If you're into thinkin' and drinkin'

Iron Man 2

I was interested to see how Tony Stark would continue his relationship with strong drink in the next part of his story as Iron Man. In the first film, the origin story for Iron Man, we see him as a force of hedonism, not unlike his father Howard Stark, who we got to see in action in the Agent Carter series. But when he returned from captivity we noticed a marked decline in the amount he was drinking and most of the booze references in the later half of the film were in relation to Obadiah Stane, Tony’s villainous mentor. So I was curious to see if Stark maintained his moderation. The quick answer is no.

The story arc is that Stark is realizing that the Arc Reactor that saved his life is now slowly killing him. Unable to find an alternate source of power than Palladium to charge it, he is making plans for his inevitable death and finding Stark-type ways to coping with his mortality.

  • The first booze reference is at the death of Ivan Vanko’s, the super villain Whiplash from the film, father. Ivan chugs a bottle of vodka at his father’s deathbed demonstrating that he is Russian and very hard. 1 bottle vodka
  • The next instance of booze in the film is again defining Vanko’s character. As he creates his own Arc Reactor, because he too is genius physicist, we see he is keeping a high with a ready bottle of vodka at his work bench. Again, he’s Russian and he’s hard, but it demonstrates a kind of hardness wherein he has the discipline to manage his vices so he can still accomplish his goals. He can achieve high levels of thought with a buzz on. That’s an important characteristic to acknowledge…something Howard Stark demonstrated as well, though with a level of frivolity instead of intensity. His vodka of choice appears to be Russian Standard. 2 bottles of vodka
  • Tony Stark prepares his company for is absence by promoting Pepper Potts, his personal assistant, to CEO of Stark Enterprises. To celebrate he has his robot servant bring a bucket of champagne and two glasses. 1 bottle & 2 glasses champagne
  • Tony enters himself in the Grand Monaco Race with his own car. Pepper joins him thinking he is going as a spectator not realizing that he intends to chase death by entering the race himself. They join the scene at a well-to-do party where they receive drinks as they enter. This scene demonstrated Pepper’s ability to manage her new role at a public event, plus we get additional characterization of Justin Hammer and Black Widow. I did my best to catch all of the beverages I could being served at this party, and many I can only assume or describe, but I would also consider this environment a bar. 1 bar, 1 brown drink, 2 clear cocktails with lime, 2 glasses of white wine, 3 mimosas, 1 bloody mary,  3 glasses of champagne, 1 pink martini (cosmo?), 1 pink long drink with lime, 1 glass red wine
  • Justin Hammer is trying to be the super villain in the story and hires Ivan Vanko to build technology to compete with Stark Enterprises. Hammer doesn’t realize that Vanko will use him instead to get to Stark personally. To court Vanko and convince him of the good life waiting for him if he joins Hammer, at their first meeting Hammer sets us a sumptuous lunch. Two things are very telling about this scene: Justin Hammer is eating an ice cream sundae…in other words he’s kind of like a little kid eating what he wants and it demonstrates his lack of discipline and immaturity. Also, Vanko ignores the wine and champagne at the table and is drinking directly from a bottle of vodka, even toasting with the open bottle to seal the deal, which to Hammer would seem to be an example of Vanko’s uncultured aspect…Vanko is a lesser human Hammer can control, but instead it is actually an example of how Vanko is undeterred and unimpressed with Hammer’s display. Ivan Vanko is going to be who he is and is going to do what he wants; Vanko is in control in this relationship. 1 bottle champagne, 1 bottle & 2 glasses red wine, 1 bottle vodka
  • It’s Tony’s birthday and he’s getting ready for his party. As he faces his desperate situation alone, keeping his approaching death a secret, he slips into a martini and nihilism. 1 martini
  • Tony’s birthday party is the peak of his self destructive behavior. Surrounded by adoring fans and gallons of booze at his home bar he spins records while wearing the Iron Man suit. Drunk and out of control he starts shooting bottles of champagne with his repulsors. I have no idea how exploding bottles of champagne weren’t sending shards of lethal glass shrapnel into the crowd. This is another bar scene…lots of booze, too much to account for but I attempted to list as much as I could identify. 1 bar, 4 martinis, 5 bottles & 1 glass champagne, 1 pink martini (cosmo?), 1 bottle brandy
  • “The Russians shipped him off to Siberia where he spent the next 20 years in a vodka fueled rage.” SHIELD talks to Stark about Vanko’s history and how Howard sent Ivan’s father to Siberia for treachery. vodka by reference
  • SHIELD provides Tony a bunch of films of his father Howard to help Tony discover a new power source for his Arc Reactor. In one of them we see Howard taking a break with a glass of brown spirit. Even older we see Howard has maintained his buzz even as a father. 1 glass brown spirit

So once again, lots of booze for Iron Man. But it is totally different. It’s not like Tony Stark backslid into old habits. Where before he was too self-centered to realize his mortality, in this film he is facing his mortality as an all too real eventuality. Sometimes people see this as a signifier that experiences in life all have meaning and should be carefully gathered and protected, or people can sometimes see life and its experiences as completely worthless and having no meaning and as such feel like they can and should do anything they please. This is the classic shift toward vice for those who can find no meaning in life. It’s kind of overdone in storytelling, but that’s probably because it is real and it’s an excellent way to continue Tony Stark’s development as a super hero.

Let me wrap up with some MCU storyline detail. This story is happening simultaneously with The Hulk. David Banner is running from General Ross while this story is happening. We know this because near the end when Tony Stark is talking with Nick Fury, we find that SHIELD puts Tony on a retainer as a consultant. The last scene of The Hulk we see Stark performing his role as a consultant…we see how this is orchestrated in one of the Marvel One Shot videos I will discuss soon.

Also Agent Coulson has to leave suddenly while Stark is essentially on house arrest. He has to go to New Mexico suddenly. Thor’s hammer (and Thor himself) had fallen to Earth probably the previous evening and Coulson was called to investigate. So Thor’s story starts near the end of Iron Man 2.

This is Nick Fury’s busy week.

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