Two years ago, the Iron Man crew swept into San Diego and wowed the massed geeks with early footage. Would their return in 2009 get a similarly ecstatic reaction? Well, yes. With wowsy footage and a hilarious panel, it can definitely be classed a triumphant return
A beaming Jon Favreau was first to appear, striding on stage to the backing track of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. He saluted the absolutely packed Hall H — even highly-regarded Iron Man artist Bob Laylon had trouble getting in — then cued up a short promo reel with glimpses of behind-the-scenes action. “Sorry, guys, but that’s all we could put together in time,” he explained when the applause died down. “We only wrapped last week and...”
Suddenly he was interrupted by a Twilight-level cacophony of screams. The cause? An ice-cool-looking Robert Downey, clad in Tony Stark suit and sunglasses, who’d strolled in from the wings, feigning dissatisfaction. “Who, whoa, whoa!” he said. “What was that unadulterated garbage? This is bullshit, dude! You showed me better stuff than that in the edit room. Give these people something good to watch!”
And cue the real footage. It opens with Tony Stark, in the Iron Man suit minus helmet, sitting in the centre of the giant donut that adorns the roof of legendary LA snack-shop Randy’s Donuts (coincidentally, we’d seen said giant donut onscreen just minutes before, rolling down a freeway and nearly taking out John Cusack’s limousine during an action sequence from 2012). Stark is munching on a box of sugary hoops, but is interrupted by a call from down below: “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut.” It’s Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-patched Nick Fury, who proceeds to have a stern chat with Stark over a cup of coffee. “I’m not sure if you’re real or a figment of my imagination,” says Tony. “Oh, I’m the realest person you’re ever going to meet,” Fury retorts.
We’re then whisked to a courtroom, for a high-level hearing that’s being broadcast by CNN. Stark’s being interrogated by one Senator Stern (played, in a genius bit of casting, by Larry Sanders himself, Garry Shandling!), who wants him to hand in his Iron Man technology to the US government, no doubt so that the military can use it in nefarious wars. Tony refuses, saying that Iron Man is not just the suit but also himself, and that he’d have to hand himself in too. Also visible in the courtroom are Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and arms dealer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), and there’s a surprise entrance from Tony’s old friend, Jim Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who appears to be testifying against him. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” mutters Stark. “I’m here. Deal with it. Let’s move on,” says Rhodes. Downey Jr.’s on great smartass form in this scene, baiting the starchy senator repeatedly with lines like “Yes, dear?” and causing him to lose his cool and yell, “Fuck you, Mr. Stark!”
In the next scene, we get our first proper look at Mickey Rourke’s metal-toothed Russian villain, Ivan Vanko. He appears to be obsessed with Stark – we see a room whose walls are covered in newspaper clippings of the playboy’s adventures. A sinister voiceover from Vanko plays: “You come from a family of thieves and butchers. And now, like all guilty men, you try to rewrite your own history.” We see him creating his own glowing blue power hub, then get a quick look at him in action as Whiplash, fighting Tony at the Monaco Grand Prix. In the money shot, our hero lies battered on the track, looking up in horror as Vanko approaches, smirking and cracking together two whips made of electrical energy. Boo!
After a quick montage – including glimpses of Scarlett Johansson’s lithe Black Widow, some sexy dancing girls and a long FX shot of Iron Man getting into some aerial turbulence— it cut to a scene in a military hangar between Hammer and Rhodes. Sucking on a lollipop, Hammer looks longingly at a metal object that Rhodes has laid out on a table — part of Iron Man’s suit? — then gives a sales pitch, showcasing a range of high-tech weapons. “You’re like a Sphinx – I can’t tell you what you’re thinking,” he complains. “Which one do you want?” After a quick beat, Rhodes answers, “All of them.” Flash-cut to the final image of the footage: Rhodes inside his own metal exo-suit, one which bristles with guns of all shapes and sizes, including some kind of cannon mounted on his back. Yep, it’s our first ever look at War Machine — and the crowd went utterly beserk.
In the Q&A, Cheadle got asked an awkward question about replacing Terrence Howard (who has been outspoken about the way he perceives he was treated). He wriggled his way out with tact: “That was something I think we deal with in an elegant way in the movie. I tried to make it my own. But being the vampire I am, I syphoned off everything I could from his performance too!”
There was a lot of interest in the villains. Johansson revealed her training program for the role: “Deep knee bends and lunges. Plus lots of egg-white omelettes.” And Favreau expressed some surprise at how Method Rourke (who was absent due to to filming commitments) had gone for the role, saying, “We informed Mickey that the character had done some time in a Russian prison. The next thing I heard, he was in a Russian prison. And I had to hear it from TMT!” He went on to explain that the first American film they got in Russia was 9 1/2 Weeks. “Micky is a sex god in Russia. So it doesn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get him to go there.” “And where,” Downey Jr. chipped in, “would you want to go if you’re a sex god in Russia besides the prison?”