Colonel James Rhodes is on the TV again, giving a press conference again, this time on an “Incident at Stark Industries”. In front of a group of journalists, Rhodes reads drably from a prepared statement.
You’ve all received the official statement of what occurred at Stark Industries last night. There have been unconfirmed reports that a robotic prototype malfunctioned and caused damage to the arc reactor. Fortunately, a member of Tony Stark’s personal security staff…
So, another cover-up in the making. The camera pans out to show us that huge office room in Stark Industries, where Tony Stark sits, alive and (mostly) well, Pepper pestering him with some make-up. The whole scene is remarkably relaxed considering what just happened: Tony, well-dressed, at ease, reads a newspaper whose headline proclaims “WHO IS THE IRON MAN?” with a picture of the Mark III in frame, while Pepper, still with the long hair and a plain black dress, keeps working on him. Tony, off-handedly, pontificates on the nature of the story being told:
‘Iron Man’… That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean, it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold-titanium alloy, but it’s kind of evocative, the imagery, anyway.
We have a title! Enter Agent Coulson, a survivor of last night’s rampage, with some cards for Stark.
Here’s your alibi.
You were on your yacht.
We have port papers that put you in Avalon all night, and sworn statements from 50 of your guests.
Stark is surprised to be getting this statement, seemingly, and only takes it with some hesitancy, looking over them quickly while Pepper continues her work.
See, I was thinking maybe we should say it was just Pepper and me alone on the island.
Oh Tony, never change. Pepper’s response is to tear a strip off Tony’s eyebrow a bit too quickly. All well that ends well so far.
Just read it, word for word.
There’s nothing about Stane here.
That’s being handled. He’s on vacation. Small aircraft have such a poor safety record.
It’s interesting how coldly Coulson says that last line, or how simply his agency is setting it up so that his time as the Ironmonger will be whitewashed. Of course, Stane did kill some of his fellow agents. Coincidently, this is the last mention of Stane.
But what about the whole cover story that it’s a bodyguard? He’s my body… I mean, is that… That’s kind of flimsy, don’t you think?
This isn’t my first rodeo, Mr Stark. Just stick to the official statement, and soon, this will all be behind you.
So, we’re on a set-up that Stark’s foray as “Iron Man” was a one time thing, an event which will not be repeated. Yeah, we’ll see about that. Pepper stops Coulson before he leaves for one final word.
Agent Coulson? I just wanted to say thank you very much for all of your help.
That’s what we do. You’ll be hearing from us.
From the Strategic Homeland…
Just call us S.H.l.E.L.D.
I geddit! Of course, there is a sort of oxymoron in this little moment, insofar that it is a total fanboy namedrop, but all of the fanboys will have figured out who Coulson is an agent for over an hour ago.
Let’s get this show on the road.
You know, it’s actually not that bad. Even I don’t think I’m Iron Man.
You’re not Iron Man.
All right, suit yourself.
The playful bickering here is par for the course, part of the happy feelings that the finale is supposed to engender. Potts returns to her assistant role with ease, helping Stark into a jacket, even while the two, child-like, argue about Stark’s superhero alter-ego.
You know, if I were Iron Man, I’d have this girlfriend who knew my true identity. She’d be a wreck, ’cause she’d always be worrying that I was going to die, yet so proud of the man I’d become. She’d be wildly conflicted, which would only make her more crazy about me.
This is a nice moment of both introspection on the genre Iron Man has just joined – which is full of romantic sub-plots like those described – and as a teasing flirtation on Stark’s behalf. Stark has become a different man, but he can’t help poking fun at the entire concept, and in needling Pepper a little bit. But then he gets more serious:
Tell me you never think about that night.
That soft love theme starts up again, and Pepper takes over, with a slow build-up and seemingly sentimental tone, before effortlessly crushing Stark’s come on brilliantly:
Are you talking about the night that we danced and went up on the roof, and then you went downstairs to get me a drink, and…you left me there, by myself? Is that the night you’re talking about?
Cue a very awkward looking Tony. Also, that night was, like, two days ago, but they talk like it was further away. Anyway, this is Iron Man’s last inversion of the classic story. There will be no kiss, to declarations of love, no neat and tidy ending for Tony and Pepper here. Which is both to be commended and fitting. These two have a longer arc than that, which is one of the only things that Iron Man 2 has going for it. For the moment, all of that will have to wait. For now, their last interaction in Iron Man will be a mirror of their final words to each other in the first scene they shared, though Stark is a bit more awkward about things now, talking over Pepper:
Will that be all, Mr Stark?
Yes, that will be all, Miss Potts.
Out in the conference room, Rhodes is finishing up.
And now, Mr Stark has prepared a statement. He will not be taking any questions.
No repeat of last time being contemplated anyway. Stark, looking resplendent in the nice suit and the gold tie, takes the podium amid mild chatter and flashing cameras.
Thank you. Been a while since I was in front of you. I figure I’ll stick to the cards this time.
Some polite laughter is the reward for the joke. All well and good so far.
There’s been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop…
But before Tony can continue, a hand is raised in front of him. Christine Everhart, conspicuous in lighter colours than the rest of the press corps, is butting in, making herself heard, one last time.
I’m sorry, Mr Stark, but do you honestly expect us to believe that that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared, despite the fact that you…
She’s back to the abrasive style she was using in her first moments with Stark way back when. Tony’s not in the mood, cutting across her:
I know that it’s confusing. It’s is one thing to question the official story, and another thing entirely to make wild accusations, or insinuate that I’m a superhero.
I never said you were a superhero.
You didn’t? Well, good, because that would be outlandish and fantastic.
Stark goes full condescending with his answer, but then throws in his own inferrals, talking of “superheroes” which he, in a weak effort, proclaims would be an “outlandish and fantastic” thing to throw at him.
Stark’s never been comfortable with being anything other than who he is. Even for all of his faults early on, and later, he’s remarkably honest. Something isn’t sitting right with him here, something is bubbling up. He says the word “fantastic” with an obvious pang of regret. Stark doesn’t like the “official” story, and that becomes more and more clear as his words spiral out of control:
I’m just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I’ve made, largely public…
Rhodes, getting a bit exasperated with the way things are proceeding, sighs and leans in:
Just stick to the cards, alright?
It’s a weird symmetry for him here. He started the film on a podium waiting on Stark. Now the situation is the same, only Stark is here and messing up, uncharacteristically.
Stark draws himself up and gets back to the cards.
The truth is…
And then he stops. He looks away from the cards, out over the crowd. The wheels turn in his head. One final decision to make, the most fateful yet in a way. One last moment of hesitation, a gulp, and then the classic Tony Stark move. No hiding, no obfuscating, nor regrets: just jump in to the mix and deal with the consequences. Tony isn’t Batman or The Flash or any hero with a secret identity. He can’t live like that, it would destroy him. Nope, he just has to be Tony Stark. And Tony Stark has no alter ego. And Tony Stark has just one more thing to say:
… I am Iron Man.
The journalists all spring to their feet, shouting at once, save Everhart, who stays sitting, shocked beyond words or movement. Cut back to Tony, our last glimpse of him, as the opening chords of Black Sabbath’s “I Am Iron Man” cut in. A very small smile starts to form on his face.
It’s a bold move for a superhero property to pull this. It wasn’t even a popular move with some, I know people who though the ending strange and confusing. But that’s largely because it was so out of the ordinary, up to that point. Iron Man was a superhero forgoing the normal narrative of having to hide that fact, and that idea was carried over into the film. And it makes for a really nice stinger right at the end, promising whole new adventures with a very different dynamic. And it was something that the MCU would follow too, with a large amount of its heroes not really following the traditional narrative either. Our last look at Stark is true to his character inherently, and gives us one more example of his charming, devil-may-care attitude, which is what has made him so enthralling from the beginning.
The MCU has some great credit sequences, and that started here, with a schematically themed hop around various shades of Iron Man suit, coming apart and being put back together, and all with a very suitable backing track. The Ten Rings emblem becomes a minigun, the Mark I dissolves into the Mark III, and our last glimpse, somewhat pointedly, is the S.H.I.E.L.D logo.
Anyway, that’s Iron Man. I hope that…
Ah yes, the post-credits scene, the tradition started by Iron Man that the rest of the MCU has had to go along with as well. I really dislike this practise – if you film it, put it in the damn movie – and I know I am not alone: Christopher Nolan and Alan Taylor spring to mind immediately. But, here it is anyway.
Tony Stark walks into his Malibu mansion, some time at night. He’s immediately hesitant, maybe because the lights haven’t come on instantly.
(Distorted, slow) Welcome home sir…
Something is certainly not right here.
Cut to a fine framing of the living area, with that gigantic window taking in the ocean and a smidge of the city to the left. A bald, dark-skinned man stands in front of the window, back turned.
‘I am Iron Man’. You think you’re the only superhero in the world?
Ugh. In this day and age, in the universe being presented and the certain grain of realism inherent, I hate hearing the word “superhero” like this.
Mr Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.
Stark looks confused. You would be too I suppose. This is all just fanboy-bait of the most obvious kind, the beginning of what would become the MCU.
Who the hell are you?
The stranger comes out of the shadows. The eye-patch makes it clear for the people this scene is aimed at, the hardcore who stayed in their seats.
Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.
I’ll admit, I never thought an Avengers movie would get made. I figured it was just pie in the sky thinking from Marvel Studios, and I thought it again when Iron Man 2 sort of crapped on the concept to an extent. But, they proved me wrong. Iron Man still didn’t need this scene placed where it was though!
For The Film
It’s the end, and this section is all about wrapping things up in a concise manner. Stane’s death is handled, S.H.I.E.L.D gets a name-drop. Rhodes gets one last cameo, Tony and Pepper get one last moment together. But it is still primarily the Tony Stark show, and his last moments on that podium show a man who has both changed fundamentally, but still has many of the traits he carried into the story. Anyway, loose ends are tied up, and that’s all folks.
Introducing Stark one more time, in very different circumstances, and still getting aggrieved at his friend’s public behaviour.
Having passed the final test and established himself as a true hero, Stark makes a somewhat clumsy effort to get the full happy ending with Pepper, but is rebuffed, gently. Oh well. Then, he stays true to himself on the podium, refusing to get drawn in to the cloak and dagger story of S.H.I.E.L.D, instead embracing this new aspect of himself.
Happy for it all to be over, only it isn’t. She sarcastically brings Stark back to reality when he makes another half-pass, but there is still clearly something there, that will have to be addressed at some point in the future.
In his element advising Stark on what to say and do, though his inclusion is mostly just to give that namedrop to Pepper.
He does get a mention here, the story of his demise to be plastered over with tales of an aircraft accident. For all of his desire to be the man in charge at Stark Industries, his end will be a concocted story and a bare remembrance.
Hey, she’s back, and as pushy as ever. But when Iron Man’s true identity is confirmed, for once, Everhart has nothing to say and just a jaw to drop.
And we are done. Well, that was something, eh? There is one more post to come, on Iron Man’s deleted material. Until then.
To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.