The third installment of Marvel’s Iron Man is almost here (and blessedly, it’s not called Iron Man: The Ironing, just Iron Man 3). Are you ready for May 3? Let’s find out. Warning: Potential spoilers may follow!
The plot of Iron Man 3 draws heavily from “Extremis,” the 2005-2006 Marvel comics storyline by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov that provided Tony Stark with the backstory used in 2008’s Iron Man. Stark will encounter a technology called Extremis, developed by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), that sends nanobots into the body and, in the case of our hero, turns him into a cyborg. Instead of just being the “man in a suit,” he comes out of his ordeal as part man, part armor.
In Iron Man 3, Stark’s new nemesis Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) plans to use Extremis to his own evil ends. Not everyone can survive being infected with nanobots, and if Mandarin releases Extremis as a bio-weapon, some people will develop incredible mental and physical abilities, but large portions of the population will die. To fight against Mandarin’s army, Iron Man will need to use all of his newly enhanced armor at once.
Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce): Brilliant geneticist, Extremis creator, and suave-looking dude with “ulterior motives.” Pearce hasn’t given too many hints as to his character’s motivations. “Killian heads a brain-trust organization called AIM that is developing Extremis, which is something that taps into human DNA and is able to reprogram it and regenerate limbs and enhance strength and cure wounds,” Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently explained. “But it also could change the whole world, which is what Killian intends to do with it.”
Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall): Director Shane Black describes Dr. Maya Hansen, co-inventor of Extremis, as “the female Tony Stark.” As Stark’s friend, she brings him in to help when the Extremis virus is stolen — but she turns out to have ulterior motives.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley): In Stan Lee’s original conception, The Mandarin is a brilliant Chinese scientist hell-bent on taking over the world. He is in possession of 10 rings, each of which has different powers. We got our first reference to Mandarin’s existence in the Iron way back in 2008’s Iron Man, where “The Ten Rings” appears as a terrorist group. We’ve yet to see Mandarin using his rings in any of the trailers or television spots; he has stretched out his fingers menacingly, but that’s about it. When Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau was beginning development of a third film (before Black took over), he said the Mandarin “has 10 magical rings — that doesn’t feel right for our [franchise] … so it’s either tech-based, or the rings are not really rings.” It’s also unclear whether the film will stick to the Chinese origins of the Mandarin’s character.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.): In the trailers, Tony Stark tells us that he “can’t sleep,” and that after New York (presumably the events of The Avengers), everything is different. If you’re worried he’s going to be somehow subdued this film, never fear: By the time Stark confronts the Mandarin, he’s giving out his address and offering to come pick up his opponent’s cold, dead body.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Meanwhile, the film is also set to explore the relationship between Pepper Potts and Tony Stark. Pepper even gets to wear a suit (not the white one in the trailer, the armored one). This is possibly the most interesting development of an Iron Man character. From the mild, almost timid, woman in Iron Man, Pepper has developed into one of Tony Stark’s fiercest allies.
James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle): Stark’s best friend and Air Force liaison also has a more prominent role this time around, donning red-white-and-blue “Iron Patriot” armor. “Tony has let Rhodey have this suit,” Feige explained. “He’s using it in conjunction with the U.S. government. So, at the beginning of Iron Man 3, we see that the President has asked Rhodey as War Machine to get a new paint job and take on the new moniker of the Iron Patriot in order to do American business and be the American hero as opposed to The Avengers or Iron Man himself, who is sort of a separate entity. … In a way it becomes a buddy action film, in the third act, where they team up. Neither of them have a suit at a certain point in the movie and they really team up in a great, sort of old- fashioned action movie way and Don and Robert have such an amazing rapport.”
Iron Man 3 opens May 3.