infinity War/Endgame, he’s built her the Rescue armour.
- In Age of Ultron, Tony invests in AI/drones, to disastrous effect. In Iron Man 3, Tony invests in multiple suits, which is overcompensation that he realises is unhealthy. What’s the next natural development? A single suit with multiple functions. In Civil War he hasn’t made a major change, but by Infinity War, he’s built the nano-suit - all suits in one, and only he’s in control. To Tony, this is (psychologically) very different to AI/drones or multiple suits.
So, what would it take to achieve this change? Well, a lot, but it’s not unachievable:
- You don’t need to make any changes to Age of Ultron. It does feature Tony’s multi-part armour, which appears first in Iron Man 3, but not in a major enough way to appear as a successor.
- You’d need a voice actor to replace Jarvis with Friday in Iron Man 3. Jarvis is quite generic here, so you could ultimately just re-record all of Jarvis’ lines with a good imitation of Friday’s voice.
- You’d also need a Tony voice actor in Iron Man 3 to replace every time he references ‘Jarvis’ with ‘Friday’. There’s quite a few of these, but thankfully both words have the same mouth movements, at least.
- You’d want to add a little to the references to ‘New York’ as Tony’s trauma to also include ‘Ultron’/‘Killer Robots’/‘AI’
- You’d have to cut the fact that Tony’s narrating to Banner, since Banner by this time has left in the quinjet to star in Thor: Ragnarok. But you could still have the narration as a frame.
- You’d probably want to use the opportunity to change Tony’s opening narration, to establish something like:
- “A famous man once said ‘We create our own demons’. Well, I tried to create a guardian for the world and sure enough, I created a demon. I called him Ultron. Ugh… I need to start again. Let’s track this from the beginning, back when I really was a villain.”
- [Killian/Maya opening, where Tony’s a dick to Killian, triggering his personal vendetta]
- “So anyway, where am I now? I joined the Avengers, fought some aliens, tried to defend the world, made a demon, and for that? Got kicked out. At least Rhodey’s still got the sense to play both sides, but Cap won’t even take my calls. So I turned back to the only people who’ll have me, and the only thing I was ever good at.”
- [Back in the garage, building the new Iron Man suit]
- The end narration you could tweak too, but it’d be more minor, since it already wraps up everything fairly well.
What do you think? Is there anything there that I’ve missed? Anything there that doesn’t work? Anything that would need fixing?