That title alone probably angered a large number of you. Your memory may have been sparked by this and shot you back to 2008, when you sat in that dark movie theater with your significant other, group of friends or just yourself (there’s nothing wrong with that). That very moment when you witnessed the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You were overjoyed with the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as he nailed the portrayal of billionaire tech genius Tony Stark. To you, Jon Favreau became a directing God by taking this character and propelling him to his highest levels of fame and popularity. And of course, you cheered at that moment where Tony dons his suit and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” blared through the theater’s enormous sound system. So, I understand that you may read the title to this article and view me as a disrespectful, blasphemous false prophet.
Stick with me on this. I mean no disrespect to that iconic song. However, if you break down Black Sabbath’s song and then break down AC/DC’s “Shoot To Thrill,” there is no denying which one leans more toward the essence and style of Mr. Stark. I hope by the end of this article, you will realize the truth that has been before you all this time: that the true Tony Stark theme is AC/DC’s “Shoot To Thrill,” not Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”.
First off, I will bring up the usage of both these songs in the Iron Man franchise. Of course, Black Sabbath’s track is used in the first film. The title alone grants it that privilege. Yet, where the tune helmed by the vocals of Ozzy Osbourne starts the series, it is the track that carries the screaming sounds of Brian Johnson that last throughout. The soundtrack to Iron Man 2 is a collection of classic and new songs by AC/DC. Moreover, not only is “Shoot To Thrill” used for the trailer and in the beginning of the film, when Tony makes his exciting entrance at the Stark Expo, but it is also featured two years later in The Avengers, blaring from the PA system on Tony’s suit as he aids Captain America in detaining Loki.
In both of these movies, “Shoot To Thrill” is not just background music for an entertaining scene. It is implied that Tony Stark has specifically chosen this song for these heroic arrivals, since the films go out of their way to show that cheerleaders are dancing to it as he arrives (Iron Man 2) and Tony using it on the telecom while speaking to Romanov (The Avengers).
See? Even Tony knows it.
Still not enough? Fine. A simple internet search for the lyrics and meanings of each song will make it even more apparent. Black Sabbath’s tune is about a man who goes to the future and witnesses the apocalypse and the extinction of man. As he returns to present time, a magnetic field turns him into a man made of iron, his mouth forced shut, making him unable to speak. People mock him over his appearance. Since he is unable to explain to them what he has seen, he becomes frustrated, angered and decides to take vengeance upon the human race, thus bringing about the apocalypse he witnessed.
A classic? Of course. One of the greatest heavy metal songs of all time? Easily a possibility, depending on who you ask. I’ll even admit there is a slight connection to Stark, regarding his need to protect people from the impending doom he feels the future holds. Yet, there is nothing else in the song that screams the style of the Genius/Billionaire/Playboy/Philanthropist; not the one I see on the big screen or in the pages of Marvel Comics.
As for “Shoot To Thrill,” simply take a look at the first verse:
“All you women who want a man of the street,
But you don’t know which way you want to turn,
Just keep a coming and put your hand out to me,
‘Cause I’m the one who’s gonna make you burn.”
Now, the chorus:
“Shoot to thrill, play to kill.
Too many women and too many pills,
Shoot to thrill, play to kill,
I got my gun at the ready, gonna fire at will”
These lyrics alone describe perfectly the essence of Tony Stark. He has an ego. He is a playboy. The pills can easily be substitutes for his history with alcohol. And of course, he has quite a thrill while flying in his suit, shooting away at his enemies. The connections continue into the second verse. The lines “I’m like evil, I get under your skin, just like a bomb that’s ready to blow” ring true throughout the character’s cinematic run. Whether it be Loki, Captain Rogers or Senator Stern, many have fallen victim to Tony’s incomparable ability to be that annoying prick that finds its way to poke at the right time.
Lastly, there is the tempo of these tracks. Black Sabbath’s track is slow-moving. It is a strolling song. It takes its time as it develops, but the tempo never gets too out of hand. Now, with AC/DC’s track, one can visualize Marks 2 through 43 streaming through the skies. The speed of “Shoot To Thrill” is perfectly aligned with the attack methods of Stark while he pilots his creations.
Basically, it is one of those badass songs to play while you are being a badass. Maverick has “Danger Zone”. Tony has “Shoot To Thrill”.
My statements speak for themselves. “Iron Man” will forever be a classic heavy metal song. It has gone down as one of the greats. However, just because it shares its name with Marvel’s wealthy Avenger, that does not mean it earns the title of being his theme song. It is not the name that matters here; it is the song’s feel and meaning. In the case of Tony Stark, he has womanizing tendencies mixed with a love for alcohol and the enjoyment of flying around, shooting energy beams out of his hands at his enemies, all while thinking up something funny to say. With that sort of an attitude, it is only logical to choose AC/DC’s “Shoot To Thrill” as the true Tony Stark theme.
- “The Azorean One” Anthony Esteves
of The Capeless Crusaders.