One of the most controversial films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 2013's Iron Man 3. Half of the people who saw the movie loved it. The other half hated it for multiple reasons. Some were mad because of the "blasphemous" portrayal of the Mandarin. Others were mad because of Tony Stark's uncaring attitude at the end of the film. But the majority of the 'haters' were angry that the plot was not strong enough.
Recently, news came forward that the original plans for the film included the death of Tony Stark's close friend and former security guard Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau). However, they decided against this character's death and instead put him into a coma which he miraculously came out of at the end of the film. But my question is...
Was keeping Happy alive really a good idea?
Well, to answer that question, we will need to look at a couple key ideas...
First off, was keeping Happy alive even necessary?
After the scene that put Happy into a coma, there is only one other scene that shows Happy awake. In it, he says zero words and it plays absolutely no part to the story line. By that point, most people had already forgotten about the character.
Also, it is unlikely we will see Jon Favreau reprise his role as Happy Hogan. The reason he took the part in the first place was because he directed the first two Iron Man movies. But, with no more Iron Man movies being slated for the next several years, and with Robert Downey Jr. confirming he will not be doing another Iron Man solo film, it is unlikely we will see this character again.
Clearly, keeping Happy Hogan alive was not at all necessary.
How would his death have helped the plot immediately after?
Alternatively, instead of keeping Happy alive, the filmmakers could have just killed him off as they had originally planned. It would have added more emotion to the plot. Tony Stark is very emotionally distraught when he discovers that his best friend was put into a coma. He is so distraught that he threatens the Mandarin (the terrorist thought to be in charge of the attack) and gives him his home address, as seen in the video below:
So yeah, clearly Iron Man is pretty pissed off. But is it very believable? I mean sure, his friend was hurt in the most recent Mandarin attack, but he survived and is in the hospital. It would instead make more sense to see Tony Stark be more caring for his friend instead of endangering his own life for no apparent reason.
Now imagine that instead, Happy was killed in the attack. Tony's best friend is dead. That would clearly stir a lot more anger in his head. Now watch the video above again.
Don't Tony's actions seem more justified now? If you think about it, Tony is most likely paying for Happy to be in the hospital so that he survives with the best care.
How would his death have helped the film overall?
A death towards the beginning (or sometimes early-middle) of a film almost always serves as emotional leverage and influence for the protagonist to start moving with the plot. The death resonates throughout the film as the protagonist's primary motivation and becomes a major plot point that is remembered throughout the rest of the movie. For example:
- Uncle Ben's death encourages Peter Parker to become Spider-Man (Spider-Man & The Amazing Spider-Man)
- Mickey's death encourages Rocky to train harder and beat Clubber Lang (Rocky III)
- Fantine's death encourages Jean Valjean to help protect and cherish the lives of others (Les Misérables)
- Mufasa's death encourages Simba to flee, and later encourages him to come back and fight Scar (The Lion King)
- Admiral Pike's death encourages Captain Kirk to pursue Kahn (Star Trek: Into Darkness)
In Iron Man 3, the death of Happy Hogan could have inspired Iron Man to pursue the Mandarin. Now sure, Happy going into a coma was what encouraged Iron Man to pursue the Mandarin anyways, but was it a strong enough push for the plot? It may have been the incident that started the plot, but the attack did not resonate throughout the rest of the movie. In fact, Happy was only mentioned once after that, during the scene where Iron Man confronts Trevor Slattery and says:
"I'm sorry, but I got a best friend who's in a coma and he might not wake up. So you're gonna have to answer for that. You're still going down, pal."
And that is all we ever hear of Happy. Tony never mentions Happy after he was put in a coma until that point, and he never mentioned him again. It seems as though Tony, much like the audience, just forgot about poor ol' Happy Hogan.
So maybe instead of having Happy's attack be a minor plot point that gives little to the overall movie, the attack should have just killed Happy. It would have been a lot stronger emotionally and it would be more memorable through the film than it is when he's just in a coma. Also, we would be able to see more of Tony's emotional side he tries to track down the Mandarin while trying to deal with the death of his best friend, giving more depth to Tony's character.
How would it affect Tony's 'long-term' scheme?
During Iron Man 3, we see Tony haunted by the events of The Avengers. He is struck with fear of losing the ones he loves to the clutches of death. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see how he fears losing loved ones even more so. But, in Iron Man 3, we see no loved ones die (except for Pepper, who comes back to life two minutes later). Adding the death of Happy would not only help the plot of Iron Man 3, but would also justify Tony's actions in Age of Ultron and (presumably) Captain America: Civil War when he does everything he can to make sure no one else close to him dies.
Ultimately, in addition to adding more emotion and purpose to Iron Man 3, Happy's death would make things much more personal for Tony throughout the rest of the MCU as well and would serve as a resonating echo of Tony's failures that encourages him to do better in the future so that he doesn't lose anyone again.