"It tested well with focus groups, alright? Listen, 'War Machine' was a little aggressive, alright? This sends a better message," says James Rhodes in Iron Man 3 regarding the in-universe name change from "War Machine" to "The Iron Patriot."
Alongside this name change was a color pallette swap of Rhodey's Mark II suit, going from gunmetal gray to red, white, and blue. Perhaps to emulate a certain star-spangled super soldier who had recently returned from the ice?
A new Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in book, The Wakanda Files: A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond, has been released. It contains a treasure trove of in-universe details on characters and technologies from the MCU.
In the section of The Wakanda Files focusing on the War Machine suit, a document from the desk of United States President Ellis (played by William Sadler in Iron Man 3 ) is shown. This letter is intended to be sent to the US Defense Secretary.
The letter states that Ellis enacts an executive order sometime after the Battle of New York in The Avengers to rebrand War Machine to Iron Patriot. He cites "optics issues" surrounding the "vanguard on the frontlines protecting" the American people being labeled as a literal machine of war.
The same section of the book reveals that Rhodey's official title in the MCU is "US Air Force Weapons Procurement Liaison."
WHAT THIS MEANS
As cool as the name "War Machine" must sound to fans, from an in-universe perspective the rebranding that occurs in the third Iron Man solo movie makes perfect sense. In the wake of the catastrophic Chitauri invasion in New York, Americans in the MCU must have been extremely on edge.
Turning a superhero that fights in the name of the United States Air Force into something a little more neutral and patriotic-sounding would most likely go a long way to easing public stress.
Fans may recall that during the final battle of the Iron Man threequel, President Ellis is kidnapped by the evil Aldrich Killian and his Extremis-enhanced thugs. He's then strung up over an oil tanker set to explode while wearing none other than the Iron Patriot armor. Talk about bad PR.
It was most likely because of this event that the next time we see Rhodey in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron , he's back in the War Machine suit.