|“Iron Man 2” opens May 7|
Marvel Studios President and “Iron Man 2” producer Kevin Feige sat down with CBR News last Friday to recall the early development of “Iron Man 2,” working with the continuity, and the future of Marvel Studios.
Considering the goals going into the second Iron Man film, Feige reflected on the expectations of the first film. “The expectations on the first movie were high among comic fans who loved Iron Man, who loved Tony Stark and who knew the potential that it had, but among mainstream audiences, people were calling him the B-Team or the B-Level,” Feige told CBR. Of course, the success of that first film changed Iron Man’s status all over the world. “This time around, that’s not the case. That was a big shift. As we spent most of the summer after the release of the first ‘Iron Man’ film working on the story for ‘Iron Man 2,’ we spent a lot of time going, ‘Well, what are the expectations? What do people want to see?’ Frankly, we finally said, ‘Forget that, that’s not how we made the first movie.’ We made the first movie saying, ‘Here are the comics. Here are the elements we love from the comics. What story do we want to proceed on? It wasn’t the easiest task.”
The concept the filmmakers settled on: “Essentially, Tony Stark going from somebody who doesn’t accept help and thinks he can do everything on his own to where those guys have to intervene with Rhodey [as War Machine] at the end,” Feige explained.
Choosing a principle villain was a difficult process for the creators of “Iron Man 2.” “We did a list of the characters; a list of his villains,” Feige began. “Crimson Dynamo is one of the coolest and Whiplash was one of the goofiest, but we have an amazing artist named Ryan Meinerding who works for us. We gave him Whiplash and we said, ‘How would you make this cool?'” While Meindering went to work on designing the character, Whiplash’s place in the story came into shape. “We were developing this notion that the RT — the Arc Reactor technology — gets into other peoples’ hands and that other people start to use it. They can’t all make a perfect Iron Man suit. There’s a great line in the first movie. Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Staine says, ‘Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave with a box of scraps.’ We thought what if somebody else — where other governments and other militaries had been unable to do it — what if there was some Russian grease-monkey, essentially, who had the plans and could figure it out?”
|Scene from “Iron Man 2”|
At that point, the story ideas and designs meshed. “The genius of what Ryan drew with the armature and the notion that he can’t quite build repulsers but he channels them in ‘ionized plasma channels’ — it just started to look cool and Whiplash went from being one of the goofiest into Mickey frickin’ Rourke,” Feige remarked.
While “The Avengers” is planned as a culmination of this first cycle of Marvel films, Feige said there was no temptation to bring the characters or more of a S.H.I.E.L.D.-focused plot into “Iron Man 2.” “We wanted to bring Nick Fury in, as well as the things that are just hinted at in the first film, to the forefront a little bit,” he explained. “Essentially, the movie being about Tony Stark uncovering this bigger world that Nick Fury hinted at the end credits of the first movie and making it more relevant. “
The development of “Iron Man 2” is intertwined with that of the other Marvel films leading up to “The Avengers.” According to Feige, the cycle was as much about the will to make films with those characters as much as it is to bring them all together in one film. “We knew we wanted to make a Thor movie. We knew we wanted to make a Captain America movie. And we knew that ‘The Avengers’ could be a big team movie from Marvel Studios,” Feige said. He credits Nick Fury’s appearance at the end of the first “Iron Man” as a sign the plan would work. “After ‘Iron Man 1’ came out and it was as successful as it was, people really responded quickly to the Nick Fury tag at the end credits — much faster than I anticipated. I always expected fans to [do so], I didn’t expect the mainstream press and the mainstream audience to latch onto that idea.”
The producer said the sequence of films is a deliberate choice to give each character a debut. “[‘The Avengers’] comic was not about five new heroes you’ve never seen before just forming a team. It was about five heroes you’ve seen, whose comics you’ve liked, teaming up together for the first time,” Feige explained. “The fun for us in an Avengers movie is not just simply having the characters interact together and having to introduce them for the first time, but if you’ve already seen them and already know them, hopefully, you’ll already like them and see how their heroism and how their dynamics change entirely when they’re butting up against each other.”
|Scene from “Iron Man 2”|
“Iron Man 2” director Jon Favreau previously stated a cliffhanger ending was not possible because the next film in the sequence is “The Avengers.” Continuity of this sort is a new concept in films and Feige said there is enthusiasm for the concept amongst the individual projects. “I think that for the most part, everyone is handling it very well. I think people are excited by this notion that they’re all working on the bigger pieces of something,” he said. “The bigger pieces aren’t ‘Avengers’ necessarily. ‘The Avengers’ is one of those pieces. The bigger piece is all of these films together once they’ve all been produced and being able to watch them all and see new things.”
Returning to the notion of cliffhanger endings, Feige stated, “Even if there was no ‘Avengers,’ I’m not sure we would’ve done a cliff-hanger in ‘Iron Man 2.’ We’re not going to repeat ourselves every time. We didn’t even really look at ‘Iron Man 1’ as a cliffhanger, frankly. We just thought it was a fun way for Tony Stark to sort say at the last minute, ‘Yes I’ve gone through this whole adventure. I’m kind of a changed person, but I’m still Tony Stark and I’m still unpredictable.’ Even if there was never another ‘Iron Man’ movie, that’s a great ending.”
While Joss Whedon’s status as director of “The Avengers” is still unconfirmed, Feige was willing to talk about what the directors of the individual films bring to the projects and what quality the unnamed director of “The Avengers” might bring to that film. “Whenever we meet with directors or start putting our lists together, we like bringing in someone unexpected, whether they’ve done big giant movies or not; or done a lot of movies or a few movies. We’re looking for someone with a unique voice,” he explained. “In the case of Jon Favreau, it was somebody who could bring a unique voice to a superhero who is going to put on an armored suit and fly around shooting repulser rays.”
In the case of “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh, Feige said, “it’s somebody who can take the spectacle and these very heady sci-fi concepts and make them relatable and, ultimately, make them about the family interplay. Which is what ‘Thor’ is about; between Odin, Loki, and Thor, that’s the heart of that story.”
|Scene from “Iron Man 2”|
As for the director of “The First Avenger: Captain America,” Feige said, “Joe Johnston is actually one of the few directors who has done a lot big movies in the past and looking at his career, from the vehicle designs on ‘Star Wars’ to storyboard sequences on ‘Indiana Jones’ to ‘The Rocketeer’ to ‘October Sky’ — which is a very, very moving and patriotic story — his whole career is leading up to Cap.”
Feige continued, “We know how to do big action scenes. We’ve got amazing department heads that we’ve already assembled and we work with on film to film. We want to bring somebody in who has a unique voice and when it comes to ‘The Avengers,’ that voice is the interplay between the multiple characters.”
Looking past “The Avengers,” Feige said “Iron Man 3” is on Marvel Studios’ internal production schedule and would be a “post-Avengers” story. While there has been some chatter about “The Runaways” getting fast tracked into production, Feige explained, “I don’t think any movie’s a done deal until it’s in production, but it’s certainly something we’re working on.”
Finally, when asked if Marvel Studios would ever produce a wholly original story not based on characters from the Marvel Comics line, Feige responded, “I think at some point, maybe the Marvel brand will expand out to new, original stuff, but even then I think that would originate — as ‘The Runaways’ did — through the comics.”
Considering the thought, he went on to say, “The truth is we have so many characters; thousands. Sometimes we say, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great to do this kind of a movie?’ and then we’ll look and go, ‘Ph, we can take this character and turn him into this kind of a movie.’ We publish fifty books a month, so there are new stories being made all the time. We’ve got one of those old Marvel Universe posters — hundreds of characters on it. I just stare at that sometimes in the hallway and see so many other stories to tell.”
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