Disney Changed Tony Stark's Story In Iron Man 3
A problem with Iron Man 2's "Demon in a Bottle" subplot is that it was a product of another MCU. Prior to Marvel being acquired by Disney, their movies were being primarily distributed by Paramount - but Marvel Studios was allowed to do pretty much whatever it wanted because it was an independent production studio. While they continue to operate independently within the confines of the Disney brand, which is what led to the Mouse House even allowing them to go with Avengers: Infinity War's ending, things have changed behind the scenes over the years.
One of the major things that changed right off the bat was Tony Stark's alcoholism story arc - and that was clearly evident by what happened in Shane Black's Iron Man 3. Shortly before Iron Man 3 released, Black and screenwriter Drew Pearce were asked what, if anything, they cut from the movie because the studio told them it wasn't okay for children. Unsurprisingly, their first answer was the drinking. Black said (via CBM), "I think we were just told by the studio that we should probably paint Tony Stark as being kind of an industrialist and a crazy guy, or even a bad guy at some points, but the 'Demon in a Bottle' stuff of him being an alcoholic wouldn't really fly. I don't blame that."
Regardless of the story changing, it didn't really matter at the time. Iron Man 3 continued Tony's story from Joss Whedon's The Avengers (not Iron Man 2), and it focused on his reaction to not only learning about aliens but fighting them as well. He had just flown into space and guided a nuclear missile to an alien mothership; that's a far cry from fighting Whiplash one movie before. So, Iron Man 3 focused on the anxiety he developed as well as his possible combat stress reaction, though not necessarily PTSD. Avengers was the impetus for Tony's new story arc, but it was solidified in Iron Man 3.
How Iron Man's New Story Impacted The MCU
As Tony mentions in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos has been on his mind for six years. Even though that doesn't match up with the official MCU timeline, it doesn't bring home his new story arc. Tony Stark was still the Tony Stark people knew from the comics - and the "Demon in the Bottle" storyline - in Iron Man 2, but his identity fused with Iron Man in Iron Man 3; that's why he says he'll always be Iron Man, even without the arc reactor. From that point onward, Tony was always Iron Man and always thinking like Iron Man.
So the idea of him succumbing to alcoholism again would mean he was going back to being Tony Stark - the billionaire playboy - not the leader of the universe's most powerful superhero team. In effect, because Tony Stark's alcohol plot was nixed, Iron Man grew up to become one of the real leaders of the Avengers and even took responsibility for all the collateral damage that occurred during the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which in turn led to his stance on the Sokovia Accords in Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: Civil War. Viewers can see that plot playing out in the beginning when he carefully stops the grieving mother from taking something out of her purse, which he chalks up to being an "occupational hazard."
Tony Stark's alcoholism and "Demon in a Bottle" plot could've easily been exploited in Captain America: Civil War, thus allowing him to have more of a redemption arc in Avengers: Infinity War. The fact that the filmmakers didn't take that route isn't a bad thing at all; what they did do worked out perfectly fine for the direction they wanted to take Iron Man in. But that doesn't mean that a part of Tony Stark's pre-Disney story wasn't left by the wayside. Instead of continuing the "Demon in a Bottle" story, Disney's Marvel traded alcoholism for a superhero that was suffering from trauma. Either one works; it's just that Tony Stark's story in Avengers: Endgame will bring his story full circle with regards to Iron Man 3, not Iron Man 1.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019