It is commonly agreed that Robert Downey Jr.’s appearance as the Marvel Comics hero Iron Man in 2007 kick started the current trend of superhero summer films.
Audiences loved the brash, Ayn Randian hero and box office receipts for the next two installments in the series grew exponentially as that one film branched off into a cinematic universe that is currently expected to continue through 2028.
But rumors abound that Marvel is taking another huge bet by making Downey’s Iron Man the villain of Captain America 3: Subtitle TK, which is currently scheduled for a 2016 release.
The film may also be one of Chris Evans’s last appearances as the titular American hero. With two movies left on his six picture contract, Evans has yet to say what that means for his future in the Marvel universe. Collider.com speculated last spring that he might: “set up a contract like Robert Downey Jr. so he’s just doing Avengers movies.”
Adding fuel to the fire are further whispers that the third Captain America film will draw from Marvel’s 2006 Civil War storyline. In the books, a national disaster leads to a superhero registration law the support for which divides Marvel characters and pits longtime allies against each other. Captain America dies at the end.
MoviePilot.com editor-in-chief, Alisha Grauso, speculated last May that Winter Soldier’s Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes) was being groomed by the studio to assume the Captain’s red, white, and blue shield because of his longer contractual commitment to the Marvel film universe. Stan is only on his second of nine contracted movies.
Like the soap operas of yore, Marvel has replaced major and minor characters in their films as necessary. In the last decade, there have been three Incredible Hulks, two Spider-Mans, and most notably two James "Rhodey" Rhodes in the Iron Man franchise.
The possible Civil War adaptation has excited comic fans considering it brings together several of Marvel’s distinct properties. While Nick Fury, the character popularized across Marvel films by Samuel L. Jackson, does not feature largely in the story, Spider-Man gets involved, revealing his secret identity at Iron Man’s behest, as does Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. Perhaps most importantly, the X-Men choose to remain neutral, giving Marvel an out since that comic property is owned by 20th Century Fox.
However, usage rights issues are not limited to the X-Men. Fox also owns the rights to The Fantastic Four and a reboot of that series is already scheduled for release in 2015. Plus, Spider-Man is owned by Columbia Pictures. Spider-Man producer Avi Arad has expressed interest in having Peter Parker appear alongside Thor and the Hulk (but only if Spidey gets top billing). Meanwhile, X-Men producer Lauren Shuler-Donner (former boss to Marvel Studio’s Kevin Fiege) told CraveOnline.com she would “love” a crossover.
Although Downey Jr. is contracted to return as Iron Man through Avengers 3 (currently scheduled for a 2018 release) it is considered unlikely that Marvel would commit to an Iron Man 4. Also, making Tony Stark the villain in Captain America 3 may begin the process of easing Downey Jr. out of the Marvel Comic Universe by turning public opinion against the former arms dealer.
It is doubly fitting that Howard Hughes, whom Stan Lee has credited with being the model for Iron Man’s Tony Stark, was born in Humble, Texas.
First, because former attorney general of the United States, Alberto “Wiretap and Torture” Gonzalez, was raised there; and second, because Hughes had a reputation for being anything but.
It is rumored that public knowledge of the eccentric, billionaire, defense contractor’s $205K bribe to Richard Nixon’s brother Donald did more to sway the 1960 presidential election than Tricky Dick’s first-ever televised flop-sweat in his debate against Jack Kennedy.
And it was Nixon’s paranoid belief that the Democratic National Party knew about even more dirty dealings (including a $100,000 cash bribe that Nixon used to refurbish his house in Key Biscayne) between the former Communist hunter and the elusive billionaire that allegedly prompted the Watergate break-in of 1972.
One of the biggest myths in modern American history is that the Greatest Generation sacrificed everything to kick Hitler in the panzers. The reality is that the average American’s life actually improved during World War II.
Especially for working class families.
And Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, was the product of one such family (even if only in the fictional universe of Timely Comics).
Tony Stark belonged to a family of a completely different order, one that, in real life, profited greatly from the bloodshed overseas. The first Iron Man film explored the issue in the character of Obadiah Stane, who sold rockets to the Ten Rings militia fighting the United States in Afghanistan.
The second Captain America film, Winter Soldier, delved into what was known as Operation Paperclip in which former Nazi war criminals were absolved of their crimes and given jobs in the US Department of Defense to develop weapons, especially rockets and nuclear missiles, for America.
The Russo Brothers return to direct Captain America 3, and an American arms manufacturer as the film’s villain, raises the possibility of addressing the troubling aspects of American foreign and domestic policy since the end of World War II. As Russell Brandom recently wrote about the NSA subplot in Winter Soldier: “The fight against fascism is now a fight within the U.S. government, or even against it.”
While families like the Rogers’s profited from the war, they put themselves at risk of becoming the tyrants Captain America has sworn to fight.