Prepare to let the speculation over the Marvel movie universe's future run rampant. With Iron Man 3 the first of the post-Avengers films, how it will lay the foundations for the rest of Marvel's cosmic properties has been a question asked by most fans of late.
Rumors have recently surfaced of Iron Man 3's final moments leading directly into the Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and the newest leaked concept art from the film promises not just a deep-space-expedition for Tony Stark, but much, much more.
Most of the speculation has been tied to the white and grey-themed Space Armor, leaked through Iron Man 3's accompanying toy lines (it's not the only leak, either). The newest concept art leaked (courtesy of CBM) offers a peek at the stellar armor that isn't fan made, but claims to be pulled from the film directly. On top of the Space Armor, a new design for a live-action Hulkbuster Armor presumably planned for Iron Man 3 has also arrived.
Whether both designs were scrapped, or Marvel is exceptionally skilled at keeping secrets, the designs speak for themselves:
The Space Armor is more than expected to be seen at some point in the film, since there's enough smoke to believe fire is brewing somewhere. How it will relate to the plot, and whether it was merely planned but ultimately cut are questions that only Marvel and Disney can answer (they won't). At this point, there's little else to say besides this armor being a slick design that we'd be more than happy to see in the films at some point.
The Hulkbuster Armor has our attention for far more reasons, not the least of which being the complete lack of any evidence that the Hulk will be appearing on screen soon, let alone this summer. Have a look at the new take on the classic armor below:
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The fact that there is no sign of Hulkbuster - or the crazed rage monster after which it's named - appearing in Iron Man 3 can be taken one of two ways: either disappointment at the idea that the Hulk won't be included in the proceedings, or a statement that Iron Man 3 doesn't need to feature the character, after Mark Ruffalo's performance as Dr. Banner/Hulk was one of the most widely- praised aspects of The Avengers' team-up. More praised than Marvel may have expected, perhaps?
Given Marvel's decision to use Iron Man 2 as the first major building block of the larger Avengers universe, it would make sense they'd attempt to do the same with Iron Man 3. But fans were lukewarm about Tony Stark's franchise being used in the past, and Marvel has apparently learned their lesson.
With the second crop of Marvel movies well underway, perhaps the studio has decided that each film is best left to stand on its own, at least until the potentially-cosmic Avengers 2. Or perhaps even more promising, Marvel may not be so convinced that the days of Hulk-based properties are completely over.
Much has been made of the rumors of "World War Hulk" or "Planet Hulk" being adapted into live-action films, possibly even after Thanos is dealt with in 'Phase Three.' We won't say that this leaked concept art lends any particular credence to Marvel's plans a decade down the road, but they've certainly shown that they've got a plan. Who knows: comic book fans might see a hunched-over Hulkbuster after all.
For the moment, we'd take these leaked concept designs as little more than a sign of what Marvel may have been considering in Iron Man 3's early stages of development. The Space Armor design holds more water, but with a Hulk-less immediate future being supported by nearly everyone involved at the studio, the odds of seeing the Hulkbuster Armor anytime soon are particularly slim.
So what do you think of the designs? Do they fit at home in the live-action universe than their comic book counterparts, or do you wish these armors stick to their original versions (if we see them at all)? Most importantly, does anyone know a good chiropractor Tony can visit after extended sessions in that Hulkbuster get-up?
Iron Man 3 releases May 3rd, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.