It seems Disney has wimped out from using the famous “Demon in a Bottle” storyline in IRON MAN 3. A few scenes in IRON MAN 2 suggested that Tony Stark’s partying was a little out of control, but the hero can’t take a fall this time out.
The “Demon in a Bottle” story by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr showed Tony Stark’s confrontation with alcoholism, and has remained a touchstone for the character ever since.
However, IM3 screenwriters Shane Black and Drew Pearce report that Disney was not down with going in this direction in the new film. “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. If you’re gonna do alcoholism and the Mandarin, then you would really have to make the whole movie about it,” said Black.
Pearce echoed this, saying, “It’s also kind of a ‘pick your battles’ thing; alcoholism is a massive problem but it’s also not the best villain for a movie.”
Black seemed to think the storyline might still be used some day, and it is true that shoehorning in the very real problems of alcoholism with a carefree story about flying around saving people might be a tonal disconnect and more offensive than not.
On the other hand, it’s also a sign that these are just feel good summer movies, and hints of the actual pain of actual real people are not really a factor. Plus, you know, multimillionaire industrialist job creators who love to party are good for the economy.
I think it would have been great to see darker elements of Tony Stark’s lifestyle dealt with in the film. Overcoming one’s own weaknesses—real weaknesses not just being scared of putting on tights—is even tougher than fighting Ben Kingsley in makeup, and suggesting that being responsible about drinking and staying in recovery would have been a powerful message about what makes a hero. Maybe next time?