We here at Screen Rant have long speculated about the direction that “Phase 2″ of the Marvel Movie Universe would take. We always expected to see a divergence of sorts, with half of the Marvel movies dealing with the more real-world threats of terrorist organizations and Earthly villains – while the other path would take us into the cosmos, as otherworldly heroes battled space baddies.

It remains to be seen if Thor 2 will have the Thunder God’s head in the clouds or trying to be part our world, but Iron Man 3 has obviously been going the real-world threat route, and today, new set photos reveal the presence of a longtime staple of the Marvel universe, which will be included in writer/director Shane Black’s (Lethal Weapon) threequel.

i09 received some new Iron Man 3 set photos that were shot at particularly interesting location being prepped for a scene. Check out one of the photos below:

In the comics, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) is one of the longtime evil organizations of the Marvel Universe. Its origins date back to WWII, when evil Nazi leader Baron Wolfgang von Strucker created A.I.M. as a second branch of HYDRA (the organization run by Red Skull in Captain America). As the acronym would suggest, A.I.M.’s focus is technology: the organization is known for recruiting top minds in business, math, mechanics and science (Master’s Degree or Ph.D required!), and then, using that intellect for evil purposes. Most fans know A.I.M. to be the creators of MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) – an artificially mutated scientist, transformed into a big-headed, part-psychic, part-computer, life form.

Judging by this Iron Man 3 set photo, however, A.I.M. is less likely to be a clandestine organization of nerd terrorists led by MODOK, than an actual corporation that rivals Stark Industries. Given what we know about the IM3 storyline – which is based on the famous “Extremis” miniseries – I wouldn’t be surprised if Guy Pearce’s character, geneticist Aldrich Killian, is working at A.I.M. The assumption is that it will be Killian – possibly backed by Ben Kingsley’s shadowy villain character – who releases a nanotech virus that transforms several individuals into deadly cyborgs – thus giving Tony Stark a new breed of enemy to combat, while setting up A.I.M. as a not-so-wholesome place. For now though, this is all pure speculation.

Head over to i09 for more set photos – and note the Christmas decorations on that adjacent tree. The holiday has been a running theme in at least four of Shane Black’s films.

Iron Man 3 will be in theaters on May 3, 2013.

Source: i09