There are some eyebrow-raising moments in the early Marvel Cinematic Universe films that Disney wouldn't allow today. Disney bought Marvel in 2009 and it's been an incredibly lucrative investment for the Mouse House; the 20 MCU films thus far have grossed over $17 billion worldwide. Marvel Studios' films are immensely popular globally and count fans among every age group.
However, Disney acquired Marvel after several Phase 1 films were released or already in development, which explains why those first MCU films contain certain elements that aren't necessarily family-friendly. Paramount Pictures actually released Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger while Universal Pictures released The Incredible Hulk. Beginning with 2012's The Avengers, the rest of the MCU's films fell under the auspices of Disney (after Disney paid Paramount $115 million plus a cut of Avengers' box office), which applied their standards and practices to Marvel's content going forward. But in those early films, there's a good deal of questionable content and, unsurprisingly, most of it centers around the MCU's original marquee character, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).
In Tony Stark, the MCU was built around a cocky, egotistical, billionaire playboy, and Stark's hedonistic lifestyle was actually part of his charm. Although he was certainly a genius, Tony was also deeply flawed; he was an irresponsible and reckless (but lovable) narcissist who suffered a life-changing trauma that prompted him to protect the world as Iron Man (while still indulging in many of his bad habits). The first two Iron Man films in particular chart Tony's gradual growth as a hero, but this was in the pre-Disney days and those film reflect of the sense of humor of director Jon Favreau (who became a star when he wrote and starred in the ribald 1996 indie hit Swingers). By Phase 3, Tony has largely cleaned up his act but here are the most provocative moments in Phase 1 of the MCU that wouldn't fly by Disney today.
- This Page: Sex Scenes, Tony Stark's Bachelor Plane, and Smoking
- Page 2: Hypersexualizing Black Widow, Alcoholism, and F-Bombs
Iron Man wasted no time in establishing Tony Stark's cred as a billionaire playboy by sleeping with Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb), a reporter for Vanity Fair who was trying to write an unflattering expose. The two engage in a moonlit sex scene in Tony's Malibu home before a naked Christine is woken up the next morning by the voice of JARVIS (Paul Bettany). She then explores Tony's pad while wrapped only in his bedsheets.
It's a provocative scene that's quite adult in tone and wouldn't fly with Disney today. Compared to today's MCU, these sexy moments are positively scandalous. Over the next decade, Tony's sexual appetites would be tempered as he dedicated himself to his one, true love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), placing Tony's days of sleeping with random women squarely in the past. Now, it's only during occasional jokes like when Tony embarrasses Peter Parker (Tom Holland) by hitting on Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) that the flashes of the shameless playboy Tony used to be are seen.
Tony Stark's Airplane With Stripper Pole
Today, Tony is more likely to zip around the world wearing Iron Man's armor but before he became a superhero, the billionaire playboy liked to fly in the lap of luxury - very adult luxury, with beautiful women on his lap. Before Tony was kidnapped in the Middle East, he invited James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard) to fly on his private plane. In typical Stark fashion, Tony's jet is high-tech, tricked out, and stocked with top-shelf booze. What's more, Tony's flight attendants were gorgeous supermodels and the plane transformed into a dance club for the girls while a stripper pole suddenly lowered for them to swing on.
Tony's hedonistic jet would never fly in the family-friendly Disney era. One can assume that after Tony made Pepper the CEO of Stark Industries, she either sold off Tony's plane or it became her plane and Pepper simply had the stripper pole removed and let go of his personal flight attendants. Either way, Tony's bachelor plane was permanently grounded.
The Incredible Hulk's post-credits scene saw General Ross (William Hurt) bellied up in a bar and drinking his sorrows away before Tony Stark arrived to talk to him about the Avengers Initiative. Not only was Ross copiously inebriated, but he was also simultaneously puffing on a giant cigar. Today, showing scenes of smoking are a no-no now that Disney calls the shots, even if it's a villainous supporting character like Ross.
When Ross, now Secretary of State, reappears in Captain America: Civil War to introduce the Avengers to the Sokovia Accords, he begins by launching into a story about suffering a heart attack while playing golf. He says recovering from a near-death experience gave him "perspective", but this monologue can also be seen as a rebuke of his previous lifestyle of cigar smoking and hard drinking.
- 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