The term ‘bigger and better’ gets thrown around quite a bit, but Iron Man 3 is putting all the pieces into place to make the claim an accurate one. New suits, new love interests, and new antagonists all promise a finale bigger than The Avengers. And with the techno-virus-fuelled footsoldiers of the devious but still mysterious Mandarin, Tony’s going to need to rely on dozens of suits of armor to stand a chance.

But what about the people surrounding the Iron Man: his friends, confidants, and loved ones? Those characters take center stage in the newest Iron Man 3 featurette released from Marvel, with a few new clips of the film included to keep speculation going strong.

As the first follow-up film to The Avengers (2012), IM3 will be the first chance of seeing the impact that film’s events had on their favorite heroes; and believe us, they have had an effect. Loki’s attack on New York City has left Tony a changed man, so if there was any doubt that Marvel would be making previous films ‘required viewing’ going forward, they should be put to rest.

One thing this look behind-the-scenes emphasizes that hasn’t been seen in previous trailers or set photos is the role being played by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Specifically, the additional footage here proves that he may be needed for more than just comic relief this time around (perhaps a result of Favreau being no longer needed to direct.

The head of Tony Stark’s personal security has been a light task to this point (Stark is a superhero, after all) but with the stakes raised for both Tony and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Happy may end up holding either of their lives in his hands. Especially when Tony fins himself without the Iron Man armor. For starters, it’s his job to keep an eye on the relationship between Dr. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Pepper, the nature of which is still a bit of a mystery.

There’s no secret that Killian will play a central role as the mind behind the Extremis Virus (despite Pearce claiming otherwise in the past), but his plan for Pepper isn’t clear. Is it romantic? Professional? Or all part of some villainous plot? As Paltrow notes in the video, it was Robert Downey, Jr.’s insistence that has her playing a larger role in Iron Man 3, with Keven Feige now going so far as to say the movie is “all about” Pepper Potts.

Whether that’s the most reliable assessment or not, anyone who has been keeping up with the movie’s trailers and TV spots knows she’s getting to do things fans only wished she would. We still don’t know how Pepper factors into the Extremis storyline, but given Downey, Jr.’s enthusiasm for her character sharing a larger bulk of the film, it seems likely that the relationship between the two is what he finds, to use his words, “the most emotionally satisfying” of the three films.

It didn’t take long to realize that IM3 would be once again featuring Tony and his cohort Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle) doing their best verbal sparring, so it’s no surprise to hear that the two will be playing off one another throughout. That being said, Rhodey has long since proven his potency in combat – in the films themselves, not just comic book fans familiar with his career as War Machine.

After acquiring a set of Iron Man armor in Iron Man 2 and piloting it himself without hesitation, it only seemed right to see him receive a new paint job and moniker as Iron Man 3‘s ‘Iron Patriot.’ Again, trailers have regularly depicted Tony and Rhodey unarmored, so perhaps both will need to come to terms with the fact that their powers don’t originate in machinery.

The next extended look at Iron Man 3 will come at this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards. There’s been no word on which aspects of the film will take the spotlight, or if anything truly ‘new’ will be shown off. But rest assured we’ll keep you updated once that video drops.

For now, take a look at MTV’s sneak peek:

What Shane Black has in store for all the cast – and how their characters may motivate Tony’s lust for revenge – remains to be seen. Which characters are you most interested in seeing? And most importantly, do you buy Downey, Jr.’s claim that Iron Man 3 will be the high point of the series?

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

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Marvel, MTV