Iron Man 4 is a 2016 film set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the fourth and to date final installment of the Iron Man film series, the fifth film in Phase 3, and the 20th film overall in the MCU. Robert Downey Jr. returns to play the title role, but Jon Favreau returns to direct the fourth film, replacing Shane Black from Iron Man 3. Though the film was highly regarded by critics and audiences, it did not make as much money as its immediate predecessor, falling shy of 1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
There had been some talk of a fourth Iron Man film following the success of Iron Man 3, with actor Robert Downey Jr saying in part that he'd only be interested "if the right script came along." The director of the first two Iron Man films, Jon Favreau, lobbied hard for a new Iron Man film in 2014, with it eventually being announced as a piece of Phase 3 in 2015, with Iron Man 2 scribe Justin Theroux returning to pen the script. After long being rumored, it was confirmed that The Mandarin would feature as the main villain of Iron Man 4, played by Ben Kingsley. In an effort to avoid a stereotypical portrayal as well as link the film to the fledgling Marvel Netflix series, the character was redesigned as an outsider who had become a citizen of the mystic city of K'un-Lun. This film served as a pseudo origin for the destination, which would be further explored in the subsequent Iron Fist series released in the following January.
All major actors returned to their respective roles, including Paul Bettany as The Vision, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. Filming began in September of 2015 and concluded in January of 2016.
We open on a scene from Iron Man, where Obadiah Stane leaves Raza for dead in the middle of the Afghan desert. Several days later, a group of soldiers bearing the flag of the Ten Rings turn up at the encampment. They find Raza and his group dead, as expected, but find one man alive. A masked man bearing ten rings asks the living man who did this to them. The only name the man can mention is Stark. The masked man motions to his guard, killing the witness, before leaving the encampment. We then get the opening credits sequence of the masked man, known as the Mandarin, interrogating various individuals for information about Tony Stark, as well as news clippings concerning Stark's adventures, from defeating the Wrecking Crew and Modoc, to saving New York, to his more recent battle with Captain America in Budapest. The scene closes on a repeat from the end of Civil War, with the Mandarin rescuing Justin Hammer from captivity.
In the aftermath of Civil War, Tony Stark is currently acting both as an off-screen mentor to a young Peter Parker, coordinating with SHIELD on running the Avengers, and okaying details to his pending nuptials to Virginia "Pepper" Potts. Though the two are busy, they manage to sneak a few moments here and there where they can, one such occasion being interrupted however by Thunderbolt Ross, who demands to know what the hell it was that Richards wanted the other day. Stark stonewalls Ross' questions, only to be further interrupted by James Rhodes, who tells him that there is a terrorist situation happening in Shanghai. Ross gives the go-ahead to Stark, who promptly takes off to deal with the situation, taking Vision and a remotely controlled War Machine to deal with it.
In Shanghai, Stark and his group are confronted by the mercenary Brock Rumlow, now going by the name of Crossbones. After a brief fight in which hostages are rescued by Vision and War Machine while Iron Man deals with the mercenary, Rumlow says he is working for a new boss, an old friend of Tony Stark's named Raza. Stark mentions that is impossible, as Raza is dead, but Rumlow cryptically replies so is his boss, before setting off a controlled detonation of the marketplace they are fighting in. The Vision and War Machine manage to minimize civilian casualties but can't save everyone, before Rumlow seemingly vanishes into thin air. They begin getting reports of terrorist situations happening in Los Angeles, Sydney, London, and several other locations throughout the world. All follow the same pattern and all end in civilian casualties as the Avengers, SHIELD and other heroic groups simply are outflanked by the sheer number of simultaneous attacks. In total, ten cities around the world, including Shanghai, are struck.
As Stark tries to make sense of what Rumlow said, they get intel from Ross concerning movements in the area around Gulmira, which has been quiet since Stark's initial abduction several years earlier. The Ten Rings, which had gone underground as an organization, has recently struck back at some of the villages there under a new leader calling himself the Mandarin. Little is known about this man other than the fact that, despite his name, he is not of Chinese descent. The Mandarin is also claiming responsibility for the recent terrorist attacks, saying they are only the beginning of a bigger lesson, one that will continue unless his demands are met. Stark asks what those demands might be, but Ross dodges the question and merely orders Stark and his team to Gulmira to try and find the Mandarin's location. Stark employs Rhodes and his drones though, as he has a wedding with Pepper to get too.
Inside the Mandarin's palace, we see the opulent area where Justin Hammer is hard at work, trying to build cybernetic enhancements to some kind of flying apparatus. Mandarin checks on him and asks how the work is going, which Hammer replies slowly. He complains of his lack of a decent work space, which earns him a slap across the face from Mandarin, who says things could be far worse for him. Hammer asks how Mandarin intends to use this device, seeing as how there's nothing big enough that could deal with something like this, and Mandarin replies to let him worry about that. In the meantime, he intends to keep Stark and his friends distracted.
Stark and Pepper's wedding gets underway and begins without a problem, but it is quickly interrupted again by Rumlow and his mercenaries, this time paired with ninja fighters who are seemingly able to move about the venue without any impediment by time or space. Stark and Vision are able to fend them off, while Rhodes evacuates many of the guests. Rumlow is captured in the aftermath of the attack. Stark interrogates Rumlow and demands to know more about the Mandarin, which Rumlow divulges. He claims the Mandarin has existed for many years and gone by many names. All Stark needs to know is that the Mandarin is so far ahead of the rest of the world, it isn't even a game to him anymore. Stark's interrogation is interrupted by the Mandarin himself, who sends a video message to the rest of the world. He claims to have in his possession nuclear weapons and the ability to strike anywhere in the world. As proof of this, he detonates a small yield weapon in an isolated area in the middle of the Andes Mountains. Mandarin says he will bring the world to its knees unless he gets what he wants, Tony Stark and the Vision brought before him, no Iron Man and no War Machine, in his palace near Gulmira. If they agree to meet with him to discuss terms, then he will agree to a ceasefire for the moment. Having no other choice, Stark and Vision agree to meet. Before leaving, Pepper and Tony share an intimate moment, with Pepper demanding Stark return, as they have a wedding to finish.
At the Mandarin's palace, they meet with the terrorist head and find him a surprisingly polite host, dining with him and engaging in idle chit-chat about geo-political crisis. Mandarin says that for all the good that Tony Stark and his Avengers have done over the last few years, humanity is still suffering. He contends that they must be made to follow the iron rule of a great leader. Stark replies some have tried that and failed miserably, to which Mandarin counters that was only because Stark and his family of friends never let them go all the way. Mandarin claims he will bring enlightenment and wisdom to all the world, even if it comes at the expense of fire and fury. Vision suddenly asks where Mandarin got his rings from, which causes the warlord to pause. Vision continues by saying there is writing on them, but it is from a place that should not exist. A place called K'un-Lun. This seems to enrage the Mandarin, who orders them to leave and that he will transmit his next demands to Ross personally. Stark and Vision depart briefly, but not before Stark checks his watch to see if someone is on the way.
At the hotel in Kabul, Stark and Vision receive new orders from Ross. Mandarin has demanded, as a price for his continued ceasefire, that Vision be turned over to him for further study. Stark balks at the idea, firstly because there's no way they should give a madman access to that level of technology, let alone the stone that Vision is carrying around in his head. Also because of Vision's sentience, saying they'd essentially be killing one of their own men. Ross tends to agree, but they need to keep options open given what Mandarin's capabilities are. He orders Stark to remain where he is, until further action can be taken, which Stark begrudgingly accepts. Stark and Vision then have a discussion about the nature of one life versus many, especially since Vision thinks Mandarin, being from a mystical place like K'un-Lun, has no knowledge of the Infinity Stones. Stark asks what the hell K'un-Lun is, and we get a brief explanation, matching the one given in the Iron Fist TV series on Netflix.
Back at the Mandarin's palace, Hammer has seemingly finished the work the Mandarin had for him, having built the cybernetic parts for the flying apparatus. He is about to call Mandarin to inform him of his progress, when he is intercepted by the War Machine drone that Rhodey is piloting, having been sent there before the failed wedding by Stark in secret. Hammer takes the opportunity to betray Mandarin, suing for telling what he knows in exchange for getting the hell out of here, unfortunately for him Mandarin walks in overhearing all of this. He promptly knocks out Hammer, and proceeds to fight Rhodey's drone. Mandarin makes short work of the War Machine suit, utilizing various elemental energy blasts from his rings, commenting that the power of K'un-Lun is not to be trifled with. In the end, Rhodes' drone is completely destroyed, and Mandarin contacts Stark and Ross simultaneously, saying that if Vision is not turned over to him the following day, then he will launch another nuclear warhead with his teleportation powers. When the video chat is over, Mandarin turns to his underlings and orders them to begin attaching the harness to "Him," dragging Hammer off to the back to help with the implementation.
Back at the hotel, Stark admits to sending in Rhodey before this all came to a head, causing Ross to blow his top. Despite SHIELD's standing orders of not negotiating with terrorists, the World Security Council and Ross agree that Vision's life is not worth the lives of millions of people who could be destroyed by a nuclear weapon, and agree to turn him over. Vision pleads with them not to, namely so that Mandarin doesn't get his hand on the Mind Stone. Ross says that's inconsequential, as the Infinity Stones really mean nothing to him in the long run, and right now they need to sue for time until a proper response can be fashioned. Stark immediately cuts off the call, disagreeing. He tells Vision that they'll contact Rhodey to send another drone if he can, and they'll deal with the Mandarin themselves. Vision does point out that things might be easier if Tony were to call Captain Rogers, if he has a way of getting ahold of him. Stark hesitates for a moment, but ultimately does nothing. Back in New York, Ross demands they get back ahold of Stark and tell him to follow their plans. He is interrupted, however, by other SHIELD agents walking into the room, flanked by Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts. Ross demands to know who let them in here, and they immediately defer to Agent Coulson, who shocks everyone walking into the room. Ross says that Coulson is supposed to be dead, but Phil simply replies that "he has friends from higher places than him." Ross' decision to turn over Vision, it turns out, was unilateral, and Coulson has him temporarily relieved of duty. He orders SHIELD to send out Quinjets to the Asian area to help, particularly around the city of Beijing, where Mandarin had said earlier he wished to reestablish as "the center of Heaven."
Back in Afghanistan, Vision arrives as a distraction to Mandarin, wanting to know what the warlord wants with him. Mandarin explains some more of his backstory: the Mandarin is actually a title passed down amongst a sect of warrior monks from the hidden city of K'un-Lun, which Mandarin was surprised Vision would know about. This particular Mandarin is the son of English explorers who stumbled upon the city in the early 1800s, their lives extended by the power of the city. This sect, one of the three that vied for control of the city hundreds of years ago, was known as the Serpent's Guard. On the exterior, they remained loyal to the ruling council of the Iron Fist that reigned supreme over the sect known simply as The Hand, but in secret they studied more of K'un-Lun's mystical origins and learned of its greater significance as an overlapping realm in the cosmos. With this knowledge, they forged several rings that could control space and matter, but their powers were somewhat limited. Which is where Vision comes in. Vision realizes that Mandarin never had any other nuclear weapons at all, just the one, which Mandarin admits to. At that point, Vision is seized by several devices that inhibit his ability to control his mass. Mandarin continues, saying that they've reached the limit of their abilities, especially after they were discovered and banished from K'un-Lun several years earlier. They need a device to take their power and destiny to rule mankind to the next level, with the help of the Stone in Vision's head. That Stone will allow them to control the mind of the most powerful being alive, a maimed dragon of K'un-Lun they have captured. Hammer's part in this was to build cybernetic attachments to make the dragon more able to fight despite his physical handicaps. The dragon's name is Fin Fang Foom.
Mandarin begins attacking the Mind Stone with his own rings, trying to understand and duplicate its power, and causing Vision untold pain in the process. Tony enters the fray at this point, having heard Mandarin's plan. He is attacked by many of the underlings that Mandarin employs, but dispatches them easily and forces the Mandarin to fight him one on one. Unfortunately, much like the fight with War Machine earlier, Iron Man is easily outclassed by Mandarin, who seemingly shuts down Stark's armor and forces him over a steep cliff. He then resumes his probe of the Vision briefly, before gaining whatever knowledge he needs. He rushes off to a nearby hanger, where the massive dragon Fin Fang Foom lies dormant, his body augmented by the cybernetic parts that Hammer had built. Mandarin uses his newly gained powers of mind control to supplant the dragon's mind, climbs on his back, and then teleports them to Beijing to begin his plan of conquering the world. However, Tony is able to fly through the portal just before it closes, following.
It seems as if Tony is in over his head, barely able to survive both the Mandarin's attacks and try to save civilians from the rampaging dragon. Help comes in the form, though, of Rhodey piloting another drone and SHIELD themselves. Rhodey and Stark manage to damage the dragon enough to cause him to throw Mandarin off his back, and break the mind control hold he has on it. The dragon is temporarily incapacitated, but then they have to deal with the angered Mandarin. A lengthy fight ensues in which Stark's refurbished armor (a replacement given to him by SHIELD) is incapacitated again and the War Machine drone is critically damaged. Stark rallies though and, with the help of another War Machine drone piloted by Pepper, manages to finally defeat Mandarin, though not kill him. As the Mandarin swears revenge, he is suddenly grabbed from behind by Fin Fang Foom. The dragon, through mental communication, notes that he and his kind will deal with the Mandarin, disappearing to parts unknown.
In the post-lude, Stark is incredulous, but eventually happy, that Coulson is back, with Phil alluding to it be some kind of "Marvelous Miracle." he was revived. They discuss Ross somewhat, with Coulson admitting they need a new director, and offering Stark the job. Tony is reluctant at first, but Pepper seems to talk him into it, provided it means he can stop being on the front lines in the future. Tony says he will think about it. Another wedding with Stark and Pepper goes off without a hitch, but during the reception Tony gets a call from Peter Parker, asking him to talk about some kind of Lizard dude. Stark simply replies, "Kids." and continues with the party. In the end, he and Pepper fly off together in the Iron Man suit, happy with what the future holds.
[Cut to a closed office/bedroom in an undisclosed location. Thunderbolt Ross, newly dismissed from his position with SHIELD, opens the door angrily and then slams it frustration, grumbling to himself about Stark not being able to handle the pressure. However, there is a loud beeping sound coming from a wristwatch, and Ross nervously looks around the room to make sure he's alone before answering in a voice not his own.]
Ross: Reporting in.
Communicator: There's been a set back.
Ross: Only a minor one. I'm still close to the defense apparatus in this organization, and everything can move on to Phase 2 as planned.
Communicator: Good. Contact for further instructions in the future.
[Ross flips off the communicator before staring at a mirror in the room. Suddenly his face appears to take a greenish hue, his chin slightly more wrinkled, before it resumes the look and appearance of Thunderbolt Ross once again as we cut out.]
/ = / = / = /
[We open back up in Reed Richards' laboratory inside Four Freedoms Plaza, as Tony and Reed sit together pouring over data.]
Reed: Maybe we're missing something. Maybe it's just a passing ship from the Inhumans or something. I figured they might have had warp drive at some point.
Stark: That's too much to hope for Reed. We need to face facts and start prepping for this.
Reed: This isn't a contingency we did plan for Tony.
Stark: Yes I know. But we have to do something.
[Tony gets up and walks over to the window, looking up at the sky.]
Stark: Bruce is coming back...
[The camera pans up to the sky and zooms in several millions of miles, past the solar system to the middle of space, where we see a large spacecraft slowly making its way past the Oort Cloud. We hear a copy of the Hulk's signature roar as we cut out to black.]
Summary of Changes
Iron Man 4 is an entirely original film within the Earth-11584 universe, with no corresponding film in the mainline MCU.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man- The leader of the Avengers Team underneath SHIELD; a self-described billionaire philanthropist who fights in armored suits of his own design.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts- The CEO of Stark Industries and the fiance of Tony Stark.
- William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross- The director of SHIELD and leading proponent of the reconciliation measures with the Mandarin.
- Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin- An International Terrorist at the Head of the Ten Rings Organization who claims to want Vision for his own purposes; also possesses mystical powers from a mythical city.
- Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer- The former owner of Hammer Industries, kidnapped from prison by The Mandarin for unknown reasons.
- Don Cheadle as James Rhodes- The former War Machine pilot, who remotely controls his suit following being crippled in the events of Civil War.
- Paul Bettany as The Vision- An Android who can control his body mass and density, as well as fire concussive beams of energy thanks to the Mind Stone in his possession
In addition, Jon Favreau also plays Stark's Head of Security Happy Hogan. Frank Grillo returns as Brock Rumlow, now known as Crossbones, a mercenary hired by The Mandarin. Clark Gregg makes his return as SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson, following the character's apparent death in The Avengers film. Tom Holland cameos with a brief phone message to Tony Stark as Peter Parker. Though he is a purely CGI animated character, Jim Cummings provides the voice for the dragon Fin Fang Foom. Matt Bomer cameos as Reed Richards in a Post-Credits Scene. Stan Lee cameos as one of the guests at Pepper and Stark's wedding.
The film received strong reviews upon it's release, surpassing the critical acclaim of both Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3. The review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes scored the film at 83% with an average rating of 7.1 out of 10 based on 355 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though it doesn't flow quite as freely as previous Iron Man films, Iron Man 4 is an action-packed love letter to the larger MCU." Critics praised the performances, particularly that of Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, while also highlighting the larger connections the film had being the 20th entry into the MCU. They did criticize the somewhat lackadasial story, but praised the overall action scenes in the film.
The film dominated the domestic box office in its opening weekend, finishing with $94.8 million dollars in receipts. The film finished with a domestic box office total of $372.2 million dollars, which was the fourth highest total of the year (just behind Captain America: Civil War). Worldwide, the film earned $933.2 million, failing to break the 1 billion dollar mark as its immediate predecessor did in 2013.