We tend to think of superheroes (and villains) as pretty competent people. After all, it takes a sharp mind to build a flying suit of armor or hold the entire world hostage. But, as we've pointed out a few times before, sometimes the characters in these movies seem to know less about what they're doing than we do, and for every sensible decision they make, they stumble through a series of catastrophically terrible blunders that defy explanation.
Let's start with the fact that the man could and should be thrown in jail at any moment.
See, a good portion of the Iron Man movie franchise focuses on Tony Stark's legal battle with the U.S. government -- they really want him to hand over the Iron Man suit (something about it being a highly effective superweapon capable of neutralizing an entire platoon in seconds and how it probably shouldn't be in the hands of an emotionally unstable alcoholic). But as a legal matter, the government absolutely has a right to demand it for another reason: This technology was created with taxpayer money. It totally belongs to the government.
"Bullshit. Anything I've spent has been offset by the medical jobs I've created with my STDs."
Remember, Stark Industries is a defense contractor, and thus subject to the same regulations as a company like Lockheed Martin. Any technology built while on a government contract can be used only on that contract, whether it be a tank engine or a piece of software. Because, you know, the government paid for it. The developers can't sell the technology to anyone else or use it to destabilize foreign terrorist cells on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
And as we know from the first Iron Man movie ...
... Tony built the original Arc Reactor -- the one thing that makes the suit work -- as part of a government contract. Hell, the original armor prototype he threw together in the cave was built out of parts from missiles he created under another defense department contract. All of that research and development was done on the taxpayer's dime, and then Tony uses it to turn himself into a superhero and claims that nobody else has a right to put their filthy paws on it. In reality, it would be illegal for Tony to use an Arc Reactor to power his goddamn TiVo, let alone use it to fly halfway around the world and punch tanks in half (which incidentally is also illegal, because crossing national borders with that suit constitutes the trafficking of defense technology).
But knowing that he's in violation of federal law every minute he spends zipping around in his futuristic explosion suit only makes his other decisions that much more baffling.
We're not even including his facial hair and choosing to date Gwyneth Paltrow.
First of all, Tony openly admits to being Iron Man on national television. As far as the law is concerned, he might as well have announced that he had been smuggling weapons to Chinese pirates for the past seven years, because both are violations of the same set of regulations. Remember, there's a reason Bruce Wayne keeps his Batman hobby a secret: He knows that what he's doing is illegal as shit, billionaire or not. But Tony proudly confesses his criminal activities several times in the middle of a congressional hearing, then hacks into a few government computers (also a crime) and walks out of the courtroom flashing deuces. It's like he's daring the government to throw him in federal prison for a decade.
"Worked for Nixon."
After insisting that the Iron Man suit isn't a threat to national security as long as it remains in his carefully guarded hands, Tony proceeds to torpedo his own argument in Iron Man 2 by using the armor to drunkenly endanger people's lives at his birthday party and then fly, hungover, to eat doughnuts on top of another, larger doughnut.
"It doesn't count as a DUI if you have access to wrist lasers."
His friend Rhodes, an Air Force colonel, shows up at the party to keep Tony from hurting anyone, and Tony goes out of his way to prove to a man who is both a close friend and a high-ranking government official just how little he can be trusted with the armor (the use of which, we can't stress enough, can land Tony in prison).
"I'm about to drop you so hard that you'll think you're Terrence Howard."
Then, Rhodes steals one of the Iron Man suits while Tony is too drunk to object, because apparently all you need to do to put on an Iron Man suit is stick one foot in each metal boot hole and strap it the fuck on. Tony could've at least put a bike lock on the damn thing. As it stands, his superweapon seems to have about as much security as a dusty old pickup truck. Any of the alcohol-soaked dumbasses who came to his party could have flown home with an Iron Man suit of their very own -- both Tony and the entire world are lucky it was Rhodes who wound up taking one instead of some 24-year-old trust fund douchebag from Malibu.
Then, in The Avengers, Tony builds a giant tower in the middle of New York City with his name on the side and zooms in and out of there in his unsanctioned murder costume on a regular basis. He even invites Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, an earthquake with fists who's currently sitting at the top of the international watch list, to come stay in the tower and help him build even more secret illegal technology.
"Between your rage and my alcoholism, the sky's the limit!"
It's like Tony is deliberately acting out every possible bullet point on a list of reasons why the government needs to confiscate his superhero suit and toss him in a jail cell, presumably one without smelting tools and a helpful fellow scientist.
Nick Fury is the master of timely reactions -- he put Agent Coulson on Tony Stark's case before Stark had even gotten around to building the Mark II armor, and he found Thor's hammer within hours of it landing in New Mexico. He scooped Captain America out of some ice and put him in a fake 1940s hospital room to keep the man from flipping out and punching people's heads off in time-displaced confusion, and he's been keeping close track of Bruce Banner's exact position on the globe. You can guarantee that the instant something gets superhero-y, Nick Fury will be there to glare at it and tell it cryptic riddles.
But as brilliant as his foresight is, Nick is unequivocally terrible at dealing with problems that are staring him directly in the face.
Uh, that's not an eye joke.
For example, look at how he deals with the whole Bruce Banner situation when it finally moves from "constant surveillance" to "coerced kidnapping." Nick Fury knows full well that Bruce is easily the most dangerous living thing on the planet, so in The Avengers he sends a pretty lady in to explain what's going on and try to convince Bruce to come along peaceably. However, the lady in question is Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), a world-class killer of men, and she has an entire team of technologically armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents backing her up in case Bruce gets upset and transforms into a rage-bellowing neutron bomb. That's a pretty safe plan, right?
They even brought light sabers. This is a great plan.
But what precautions does Fury take with Bruce once they've convince him to join the Avengers? Freaking none. When we first see Bruce on the Helicarrier, he's just wandering around, looking totally lost, and nobody is paying any attention to him.
In fairness, it's possible their "No Hulking" signs just hadn't arrived yet.
Remember, as far as anybody knows at this point in the film, Bruce can't control when he hulks out. That's why Nick Fury had that special cell built for him. However, Bruce is never in the same room as that cell. He doesn't even know it exists until Loki gets locked in it. The rest of the time, Bruce is left alone in a lab with a completely unarmored Tony Stark. Tony even deliberately tries to piss him off and trigger a Hulk suplex, and neither Fury nor anyone tasked with keeping an eye on Bruce is there to say anything about it.
* For more on Tony Stark's douchebaggery, check the previously entry, true believer!
Sure, Captain America yells at Tony, but as much as we love Cap, he absolutely cannot contain Bruce if the man has a sudden Hulkamania explosion. Nick Fury takes all these insane precautions to track Bruce Banner down and bring him in, but then forgets about him entirely once he's on board the multibillion-dollar flying aircraft carrier.
Even worse is the way Nick Fury handles Hawkeye (though in fairness, there is no good way to handle Hawkeye beyond simply denying that he exists). In the very first scene in The Avengers, Hawkeye gets brainwashed by Loki and shoots Nick Fury in the chest. Later, Hawkeye commandeers a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft and is able to fly right up next to the Helicarrier and blow up an engine before anyone even notices what he's up to.
The Galaga joke's funny until you realize that his high score probably cost dozens of co-workers their lives.
Fury knows there is a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. operative running around out there working side-by-side with Loki (getting shot in the chest isn't something that slips your mind), but he doesn't tell the crew of the Helicarrier to bolster their security protocols in case the dude shows up? He could've at least sent out a memo letting everyone know to watch out for bad guys pretending to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Instead, Hawkeye's ship gives some vague purpose for trying to dock with the Helicarrier and they wave him right on through, as if they do all of their security on the honor system.
In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner has to continuously evade the U.S. military while struggling to keep from transforming into a rippling green-muscled fury demon. His nemesis, General Thunderbolt Ross, is hell-bent on capturing him, seeing as how it was a top secret military program that turned Bruce into a radioactive supermonster in the first place, and if the story got out, it would make Ross and his buddies look like big-time assholes. Ross is so determined to keep the Hulk a secret that he sends a strike team in to try to collect Bruce without bothering to explain the man's propensity to suddenly mutate into a flexing horrorbeast. As far as the team knew, they were just swooping into a Brazilian ghetto to grab some nerd.
"Better pull up the hood on my bright orange shirt so as not to draw attention to myself."
However, Bruce escapes, and then midway through the film, General Ross tracks him down again and decides to send an entire armored battalion to blast him into submission. The problem? The location is a crowded university, in the middle of the day, in full view of the entire campus, to be replayed in an infinite loop on Headline News.
Bruce Banner is inside the university trying to talk to his girlfriend when Ross' fleet of tanks and Humvees comes crashing through the parking lot like the Cannonball Run -- note the civilian vehicles everywhere and the busy street behind them:
"Destroy everything if you have to -- we'll blame the Hulk!"
Dozens of heavily armed soldiers spill out and get into formation with weapons at the ready as if they are preparing to slay a medium-sized dinosaur ...
... and unleash hell with hundreds or thousands of innocent college kids in easy range of stray bullets and cannon shells:
"Damn hippies deserve what they get!"
At one point, a handful of soldiers even start firing teargas grenades into a glass-covered walkway connecting two of the campus buildings, which strangely winds up being the least dangerous thing they do:
Because at that point, Ross sends in a back-flipping super soldier with a grenade launcher ...
"I mostly base my plans of attack on old Nintendo games."
... and a freaking attack helicopter:
"Damn it, why aren't they blaring Ride of the Valkyries like I said at the briefing?"
All of which the Hulk destroys while college kids record the whole affair on their smartphones.
One of whom would apparently go on to play for the Bulls.
For whatever reason (perhaps due to the thrill of finally closing in on Bruce Banner), General Ross completely abandons his doctrine of extreme secrecy and blasts a campus apart in full view of camera crews and the entire student body, endangering the lives of innocent civilians in the process. The only way Ross could've handled the situation any worse is if he'd somehow managed to trap the Hulk inside a day care center that was in the middle of filming a reality show.