As the poster boy character for Marvel Studios and the first franchise to continue the Marvel cinematic universe post-Avengers, Iron Man 3 has a lot to live up to. Its predecessor Iron Man 2 is the weakest film in the series, but with a new director, higher expectations (and a higher budget), Iron Man 3 promises to kickstart Phase 2 of the franchise in a big way.
While Marvel President Kevin Feige and writer/director Shane Black describe the film as a standalone story, not weighed down by forced story threads for the next Avengers film, that certainly doesn't mean it won't contain plenty of connective tissues and/or new characters and details to be used in future Marvel films.
On the second episode of The Playlist's new podcast, writer Gabe Toro shared a pile of details regarding upcoming plans and ideas from Marvel Studios for the next several years, beginning with Iron Man 3 which launches next summer. All of what we will discuss further below can be considered:
Iron Man 3 has already begun shooting with returning cast members Robert Downey Jr. as the titular hero, Don Cheadle as a primary character in the War Machine armor, and Gwyneth Paltrow in a smaller role as Pepper Potts. The film also introduces a wide variety of new characters:
What Mr. Toro says is that Kingsley's character is definitely a version of The Mandarin as we've all suspected, and that S.H.I.E.L.D. is part of the film, much like it was on the original Iron Man. Instead of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) keeping an eye on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) this time around, it'll be Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) who was introduced this year in The Avengers as the right-hand of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
This wasn't always going to be the plan, apparently, and director Shane Black wanted Val Kilmer to play Al MacKenzie, a lesser-known S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/CIA liason from the Marvel Comics. You can see the obvious connection between Shane Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That would have been great casting, but Kilmer had scheduling conflicts.
As for William Sadler's role in the film, he was rumored to play Sal Kennedy, a friend of Tony Stark and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall's character), but according to The Playlist, he's instead playing a General who works with James Rhodes/War Machine.
Here's where we get to the really interesting stuff:
Before dropping out of the film, Andy Lau was cast to play a character described as a "good guy" scientist of sorts. That character will be a version of Chen Lu (Radioactive Man) from the books. In Marvel Comics, Chen Lu is a nuclear physicist for the People's Republic of China and a villain of Iron Man who works for The Mandarin. His abilities from exposure to radiation give him green-colored skin and the abilities to control radiation in various ways. I wouldn't expect all of that to show up in Iron Man 3, but do expect his connection with these characters to surface as well as his connection to... Ant-Man.
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In the books, Henry Pym (Ant-Man) fought Radioactive Man, defeating Lu and having him deported to China, but years later, when Lu had dropped his villainous roots to work with other superheroes, he and Pym worked together during the Marvel Civil War, building a prison for super-powered people.
The character may have a significant role that has him returning in future Marvel films, but for Iron Man 3, he may just show up in a special post-credits scene where Ant-Man is finally introduced. It's this after-credits scene that may be shot by Edgar Wright, the director who's been attached to Ant-Man for years and who has submitted several versions of its screenplay to Marvel, a script which is touted as being funny and exciting.
This scene is likely what Wright referred to when he told Empire and Slash Film that he hopes to be shooting something for Ant-Man this year.
"So as not to jinx things, I am going to remain spectacularly vague on this. Let’s just say I hope to shoot some Ant-Man & World’s End this year."
This scene would feature Ant-Man, possibly masked. That may depend on casting, and there's no word on that front. Seeing how Joss Whedon directed the post-credits button on Thor, which served as a lead-in to The Avengers, it makes sense to see Marvel doing the same with Edgar Wright on Iron Man 3 - and what better way to market a new, lesser-known character than with their biggest solo character franchise? This also lends credence to the idea that Ant-Man will join Captain America 2 as one of the 2014 Marvel Studios releases.
Let the speculation continue!
Iron Man 3 is currently shooting and is scheduled to hit theaters on May 3, 2013. Thor 2 comes later that fall and Captain America 2 the following spring.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
Source: The Playlist
Header image edited from art by buzzelliArt, Radioactive Man art by Marko Djurdjević.