What we know so far about Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 may still be two years away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a few predictions about what to expect. Here’s James’ list of what we know so far…

The trailer for The Avengers might have brought together the likes of Samuel L Jackson, and the Chrises Evans and Hemsworth (aka Nick Fury, Captain America and Thor), but the star of the trailer – the one with the best lines, the best suits and the most awe-inspiring action shots – was undoubtedly Robert Downey Jr, whose performance as Tony Stark in Iron Man is still the benchmark for Marvel movies.

It was in the Iron Man movies that the prospect of Avengers was first floated. It was the first in which we saw Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, and in its sequel, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. Indeed, despite close links between Thor and Captain America’s continuity, Iron Man is the only Marvel Movieverse film to have its own dedicated sequel.

It’s safe to say that, for now, Iron Man is firmly at the centre of the most audacious action series ever attempted in cinematic history.Which is why, with The Avengers nearing completion every day, and Iron Man 3 already in development with a release planned for 2013, people want to know what’s next for Iron Man.

1. Shane Black will direct, Drew Pearce will write.

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After Favreau declined to return for Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr successfully lobbied for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black to get the job. Black’s resume as a screenwriter is strong, and while his directing career is just getting started, he’s already been entrusted with both the Iron Man and Death Note franchises, suggesting that he has the skills to back that up.

Meanwhile, script drafts have already been completed by Drew Pearce. Pearce’s comic book credentials were more than cemented by his ITV sitcom, No Heroics, which examined the “off duty” hours of a selection of British superheroes, and was replete with nods to Watchmen, Superman, and everything in between. Black, best known as a writer, has had nothing but vocal praise for Pearce – and if he’s confident, we see no reason not to be either.

2. The villain probably won’t be the Mandarin

Marvel fans who loved the nods towards the Mandarin in previous movies – the reference to the “Ten Rings” organisation, for example – may be disappointed to learn that despite Favreau’s interest in tackling the character, Black seems to want to move in a different direction, citing the cultural difficulties of using the Mandarin as his primary concern (the character was a 60s “Yellow Peril” type that Black has described, not unfairly, as a ‘racist caricature’).

This leaves the position of the film’s primary antagonist wide open. The use of Whiplash in Iron Man 2 probably precludes the appearance of the likes of the Crimson Dynamo or Titanium Man, if only to avoid the villain being a Cold War-type wielding Stark-inspired technology twice in a row.

HYDRA and/or AIM might be a possibility, as both offer the potential for faceless henchmen and science-inspired villains, although of the classic AIM/HYDRA villains, MODOK might prove too ridiculous a visual, while Baron Strucker is more of a Captain America antagonist.

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With that in mind, our best bet for Iron Man 3’s villain is Ezekiel Stane, the son of Obidiah and a Stark-level engineering genius in his own right. Perhaps paint him as the person responsible for creating some minor tech-themed criminals, such as Blizzard, Whirlwind or The Ghost, and there’s a story for Iron Man right there.

Or maybe they’ll just go with Fin Fang Foom, the giant talking dragon from another planet. We can but hope.

3. No “Demon in a Bottle”

One of Iron Man’s most well-known storylines saw the character descend into alcoholism, losing control of his company and armour in the process. Although previous films have shown the occasional crack appearing in Stark’s playboy lifestyle, Black admits that Iron Man 3 won’t bring the story to the fore just yet.

This suggests that a straight adaptation of a comic arc isn’t a likely prospect. For all Iron Man’s success as a character in the Marvel Universe, his own storylines are largely quite weak. Once you get away from Demon In A Bottle, Stark’s most famous stories either involve characters who are tied up elsewhere (such as his strong role in Marvel’s Civil War), a lot of magic (such as the time-travelling Doomquest epic), or some hard sci-fi that might not translate well to the screen (such as Warren Ellis’ Extremis).

Details are still scarce, but if we had to put money on any story influencing the content of Iron Man 3, we’d go with either Matt Fraction’s The Five Nightmares (in which Stark faces Ezekiel Stane for the first time) or Layton and Michelinie’s Armor Wars (in which Stark sets out to retrieve his misused technology from friends and enemies alike).

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Still, if Marvel and Black wanted to surprise people, they could always go with Joe Quesada’s Mask In The Iron Man, in which Stark’s armour comes to life after being hit by lightning during a millennium bug crash and essentially becomes his jealous lover. Er, yeah. Probably not.

4. Sidekicks, and plenty of ‘em

In a Q&A at the Long Beach Comic Con, Black confirmed that both Paltrow and Cheadle would be back for the next film, which means that a return for War Machine is practically a lock as well. Could Potts also get her own suit of armour as in the comics? Probably not – it’s a bit too early for the film version of the character to go there just yet – but the seeds could well be planted. It’s also a safe bet that we’ll get to see the deadpan styling of Clark “Agent Coulson” Gregg at least one more time as well (assuming he survives Avengers…)

More intriguingly, when asked if Johansson would return as the Black Widow in Iron Man 3, Black instead preferred to dodge the question, pretending he’d have to check the screenplay. It may be that he was just trying to avoid giving out any details that might break Iron Man 3’s confidentiality – but it’s just as likely that he can’t say yes because of something bigger. For instance, something that might spoiler Avengers.

Black has already said that Iron Man 3 will be relatively light on Avengers references, just to keep the series from becoming a reference-fest – but what if the reason he can’t mention Johansson is because she’s actually going to switch sides during Avengers? The Black Widow was originally an Iron Man villain, and while the movie version has only been a hero so far, there’s a chance – if not a huge one – that her Avengers love story with Hawkeye might be upset when she reveals her status as a double agent.

After all, the course of true love doesn’t run smooth. If that’s the case, Iron Man 3 would be the perfect place to tie up the loose end, allowing Stark to track her down and bring her in.

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It’s nothing but speculation, we admit, but it’s at least possible. At this point, we’re unlikely to get any firmer details about Iron Man 3 until next year, in the wake of The Avengers.

Whatever happens, the other Marvel movies have set a high standard, and as the first post-Avengers film from Marvel Studios, Iron Man 3 has a double the weight on its shoulders. Good job they’re reinforced…

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