Iron Man 3 picks up where The Avengers left off. New York City has been reduced largely to rubble following the great battle that ensued there, and Tony Stark is haunted by it. In the midst of his reflecting upon his superhero career, a new villain emerges. Enter: The Mandarin.
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Tony Stark appeals to finally be humbled and realizing his brash arrogance affects others. Maybe being lead by Captain America's rub off on him a little? Those who took a good look at the still-shot of the trailer before you play it can assume Captain America's rubbed off on Stark a lot. But will Chris Evans make a cameo in Iron Man 3 as Steve Rogers, the man behind portrayed as the star-spandexed patriot?
Combine this humbling with Stark's narration that he's haunted and can't sleep. Could this in combination be a depression that leads to the alcoholism storyline from the comics? Having looked for signs of this direction in the first two movies and finding none, I'm less than optimistic about that outcome. Given Robert Downey Jr.'s own past personal demons, it may hit too close to home for the actor for him to touch upon in great detail (although he has played a suicidal alcoholic in Charlie Bartlett). What I really like about the story going this route is that it doesn't downplay the events of The Avengers. Superheros who fight monsters, mega-criminals and sinister masterminds on a usual basis are still clearly taken aback by an alien invasion, as they should be. The events of The Avengers shouldn't be something just brushed off.
Then there's the identity-crisis portion of the film. Just about all Superhero film franchises/comics reach this stage at some point, so it's almost a necessary pill to swallow even if you're tired of it. Spider-Man 2 did it best in my eyes. If you are tired of it though, there seems to be enough action, thrills, and Bane-like philosophical destruction to help it go down easier. And at least Tony Stark isn't going to die his hair and comb it into an emover. But this film may suffer from a symptom that many Superhero flicks are being criticized of lately - too much face-time. Tony Stark is important, no doubt about it, as is Peter Parker or any other secret civilian identity, but given that people are drawn in by their costumed personas, its a fine line to walk between how much face-time each identity receives. From what I've seen of the trailer, it looks like they found a perfectly logical path to give RDJ plenty of screen time at the same time as putting "Iron Man" on the screen, even though it isn't Tony Stark in the suit (or at least is my interpretation).
Tony Stark vs. another man inhabiting the Iron Man suit? Awesome! Fantastic symbolism as well as intriguing fight-dynamics. Is the mortal Stark going to be forced to run for his life for 60-90 minutes (giving him 30-40 minutes to play up his usual Iron Man antics)? Is he going to watch as his sidekick, James Rhodes dons the War Machine suit to fight Stark's battle for him? Or is he going to use his wealth and genius to devise several annoying Acme/Home Alone traps to disable the imposter Iron Man? One thing's for certain. You know Stark's going to get his own Iron Man suit to throw down with the imposter Iron Man, and that's gonna be off da hook! They laid the foundation in Iron Man 1 when he faces Obadiah Stane AKA Iron Monger, played by Jeff Bridges, and furthered that interest in Iron Man 2 when Iron Man dukes it out with his own friend War Machine. In Iron Man 3 I expect them to take it up a notch and make this battle of Iron Men original and explosive.
Iron Man 3 is to be directed by Shane Black, who's relatively untested in directing. Shane Black has only directed one major motion picture, but his directorial debut was on the well-received Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring Robert Downey Jr. When a director and leading star are familiar with each other already, it should spell good things for their upcoming adventure together. The story, while based off of Marvel Comics, was screenwritten by Drew Pearce (who is best known for writing/creating the British Superhero-themed comedy, No Heroics, and is slated to screenwrite the third upcoming Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr.) as well as Shane Black himself. Black's screenwriting resume saw such credits as Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. So while Black is relatively new to directing, he's been writing great, often sarcastically funny, memorable action movies for a long time.