Empire's Sneak-Peek Iron Man 3 Footage Reaction
Posted on Thursday March 28, 2013, 10:31 by Chris Hewitt in Empire States
If you read my cover feature on Iron Man 3, then you’ll know that back in January I was lucky enough to see approximately 15 minutes of footage from Shane Black’s Avengers-following threequel in LA. There’s a brief rundown of the footage in our Iron Man 3 cover feature (and if you haven’t read it, be sure to check it out on iPad, where it's still on sale), but I was largely shying away from revealing major details, conscious of the spoiler brigade.
But, with some of the key elements of the footage now in the public domain, it’s fair game. And today I was invited by Disney to see the footage again, and jumped at the chance. Thankfully, this time around, I was just as impressed – the return of Tony Stark is the first chapter of Marvel Studios’ Phase 2, and early indications are that it’s going to be every bit as entertaining as the first Iron Man was when it launched Phase 1. Needless to say, spoilers abound, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know anything about this small-ish chunk of the summer’s first huge blockbuster.
Quick set-up: the footage, which runs from The Mandarin’s (Ben Kingsley) attack on Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion through to our first major look at the film’s villain, takes place about 20 minutes or so into the movie. By this point, much has changed in a post-Avengers world. The heroes who saved the world are scattered to the four corners of the Earth (and, of course, Asgard). Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The President of the United States (William Sadler), annoyed at the absence of the military in the Battle Of New York, has co-opted Don Cheadle’s War Machine, given him a Stars ’n’ Stripes makeover and rebranded him Iron Patriot. And The Mandarin, an uber-terrorist who’s essentially declared war on America, has launched an attack that winds up seriously injuring Stark’s driver/bodyguard/lackey, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, returning to the franchise as an actor, not director, only to get promptly roughed up).
All of which has made Tony less than happy. And, in a capricious, mouth-engaged-before-the-brain-realises-what’s-happened moment that’s classic Stark, Tony takes it upon himself to issue a ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ challenge to The Mandarin.
Which is where the footage begins. We start by meeting Rebecca Hall, a scientist and former flame of Tony’s whose work on the Extremis program, as comic book readers will know, is hugely important. She turns up at Stark’s home to be confronted with Tony in the gold-and-red Mk XLII (that’s 42 for those of you who don’t speak Roman numeral). Why 42? Well, there may be a Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy answer-to-the-ultimate-question reference there from director/co-writer Shane Black and Drew Pearce, but it’s also an indication that Stark has been busy since the end of The Avengers, building suit after suit after suit. The end of the film’s main trailer certainly backs this up, as Stark and Rhodey are joined by what seems like dozens of remote-controlled Iron Man suits of every shape, size and colour.
What unfolds is indicative of what co-writer Pearce calls the ‘zig-zagging’ nature of Iron Man 3, with the tone constantly changing not just from scene to scene, but sometimes within scenes. So for the first couple of minutes, we get some nice, pointed banter as Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts – bewildered not only by Tony’s chutzpah, but also his Christmas present of a giant rabbit with huge, pendulous breasts – just wants to get the hell out of Dodge, and suddenly finds herself confronted with one of Tony’s old flames (“It was just one night,” says Maya, less than helpfully).
Then Black effortlessly jolts the mood from comedy to full-on action with a beautiful shot: while Pepper and Tony bicker in the background, Maya spots, on the TV offering live coverage of Stark’s stand-off, a missile heading straight for them. It hits, sending Pepper and Tony flying backwards in slo-mo. This is when Tony reveals the Mk XLII’s USP: controlled by nano-technology, he can ‘will’ it to move through the air as if of its own accord with just a wave of his hands. And so, in a development that fans have been calling for for some time, Pepper gets to suit up as Tony wraps the armour around her, foregoing his own safety.
What follows next is a fun, crunching, relentless action sequence as The Mandarin’s three attack choppers, led by the gum-chewing James Badge Dale as Coldblood, bring Stark’s home down around his ears. At one point, Pepper saves Tony from falling debris (this is the shot from the first trailer, where Tony is on the ground, looking up at what we assumed was an empty Iron Man suit), and then she propels herself and Maya to safety via unorthodox deployment of malfunctioning repulsors.
The action sequence – and, we’re guessing, much of the movie – is built on the neat notion that the Mk XLII, which Drew Pearce calls the prehensile suit, is very much a prototype; a beta suit; a model that’s as likely to conk out at inopportune moments than it is to blast The Mandarin to kingdom come.
And so it proves here, with Tony – now ensconced once again in the armour after Pepper reaches minimum safe distance – hampered by the failure of the suit’s flying function. Nevertheless, he improvises wildly to take out two helicopters, before succumbing to the attentions of the third. As his home is wreathed in flames and explosions, Stark falls through the floor into his workshop. There, he watches as his beloved robots, Dummy and Butterfingers, go through their death throes, and as fire destroys his suits.
Intriguingly, it’s here where the footage I saw today differed from the LA version. That wasn’t entirely finished – there were rough special effects and placeholder narration/dialogue, which is to be expected. But, what caught my eye was that, in the LA version, Stark seems to sanction the self-destruction of his workshop and his armour, so that his technology won’t fall into the wrong hands. That has now gone, and with it a dramatic change of emphasis. A line where Tony basically asks JARVIS if the rest of the suits he’s been working on are safe from The Mandarin has also been erased.
Following the destruction of his house, Tony falls into the sea and is buried under an avalanche of debris. But, via some nifty suit-related jiggery-pokery, he’s pulled free and soon out of the water. Rather than engaging with the remaining helicopter, though, a battered and bloodied Tony steals away, through clouds. And promptly blacks out.
He awakens to the sound of his internal alarms beeping incessantly, along with a warning from JARVIS that they’re under 5 percent of power. Oh, and he’s falling fast into a snow-covered field. Turns out that Tony has slept for thousands of miles, crashlanding ultimately in Rose Hill, Tennessee. “Why?” exclaims Downey, with the sort of priggish undercurrent he’s made his own in the role. JARVIS replies that Stark told him this was the destination – does that play into something later on? We never find out, for at that moment JARVIS – server presumably destroyed, battery drained – conks out, leaving Tony alone in the ‘brisk’ snow. Cue that now-famous trailer shot of Tony dragging the husk of the Iron Man armour behind him, looking very sorry for himself.
Following a brief stop-off at a gas station, where he purloins a poncho from a wooden Indian, Tony makes a call to Pepper, and leaves a message on her answerphone. He says he has a lot of apologies to make, and starts with her, for putting her in danger; and it’s for this reason that he can’t come home and can’t stay in touch. He has to ‘find this guy’ – The Mandarin – and punish him. And, before we have a chance to yell, "Call Banner! See what Steve Rogers is doing!", Tony is off on his little adventure.
In the Empire feature, Drew Pearce talked about a certain ‘sci-fi Capra’ element to the movie, which is personified in the character we meet next: the ten year old Harley, played by Ty Simpkins. Tony meets him after breaking into what seems like a derelict garage, where he sets to work on trying to repair the Mk XLII. His work is almost immediately interrupted by Harley, a tenacious type holding what seems like a semi-deadly (or, more likely, fairly painful) potato gun. After a short exchange, Tony wins the kid over by showing him the empty shell of the armour, sitting jauntily on a sofa. “Is that Iron Man?” asks Harley. “Technically, I’m Iron Man,” replies Tony. At which point Harley – in perhaps the one false note of the footage – shows Tony a newspaper with a headline proclaiming Stark’s death at the hands of the Mandarin. (The false note hits in several ways: Why is a ten year old boy carrying a newspaper? On the off chance he runs into the guy whose face is on the front page? Does he not recognise Stark, surely one of the world’s most famous men, from the off? And later in the scene, he even basically asks Tony who he is again… But we digress, it’s a small note, and I appreciate that the paper is there to show the audience that the world – and The Mandarin – thinks that Tony is dead).
The relationship between Tony and Harley, which we’re told will play a pivotal role in the events that unfold, could have been mawkish, sentimental, claptrap. But Shane Black doesn’t do mawkish or sentimental, and neither does Tony Stark. So, no sooner has Harley told him the sad tale of his father leaving them six years ago, does Stark retort with, "Dads leave, you don’t have to be such a pussy about it." He then recruits Harley’s services and equipment (and a tuna sandwich) in exchange for helping him with a bully at school. Tony, though, isn’t the sort of guy who deals with bullies via stern lecture or going to see the headmaster. Instead, he takes a ‘non-lethal’ projectile from the Mk XLII and tells Harley to use it on him. Don’t be such a pussy about it, indeed.
And there we leave it, save for a brief intro to The Mandarin, which seems to recast Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian – a suicidal scientist, a footnote, in the Extremis arc on which Iron Man 3 is partially based – as the Mandarin’s very own Alastair Campbell, a slippery, slimy PR guy who’s busy preparing the Mandarin’s HQ for a very public announcement about Stark. “Don’t look The Master in the eyes, unless you want to get shot in the face,” says Killian, as a fleet of cars pull up, containing Kingsley’s long-haired, ring-wearing nutcase. He strides through the building, takes his seat and growls, "What are we waiting for?" aaaaaaaaand… scene.
So, there we have it. All in all, it’s a hugely encouraging batch of footage, although I’ve yet to see the studio that shows reporters footage that doesn’t at least suggest competence. Yet all the signs are that Iron Man 3 will continue Marvel’s hot streak and atone for the misguided misfire that was Iron Man 2. It has spectacle galore, a neat blend of the cocky humour that sets Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark apart from other superheroes, quirky character moments and it feels, more importantly, like a Shane Black movie. Which, for a movie this big, is something of an achievement, and something to be celebrated. We’ll find out for sure whether Black and Pearce, who told Empire that they can’t quite believe some of the stuff Marvel are letting them get away with, have succeeded. But the signs are very good. Roll on the Mk XLIII...