New-to-the-franchise director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) will steer the Iron Man series in a darker direction according to the 20 minutes of Iron Man 3 footage Disney recently screened for journalists - in conjunction with interviews with Black, star Robert Downey Jr., and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige.
WARNING - THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTION CONTAINS MILD IRON MAN 3 SPOILERS!
The footage builds on the already-grim first trailers, which show a post-Avengers Tony Stark confessing to insomnia and guilt. He's clearly rattled by his near-death experience riding an atomic bomb out to space, as well as the uncomfortable revelation that he's possibly outranked on earth by superheroes who don't need his sweet armor.
“He used to think he was the top s--t,” said Downey Jr. at the event. “His solution is to keep building new suits.” His latest invention gets a lot of play in the chunk Disney showed of the film: a suit that comes when he calls it like the world's coolest guard dog - and his new super-threads proved their worth in the sequence we saw. Feige introduced the reel with this set-up: new villain The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has nearly killed Col. Rhodey (Don Cheadle), triggering an angry Stark to publicly dare the Mandarin to attack him next—and then, of course, Stark can't make himself shut up and reveals his home address.
The Iron Man 3 footage starts with Dr. Maya Hansen (The Town star Rebecca Hall) arriving unannounced at Stark's Malibu mansion with some crucial information she never gets a chance to reveal. The first distraction is Tony awkwardly cracking jokes about their past romantic dalliance in front of an unflappable Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The second distraction is Pepper elbowing into the conversation to urge Tony to pack a bag in case the Mandarin actually attacks. And then the third, of course, is the attack: helicopters blitz the seaside home with missiles, Pepper accidentally summons Tony's new suit and saves him and Maya from the crumbling house, and then Tony wrests control of the suit to fly back inside and destroy the rest of his outfits so the Mandarin can't get his hands on his weaponry.
There's a cool shot of Stark taking out a helicopter with a grand piano, which is almost as great as John McClane destroying one with a cop car in Live Free or Die Hard. But things don't end well. Before Stark can escape, the mansion slides off the cliff and spills into the water—the ending image of the initial US trailer. A weakened Stark barely manages to get freed from the cables by pulling a cool move called The Gauntlet, where his suit disengages its own hand to pull itself out of its snares. Picture a super-strong Thing from The Addams Family saving the day. Before Stark passes out unconscious, he asks JARVIS to fly him to safety, and manages to slip away unnoticed by the Mandarin's minions and Pepper and Maya.
Stark comes to in a frozen field five miles outside of Rose Hill, North Carolina (which, side note, happens to be the site of the world's largest frying pan). JARVIS is out of juice, which puts our cocky hero in the tough position he secretly craves: he's forced to be Iron Man without his Iron Man. The image of Stark, naked and vulnerable, dragging the dead weight of his heavy suit behind him in the snow is instantly iconic.
He lumbers to a rural farmhouse and breaks into a workshop conveniently littered with gadgets that can probably help him rebuild. After calling Pepper and leaving the apology message heard in the trailers, he's surprised by a young kid named Harley (Ty Simpkins of Insidious), armed with a potato gun, who shows Stark a newspaper declaring him dead. The kid's one of those blonde, bubbly moppets, but the sweetness of the scene is undercut by the best joke in the footage. When Harley sighs that his father ditched him and his mom, Stark snaps, “Dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it.”
The footage ends with a quick taste of Kingsley's Mandarin as he readies to go on TV. His slick PR handler Guy Pearce is buzzing about before the broadcast—“No talking, no eye contact unless you want to get shot in the face,” he cautions the PAs and assorted goons—and the camera pans over to show our stern villain perched on a throne between two carved Chinese dragons, his gray hair and beard dominating the frame. Alas, he doesn't open his mouth, but there's a taste of his delivery in the trailers when he rasps, “Lesson number one: Heroes? There is no such thing.”
Of course, it's all but ordained that Stark will convince humanity that the Mandarin is wrong. The real question is: How dark will Black let things get before Stark sets things right? The kid subplot could be too cutesy if it goes on too long - but so far, Iron Man 3 looks to at least tie back to the bleakness of the opening cave scenes in the first film—which is appropriate, as Stark's captors were the Mandarin's Ten Rings terrorist group.
The second question is: Do audiences want an agonized Iron Man, or do they like him brusque and confident?
Be sure to also check out:
- New Iron Man 3 Trailer
- Iron Man 3 Extended Footage Preview
- Robert Downey Jr. Talking about his future as Tony Stark
- Word on the NEW version of The Mandarin we'll see in the film
- Our Iron Man 3 armor guide
The answer to that won't come until Iron Man 3 opens on April 25th (internationally) and May 3th (domestically).