Rhodes is described as a "soldier with a conscience". He doesn't inherently want to kill, however, if he is attacked, or has no other option he will. Though the toll of which will weigh on his mind. Due to his time in the United States Armed Forces, Rhodes is a distinguished officer in his ranks and committed to his duties; his responsible nature tends to put him in conflict with Tony. Their friendship can also become complicated due to their differing attitudes, especially when Tony shows no respect for the law and the government, which Rhodes tries to balance out between his duties and friendship with Tony.
- Expert Hand-To-Hand Combatant: Rhodes is extremely skilled in unarmed combat.
- Skilled Pilot: Rhodes is skilled in piloting most types of aircraft.
- Weapons Proficiency: Rhodes is extremely skilled in the use of military weaponry; such as small arms.
Rhodes uses a modified Iron Man armor to become War Machine. The armor allows him to fly and contains various weapons for battle. The armor is more heavily armored and equipped than Stark's. Prior to its weaponization, the armor was sufficient enough to battle the Mark IV armor. The War Machine armor is the only other powerful suit next to the Iron Man armor.
- Flight: The armor can reach speeds as Mach 3 in moments. It is equipped with non-weapons grade repulsor based flight stabilizers that theoretically reach speeds of Mach 8 similar to the Mark IV's flight stabilizers. It was able to keep up with the Mark VI during the battle over the Stark Expo and catch Iron Man off-guard and tackled him into the Oracle building.
- Strength: Rhodes in the armor is capable of lifting 30 tons or more due to the fact that it is more heavily armored than Stark's.
- Armor System: The armor has remote assistance and a holographic HUD, with cellphone and computer connections in the helmet. The armor is powered by a miniature arc reactor and has an on-board generator for emergencies. The scanner systems are capable of scanning the environment, weather conditions, and equipment for information. The armors also have variable control surfaces for active flight control.
- Durability: The armor is made of a solar-charged carbon-composite-based external plating armor, and has a chest-plate protecting the arc reactor. It can withstand tremendous amounts of punishment, including the Mark IV.
- Self-Contained Life-Support System & Environmental Protection: The armor can be completely sealed for operations in vacuum or underwater, providing its own life support, and is shielded against radiation.
- Repulsors: A particle beam weapon in the palm gauntlets. Can repel physical and energy-based attacks.
- Unibeam: A powerful Repulsor beam.
In addition to the physical capabilities and various weaponry it already possesses, it also utilizes laser-guided munitions. On the right shoulder, there is an M134 7.62mm minigun that can extend or retract in or out of its "cup". On the left shoulder, there is a bunker buster Sidewinder missile. Each wrist supports twin 9mm Claridge Hi-Tec semi-automatic pistols. The 5.56x45mm FN F2000 was ideal for mounting inside of the gauntlets due to the unique way it discharges spent casings out the front. Custom feeds send the rounds directly into the gun, eliminating the standard 30-round magazine.
Rhodes attended an awards ceremony to present an award to Tony for his work, but Stark did not come. Then Rhodes gives the award to Tony's business partner, Obadiah Stane. He later finds Tony playing in a casino. The next day, Tony and Rhodes travel to Afghanistan to present the Jericho missile. After the presentation he congratulates Tony for the great job he did, Rhodes asks him to accompany him but Tony decides to travel alone.
Months later, Rhodes together a group of soldiers found Tony wandering in the desert, he is happy to have found his friend alive. Shortly after, Rhodes was present when Tony in a press conference decided to close the Stark Industries' weapons manufacturing division. Later, Tony visits Rhodes, he asks to join him on a new project but Rhodes is not happy last attitudes of Stark. After a mysterious object attacks a terrorist group, Rhodes contacts Tony to ask him if he was not involved in that. Despite deny at first, Tony admits that he is the mysterious object.
The next day, Rhodes gives a press conference explaining what happened yesterday. He later finds Tony dying. Tony gets his old Arc Reactor with Rhodes' help. When Tony puts his suit to fight Obadiah, he sees the Mark II and turns his head saying "Next time, baby". Days later, Rhodes was present when Tony declared himself as Iron Man.
Iron Man 2
Six months after Tony Stark declared himself as Iron Man, Tony was summoned to a hearing with the Senate. Colonel James Rhodes is also summoned to the hearing. He is used by the Senate to get Tony hand over the Iron Man armor to the US Government. Later, Tony gets drunk on his birthday because he knew he was dying because of Palladium. Annoyed by his behavior, Rhodes puts the Mark II to stop Tony, who was wearing the Mark IV. After the battle, Rhodes flies back to the airbase.
He was present when Justin Hammer weaponizes the Mark II converting it into War Machine. During the presentation of the Hammer Drones, Vanko takes control of War Machine in an attempt to kill Tony. Rhodes regain control over his armor with the help of Agent Romanoff. As regained control over War Machine, Rhodes uses it to help Iron Man to fight against the Drones.
After defeating the Drones, he and Tony had to confront Vanko, who had improved his armor. The friends defeat Whiplash and Rhodes decides to keep the suit. Days later, Tony and Rhodes are awarded medals for their bravery.
- “Iron Patriot is on the job!”
- ―James Rhodes[src]
Shortly after the Chitauri invasion of New York City, Rhodes's War Machine suit was rebranded into the Iron Patriot by A.I.M.. Rhodes and Tony were having drinks at a bar whilst discussing the new paint job of the War Machine and the threat of the Mandarin. However, this discussion was cut short when Tony had an anxiety attack and left in his suit.
Much later after Tony went missing after another Mandarin attack and a third Mandarin broadcast, Rhodes was ordered to a possible broadcast source, only to find villagers. Whilst there, Rhodes was contacted by Tony who asked for his log in details, his log in which Rhodes hesitantly gave to Tony. Later Rhodes followed another possible Mandarin broadcast source only to find another false lead. As the villagers thanked Rhodes, one woman crippled the suit using Extremis.
Rhodes later woke up in the Mandarin's lair as numerous engineers attempted to cut Rhodes out of the suit to no avail. Eventually, Aldrich Killian came and used his Extremis powers to break Rhodes out. Once out Rhodes punched Eric Savin and tried to run only to be stopped by Killian's fire breath and Savin rendering him unconscious. Rhodes later woke up to find Tony running through the facility with his newest suit and that Savin had stolen the Iron Patriot suit. Tony then lead Rhodes upstairs to the Mandarin who turned out to be a drunken British actor named Trevor Slattery just posing as Mandarin for Killian so he could get rich from the supply of the Extremis product. Also that the vice president was involved.
Later, Rhodes and Tony using Trevor's speed boat contacted Vice President Rodriguez and warned him about the threat and the danger to the president whom Rodriguez promised to have Ellis alerted (but was really also working with Killian too). Later Rhodes witnessed Tony saving the President's assistants ejected from the plane by Savin saved by Tony's remote-controlled suit. After this, Rhodes and Tony using just pistols, lead an attack on a dock area where Killian was. After being discovered early, Tony called for his Iron Legion to appear. Rhodes requested one but the suits were only encoded to Tony, forcing Rhodes to go after the president without a suit. Rhodes eventually discovered Ellis trapped in the Patriot suit above an oil tanker and freed him. After recovering his suit, Rhodes flew Ellis out of the area.
Later after Killian was defeated, Rhodes returned to his original duties and witnessed the arrest of Rodriguez. Much later he also witnessed Dr. Wu remove the shrapnel from Tony's chest in surgery, making Tony free to never again worry about heart trouble.
Rhodes attended to the party of the Avengers at Avengers Tower. During the party, he told a funny anecdote to Thor and Tony, though the two of them did not amuse. Later at the party, Rhodes told the same story to other guests, who found funny the anecdote. When the party ended, Rhodes unsuccessfully tried to lift Mjølnir with Tony Stark using a gauntlet of the War Machine Armor. When a scrapped robot known as Ultron awakened from Tony's lab and starts to attack the Avengers, Rhodes helps his allies and got knocked out of the window, but safe thanks to the bridge on the floored part of the tower. The next day, Rhodes and others discussed the events of the night before, as Stark revealed that he created Ultron to save the world.
When Nick Fury calls most of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel to help the Avengers against Ultron, Rhodes is summoned and utilizes the War Machine Armor to assist the team in evacuating the civilians from the battle area within the half of Sokovia that Ultron's been set and use it to destroy humanity. During the battle, Rhodes said that if he survived would have a new story to tell.
A year after the Battle of Sokovia, After an incident in Lagos, Nigeria where Scarlet Witch indirectly killed many Wakandan workers and innocents. The United Nations created the Sokovia Accords a legal document approved by the United Nations to monitor the activities of The Avengers and enhanced individuals, Thunderbolt Ross now secretary of state arrived at the New Avengers Facility to present the Accords which James was present at, along with his teammates Captain America, Black Widow, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon.
His friend, Tony Stark was also present. After Ross, left allowing the Avengers to discuss it among themselves Rhodes sided with his friend Tony Stark who supported the governments' oversight feeling guilty for his creation of Ultron. Rhodes agrees and argues with Stark, Romanoff, and Vision against Steve Rogers, Maximoff, and Wilson. Rhodes later signed the Accords along with Romanoff, Stark, and Vision.
When the police located Bucky Barnes, Rhodes in his new suit that Stark made for him sometime after the Battle of Sokovia, arrived subsequently as the police did to take Captain America, Sam Wilson, Black Panther, and Winter Soldier in custody also shocked at the revelation that the Black Panther was T'Challa.
Rhodes, accompanied Stark, Black Widow, Black Panther, Vision, and Spider-Man to take in Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Rogers however refused and used Ant-Man to steal back the shield and make their escape, with Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch acting as backup. A battle broke out between Iron Man's team and Captain America's team in the airport, and while Ant-Man fought Black Widow, War Machine armed himself with an electrified baton and prepared to fight against Captain America, also with the assistance of Black Panther.
During the fight, Captain America knocked War Machine out of the sky, destroying his baton. As the fight continued, War Machine regrouped with Black Panther and Black Widow and faced off against Captain America and Ant-Man, who used one of the Pym Particles Disks to force an entire truck at the group. Although the others managed to dodge out of the way, War Machine was hit with the full force of the exploding truck, however his War Machine Armor protected him Rhodes was pissed. War Machine joined his allies and once Vision had blocked their path, stood in defiance against Captain America and his team which consisted of Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Bucky Barnes. Rogers refused to back down.
War Machine is attacked by Giant-Man chasing Falcon through the air, War Machine came close to catching up with the former Avenger, until to his surprise, Ant-Man used his Suit to transform himself into Giant-Man, grabbing War Machine out of the air as everybody looked on in amazement. War Machine was then thrown across the battlefield before he was caught by Spider-Man who managed to save him.
War Machine fires his weapons at Giant-Man, War Machine joined forces with Spider-Man and Iron Man in their attempts to stop Giant-Man's rampage as he caused chaos across the battlefield, with War Machine unleashing all of his non-lethal weapons, including the Stark Sonic Cannon, to try and slow him down. Eventually, Spider-Man had an idea to beat Giant-Man, taking inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back and tied up Giant Man's legs before War Machine and Iron Man before hit him in the jaw and caused him to fall down and crash land hard on the ground.
War Machine attacks the Scarlet Witch while they were distracted however, Captain America and the Winter Soldier were escape to the Quinjet and escape. Although the Vision had sent a blast to destroy a tower and block their path, Scarlet Witch used her own power to hold it up and assist in their escape attempt. War Machine unleashed the Sonic Cannon on Scarlet Witch, causing her great agony and then forcing her to drop the tower.
Cap and Barnes manage to escape in the Quinjet despite Stark and Rhodes best efforts, due to Romanoff's betrayal as Stark and Rhodey chase the jet by air they are also followed by Falcon which Rhodes then contacts Vision who has him to knock Falcon out of the sky. However, He gets caught in a misfire when Vision targets Falcon but misses him and hits his arc reactor instead, making his armor disarm and he plummets to the ground, despite Iron Man and Falcon's efforts to save him.
After the affair, Tony builds him a device to help him walk again, but Rhodes displays difficulty adapting to it, while Stark is helping Rhodes a FedEx driver who is delivering a package to Stark accidentally calls him Tony Stank much to Rhodes' amusement.
When Spider-Man was participating in the Avengers Civil War on Iron Man's fraction to bring in Captain America. He also filmed scenes with War Machine when he, Stark, Romanoff, and Panther confronted Rogers to bring him in. He was also seen when Scott Lang became Giant-Man and caught War Machine in the air, which Parker taped.
Rhodes joins the fight to prevent Thanos from assembling the Infinity Stones in order to wipe out half of the population of the universe. He fails, and as Thanos performs a fingersnap that exterminates half the population of the universe, Rhodes survives, watching in horror as his friends turn into dust.
Rhodes is surveying the carnage left behind in the wake of Thanos' fingersnap, when he is suddenly confronted by Captain Marvel.
Rhodes joins the rest of the surviving heroes in traveling back in time to collect the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet. After Hulk/Bruce Banner uses the Infinity Gauntlet to undo the snap and bring everyone back to life, Rhodes joins the other heroes in their fight against Thanos and his army of Chitauri, Outriders and the Black Order.
In "Iron Man is Born", Tony goes to his house, Rhodes accompanies him and tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only who should fight giant robots. Arriving Pepper informs Tony that HYDRA is attacking the United Nations, Rhodes says Tony to be careful. While Iron Man fought against HYDRA Robots, Pepper was concerned about Tony but Rhodes tells Tony's armor is indestructible but Pepper is not concerned about the armor but for Tony. After the battle, Tony informs Rhodes that S.H.I.E.L.D. stole his technology.
In "Alone Against AIM", Rhodes meets Black Panther and Captain America (Skrull), who went to Stark Industries to take the Iron Man armors and carry them to the Avengers Mansion. Suddenly they were attacked by AIM scientists. Captain America (Skrull) asks him to puts the War Machine armor because they were outnumbered. Rhodes puts his armor and easily defeat the AIM scientists.
In "New Avengers", As the Avengers were erased from the timeline by Kang; War Machine alongside Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Thing, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage were recruited by Iron Man to be the New Avengers. They try to stop Kang but they fail in their attempt. Spider-Man then suggests that everyone should work together; others agree with the idea. Eventually the Avengers return to their timeline after Spider-Man stops the time machine of Kang.
- In order to play the part of Rhodes, Marvel made Terrence Howard go through extensive military flight training, which Howard enjoyed. However, he never appears flying a jet in the finished film, making all of his training a waste.
- Terrence Howard did not reprise his role in the second film because negotiations had broken down with Marvel. Howard, because he was the first person cast in Iron Man, had received the highest pay out of all the actors in the film, and Marvel had wanted to decrease his pay for the sequel. Howard, however, disagreed, and left the role. Cheadle was quickly contacted to replace Howard, and had only a few hours to accept or decline the role.
- His rank changes from Lt. Col. to just Col. in the films, possibly have gotten a promotion between after the events of Iron Man 2 and before the events of Iron Man 3.
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