DrDoom's Pitch For IRON MAN 4
By popular demand (emphasis on the word demand), DrDoom once again returns to the world of MCU editorial pitches. This time, he tackles the inevitable fourth installment in the Invincible Iron Man franchise!
"So if I were to, wrap this up, tie it with a bow, whatever . . . . I guess I'd say . . . . my armour? It was never a distraction, or a hobby. It was a cocoon. And now, I'm a changed man. You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys. One thing you can't take away? I am Iron Man." - Anthony 'Tony' Stark
Without the first Iron Man film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise as we know it would not exist. Initially backed into a corner by multiple contracts prohibiting them from using their most popular characters, Marvel Studios' first in-house film project was always going to be a risk. All of their plans for a shared media franchise would have imploded if Iron Man failed to capture an audience. Luckily for us and them, it did anything but fail.
Six years off of the monumental success of the first film, Iron Man has become one of the most iconic superheroes of the modern era. He was always important to the overall Marvel Comics universe, but his exposure to the mainstream audience has reached the level of Marvel's most prestigious characters, such as Spider-Man and Wolverine. After three solo films of consistent critical and financial success, and a major role in the Avengers films, a fourth Iron Man outing is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Marvel producer Kevin Feige has already confirmed that the film will happen, regardless of Robert Downey Jr.'s involvement, although the latter has expressed interest in extending his contract even further.
But the casting and directing of Iron Man 4 is not what I am concerned with. It's the story. After barely surviving the plans of Aldrich Killian and Advanced Idea Mechanics in Iron Man 3, and presumably going through quite an ordeal in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where will Tony Stark as a character be taken next? I will try to provide an answer to that question with my pitch here. Given that we do not know what will happen in Age of Ultron, I will try to keep my story as open ended as possible, in case some plot threads are cut off. For the purposes of this pitch, no major characters have died, and Jarvis no longer exists due to becoming the Vision.
Iron Man: Zero Protocol
The films begins with the political aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Stark Industries is under heavy scrutiny and controversy due to the public learning that Ultron, the artificial intelligence who nearly conquered the entire planet, was a creation of Tony Stark. No longer a media darling and facing dwindling support, Stark makes a formal announcement that he will be stepping down and foresaking any attachment to the company, leaving everything in the hands of Pepper Potts.
While Pepper is used to being the CEO of Stark Industries, she is emotionally disturbed by what happened with Ultron. Unable to stomach being around Tony, she demands that he leaves, and he agrees that it is for the best. When she asks Tony where he is going to go, he simply responds that he needs to be somewhere, anywhere, but in the spotlight, and that he does not deserve the success he has attained. With that, he takes his most recent suit of armour and flies off into the skyline, saying that he is not sure when he is going to return.
"You know, I invited Tony to join AIM thirteen years ago. He turned me down. But something tells me now there's a new genius on the throne who doesn't have to answer to Tony anymore . . . . and who has slightly less of an ego." - Aldrich Killian
With Pepper as the sole owner of Stark Industries, she tries her best to salvage the company in the eyes of the public. At least a good ten minutes of the film is devoted to her own personal struggle of both needing and needing to reject Tony, as well as her own ethical and philosophical internal conflicts. She goes through a period of existential crisis, where she feels that despite breaking off contact with Tony, she still exists solely in his shadow; a woman dedicated to saving a company with whom she will only be marginally associated due to the persona of Tony Stark hanging over its head.
"We're iron mongers. We make weapons, and what we do keeps the world from falling into chaos." - Obadiah Stane
At the same time, a new company called Baintronics starts to make headlines due to the development of prototype digital weapons called the 'Protocol' line. The company's CEO is Sunset Bain, an extremely charismatic and attractive woman who has taken the media by storm due to her vehement stance against artificial intelligence. She refers to the 'Ultron Incident' as a tragic inevitability because of humanity's innate desire to create life.
The Protocol weapons do not have a corporeal form; they are weaponized computer viruses which are designed to infiltrate digital systems and destroy them at a basic level if they show any signs of attaining sentience. Her goal is to have the Protocol line installed in every major technological system on the planet, to ensure that no artificial intelligence is ever created again. Driven by fear of another Ultron, many defense contractors and government militaries start to pay hefty sums for them. Sunset also berates Iron Man on live television for being a 'coward', saying that instead of owning up to and facing the legal ramifications of his actions that led to Ultron's creation, he has gone into hiding.
"Yeah, I miss you too. But the way it used to be." - Harold 'Happy' Hogan
What the general audience doesn't know about Sunset Bain is that she funded Baintronics with illegal underground weapons manufacturing and selling stolen technology to terrorist groups, with associates including the Ten Rings, AIM and Hydra. She has also purchased a private military company, called the 'Raiders', filled with sadistic mercenaries who act as both her personal guard and strike force.
The film then returns to Tony, who has set up shop in an off-the-books house property that he owns and set up with a lab in case he ever needed to go into hiding. It turns out that he didn't step down from Stark Industries because of the media pressure, but because he had learned about the nature of Baintronics and wanted to investigate them without letting them in on his knowledge of their illegal activities. To assist, he keeps in contact with Happy Hogan, who has sworn to keep Tony's location and motives a secret.
"Listen, I've been on the phone with the National Guard all day, trying to talk them out of rolling tanks up to PCH, knocking down your front door, and taking these. They're going to take your suits, Tony." - Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes
Meanwhile, James Rhodes, who has reverted to the 'War Machine' persona, returns from an extended combat tour overseas. He is still in the employ of the United States Air Force, and acts as a one-man strike team in high-risk combat situations. Because of his attachment to the government, he has been largely shielded from the public backlash against Stark Industries.
Visiting Pepper, he demands to know where Tony has gone, to which Pepper admits she doesn't know. Rhodes at first doesn't believe her, accusing her of defending him despite everything that has happened. Pepper bursts out in anger, admonishing Rhodes for being just as much of an enabler. As she cries and has an emotional meltdown, Rhodes caves and comforts her, saying that they will get through this situation together. Happy is present at this altercation, but does not reveal his knowledge of Tony's whereabouts.
"If you can make God bleed, the people will cease to believe in him." - Ivan Vanko
Tony asks Happy to bring him his prototype stealth technology that he had been working on for his latest suit. It is an 'Infiltration' module, that when attached to the arc reactor of the suit and activated, shields it with a kinetic barrier that renders it transparent. At the same time, Sunset has asked to have a meeting with Pepper, to which the latter begrudingly accepts. Sunset makes a pitch to Pepper to buy out Stark Industries, as a way of the company apologizing for almost destroying the world. Pepper considers the offer, but declines.
What she doesn't see is that Sunset didn't actually want to buy the company, and was anticipating Pepper's refusal. During her time at Stark Industries, a group of Raiders infiltrate the building and implant a Protocol weapon into the company's computer network. Once it has been infested, Sunset reveals the other purpose of the Protocol weapons: to be able to monitor and remotely control technological systems it infects. She uses this to discover the secret communications between Tony and Happy. Learning of the Infiltration module and Tony's co-ordinates, she summons the Raiders.
"But today, whoever holds the latest Stark weapons rules these lands, and soon . . . . it will be my turn." - Raza
After spending lots of time gathering intel and digital evidence about Baintronics' activities, Tony sets up a meeting with Happy. They go to a restaurant in the town near Tony's location, and attempt a covert drop off. This fails when the place is attacked by the Raiders. Tony scrambles to suit up and fight off the mercenaries, but is forced into a situation by the Raiders' leader where he has to save Happy. The nameless leader takes this opportunity to steal the Infiltration module, and the Raiders escape.
Taking it back to Sunset, she quickly finds a way to repurpose the device for the white bodysuit he wears, dubbing him the 'Ghost'. She then orders her newly powered operative to break into Stark Industries' backup server facility, to place another Protocol weapon there. Once that is done, she discards her facade and openly attacks and takes over the main Stark Industries building, revealing her true plan now that Protocol weapons around the globe have been put in place: to establish a worldwide technocratic fascism under her control, a plan dubbed 'Zero Protocol'. As a show of her power, she activates Protocol weapons in the United States military network, effectively shutting down all military devices across the country.
"Big man in a suit of armour? Take that off, what are you?" - Steve Rogers
Tony then arrives in his Iron Man suit, challenging Sunset and the Raiders. Sunset laughs him off, and tries to shut down his suit, but it doesn't work. Tony stuns Sunset by revealing his knowledge of Baintronics' plan, having already taken this suit and War Machine's to a private network untouched by the Protocol weapons. Rhodes, who is still in the building, attacks a couple of mercenaries before suiting up himself, standing side by side with Tony.
Sunset orders Ghost and the remaining Raiders to destroy Tony and Rhodes, ensuing in an epic battle throughout the Stark Industries building. Upon defeating Ghost and the remaining Raiders, Tony tries to attack Sunset, who holds Pepper at gunpoint. Tony reveals that he had been compiling data for a purge of the Protocol weapons, effectively wiping them from the system. The problem is that they also completely reboot the system that they have been infected with. Sunset threatens Pepper's life if he activates the purge, but Rhodes attacks her from behind. Despite this, Sunset stills gets the shot off, shooting Pepper through the throat.
"Threat is imminent, and I have to protect the one thing I can't live without. That's you."
The purge activates, completely wiping out all of Stark Industries computer systems, esssentially destroying the company. Pepper collapses to the floor, and Tony rushes to grab her. He holds her and they make peace as she dies in his arms. Filled with rage, he attacks Sunset and begins brutally beating her by punching her in the face repeatedly. He is only stopped from killing her by Rhodes, who pulls him off of her.
Sunset, Ghost, and the Raiders are carted off to prison, and the Protocol purge is used on all of the systems it has infected, forcing many digital systems to have to be rebuilt from scratch. Tony is initially rendered inactive by Pepper's death and his company's destruction, but Rhodes and Happy reason with him, and Tony resolves to start a new company in Pepper's honour: Stark Resilient.
So what do you think? Is this the sort of movie you'd like to see with Iron Man 4? Let me know in the comments section!
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