Iron Man 3 was a divisive movie in the MCU, but the movie’s biggest mistake changed Tony Stark’s character forever – for the worse.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the third Iron Man film generally well-regarded by fans – but the film’s biggest mistake was a departure from the comics so drastic that it changed Tony Stark’s character in the MCU forever. Maybe the franchise hadn’t yet found the winning formula it would rely on for later installments, or maybe the film was changed drastically during production. But the end of the film changed what Stan Lee fundamentally wanted for the character.
In iron man 3, Tony Stark is challenged by the Mandarin, who destroys his house and nearly all of his armor in a single surprise attack. From there, Tony finds himself on the run without his money or influence, forcing him to be resourceful and invent new defenses, while his suit continually malfunctions (and while still suffering from the disorder). post-traumatic stress caused by the events of 2012 The Avengers). But the Mandarin is finally defeated (at least the fake one was – the real ‘Mandarin’ wouldn’t appear until 2021 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), and Tony destroys all of his armor at the end of the climactic final fight… hinting at a much more drastic change just one scene later.
Tony Stark surprisingly chooses to have surgery to remove the dangerous shrapnel near his heart that has lodged in his chest since the start of the MCU. The scene is even extended in the Chinese version of the film, in which Chinese megastars Fan Bingbing and Xueqi Wang play the surgeons operating on Stark. But when the creative team allowed Stark to remove the shrapnel, they also removed a key vulnerability from Iron Man: his reliance on machines to keep him alive.
Since Thrillers #39 in 1959, Tony was completely dependent on the electromagnet in his chest to live. Early in the character, he periodically had to plug his chest armor (which he could not remove from his chest) into a wall outlet; many stories depicted Tony scrambling to find emergency power sources when his own reserves were dangerously low. While the shrapnel was eventually removed in the comics, Tony suffered an accident shortly afterwards which left him crippled, unable to walk without wearing the armor. Even more recently in 2021 Iron Man comics written by Christopher Cantwell, Tony has broken his neck and can no longer remove his helmet without dying. A weapon maker who must use his inventions to save his own life instead of taking others was a key part of creating Stan Lee.
Much like Cyborg and Professor X, Iron Man has also been seen to represent people with disabilities in the comics. Tony undergoing surgery is akin to powerful Professor X regaining the ability to walk or Cyborg gaining a human body. While the comic version of Iron Man continues to rely on technology (and therefore likable), the MCU version of the character has lost this key element as of Iron man 3.
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