Writer and director Joss Whedon teases that in the sequel to his (and Marvel's) most successful project ever, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, there will be much angst and friction between the roster of heroes as a result of "awful" things happening to them. That doesn't mean their first meeting and team-up wasn't without its hiccups either.
Before Earth's Mightiest unified in New York to thwart an army of alien invaders, their leader Loki had several members of the hopeful team at odds with one another - most notably Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). By the end, despite Stark's ego, he gladly encouraged and accepted orders from Rogers aka Captain America, a proven war hero.
According to Marvel Studios Co-President and Producer Louis D'Esposito, who also directed the Marvel One-Shots Item 47 and Agent Carter, the pair may have a strong working relationship in the sequel as well... or at least for part of the film. D'Esposito tells IGN while promoting the Iron Man 3 home video release:
"Well, [Tony Stark is] leading the team with Captain America and... I don't know where he's at 100%. We're still developing the screenplay and Joss Whedon is writing furiously to get that finished, but obviously I've seen a couple of drafts. It's hard for me to say at this point what he is doing and what his emotional mindset is, but you can see where it was at the end of Iron Man 3; He's in love with Pepper, he's made a grand gesture to blow up the suits at that point, but at at the end he couldn't help himself. I think he will go back to tinkering - that's what he does."
Stark's experience in battle, from all three Iron Man stories, The Avengers and whatever events occurred in between off-screen - in addition to his leadership and confidence from his upbringing and role in Stark Industries - make him a vocal and proven leader as well. It's no wonder that in the comics he's always depicted in a position of authority, even becoming the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Whether Stark's shared leadership of The Avengers stems from an improved relationship with Captain America, or sheer need based on the origins or motivations of the new robotic villain Ultron (James Spader), we don't quite yet know, but we don't expect the team to be affable with one another from Whedon's words about "twisting the knife" and introducing new characters (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) who may not necessarily agree with The Avengers' methods.
D'Esposito's words could also simply refer to the possibility of there being more than one team, based on what may be happening with some of the characters and the SHIELD organization in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie that's described as Avengers 1.5. Perhaps Stark and Rogers each have to lead a team of their own as part of the story (see: Secret Avengers).
As for Robert Downey Jr., while Whedon and other Marvel execs have teased more screen time and story for Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye character and Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow, RDJ remains their most marketable, fan-favorite onscreen asset. The poster boy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe extended his contract to appear in both The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the untitled Avengers 3, but what that means for the future of the Stark character beyond that, we'll have to wait and see.
Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!
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