It’s easy to forget that we are still in the adolescence of comic book movies. Donner’s Superman and Burton’s Batman essentially began the thing, and Singer’s X-Men updated it and showed that a “team” movie could work. Now we’re splendidly fat with superhero movies — some good, some not, but all carefully constructed and lavishly produced because beyond the fantastical and compelling stories that come with these movies, they are also cash cows.
The Avengers is the best example of the precision and forethought involved with comic book movies now. A quintet of prequels building into a spectacle of realized ambition and largess, that while not deep enough for the full dedication of my heart, certainly thrilled me and had me salivating for the next chapter… always the next chapter. For Marvel, that next chapter will be Iron Man 3, which is presently filming with Shane Black behind the camera and Robert Downey Jr., of course, playing Iron Man for, technically, the 5th time.
It is, beyond important for Marvel, with this next batch of sequels, to continue ramping up the action, the heroics, the stakes, and the scope in the wake of The Avengers so that they can continue to ramp up box office numbers. Now, I don’t expect Iron Man 3 to come close to the final tally of The Avengers, but with Marvel increasing the budget on the film, clearly, they expect big things, and that’s why we’ve got, yet again, an influx of villains. See, that was the problem with Iron Man 2, too fat, too many villains with Hammer and Whiplash. The film lacked focus and thusly, it lacked the impact and quality of it’s predecessor.
IM3, which is, apparently very loosely, following Warren Ellis’ Extremis storyline, will feature not one or two villains, but four. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), Firepower, and if rumors are to be believed, Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and The Iron Patriot. Now, setting aside my mountainous gripe with the multitude of villains, the inclusion of The Iron Patriot is what I really want to talk about.
In Marvel Comics, The Iron Patriot is Norman Osborn, who quells a Skrull invasion and becomes the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and promptly replaces it with H.A.M.M.E.R. and places himself as the head of the Dark Avengers while Tony Stark becomes a wanted man for the information that is contained in his brain. All of this sounds, honestly, like a fantastic premise for a movie, but the problem is that it will likely never happen because those all of these characters exist in the Marvel Universe, their theatrical rights are owned by different companies — something that, thanks to circumstance, DC and Warner Brothers will never have to worry about if they ever grow balls big enough to join their franchises.
Wanna see The Avengers take on the Skrulls? Read a comic, their more closely affiliated with the Fantastic Four and Fox has those rights. Ever wonder why we didn’t see a Wolverine, Beast, or Spider-Man cameo in The Avengers, since all have been a part of the group, and such a brief inclusion might have helped bolster their respective franchises? Sony owns Spidey and Fox has control of everything X-Men and hell would likely freeze over before we saw these corporate behemoths work together to the benefit of their respective properties and we meager fans. This is why we’ll never see Civil War on a big screen, even though many of us would sell our birth parents for the chance. This is also why the man in the Iron Patriot suit in IM3 will be Eric Savin, who was Coldblood in the comics. Norman Osborn can’t be in Iron Man, he “belongs” to Sony and the Spider-Man franchise.
Now to some, this is no big deal, but Osborn, Dark Reign, and The Iron Patriot are an indelible part of where Marvel Comics has been over the last few years and the opportunities presented by those stories are, frankly, more exciting than anything I can imagine Black and Marvel Studios conjuring up for the third Iron Man film.
Now, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it won’t be evildoer overkill, and maybe it’ll be it’s own special bit of splendor, but no matter how well they do it, it will forever be separate — another division from the source material, and another example of why, despite the perceived expanse of the cinematic Marvel U in a post-Avengers world, comics will, for the foreseeable future, hold the creative edge over comic book movies. The page holds no limitation, and the Marvel Universe is un-splintered there.