A decade ago Iron Man opened in theaters, kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe and changing the world of superhero movies forever. But the world of 2018 is also a very different place than 2008 and, according one of the writers of Marvel's latest blockbuster Black Panther, Iron Man himself may not have been as well-received today.
Joe Robert Cole, who co-wrote Black Panther alongside director Ryan Coogler, spoke at a panel at SXSW on Saturday in discussion of how changes in the United States' political system as well as social movements such as #MeToo have changed the way superheroes reflect or shape culture. Speaking specifically about Iron Man, Cole had quite a bit to say.
"Think about where we are now, with this very vapid, unintelligent president and our world is crackling on the edges because of that," Cole said. "Think back to Tony Stark, him being douchey and being okay. If that character, Stark, was created in a movie today, I wonder if the response would be like, 'Oh, it's cool that he's douchey and disrespectful to women ... that's fine.' I think we're at a different place. I think it's a better place."
While Cole does have a point, he's also sort of missing the larger picture. Part of Tony Stark's charm is his shallow, womanizing demeanor but it's also that perception of the billionaire genius that is integral to the character's trajectory of development. While Tony isn't a saint when audiences meet him in Iron Man, the character's story arc -- from that first movie and even as we go into Avengers: Infinity War -- is one of change. In Iron Man, Tony is an entitled playboy who might be a genius but is also a jerk. When he is captured by a terrorist group, the Ten Rings, his life and personality begin to change. From there he starts the transition to knowing more about what his company actually does, the impact things have on the world and starts to change how he interacts with those around him -- including his assistant Pepper Potts. By the time we see Tony in Captain America: Civil War, he's a man strikingly different from the playboy of Iron Man, haunted now by the consequences of his own actions.
One could also argue that even in today's social and political climate, the first Iron Man film might still have been well-received and successful simply because of the popularity of the character in comic books. Iron Man is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and not just in Marvel Comics. Even with Tony's flaws, audiences would very likely still turn out for his movie, though the story shown on the screen might itself be different in 2018 than it was 2008 simply because movies, like all entertainment, are products of their time. That's a concept that Nicole Perlman, co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Captain Marvel touched on, mentioning that the global market at the time of a film's release dictates where the bad guys come from.
"[At] one of the franchises that I've helped on -- which Joe, you will know -- there's a whole thing about which countries you can't have be the bad guys because they buy a lot of movie tickets," Perlman said.
As for Black Panther, however, it's time is most certainly now. The film has been smashing box office records. It just crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office and is well on its way to beating Marvel's The Avengers as the highest-grossing Marvel movie ever at the domestic box office.
Black Panther is now in theaters. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Avengers: Infinity War on April 27th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.
[H/T: IndieWire ]
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