‘Iron Man 2′: What We Know So Far

From the heroes to the villains to key story details, we let you in on the secrets we've been privy to.

Arguably one of the most anticipated events during this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, Jon Favreau’s premiere of “Iron Man 2″ footage certainly accomplished what every good sneak peek is supposed to: whet fans’ appetites for the film and get everyone talking about what each and every frame could mean for the finished product.

From an extended look at Mickey Rourke in action as the villainous Whiplash to that final-moment debut of War Machine , the “Iron Man 2″ preview sparked just as many new questions as it answered. Will War Machine fight Iron Man? Will Tony Stark lose ownership of the Iron Man armor? How much will we see of Sam Jackson and his “Avengers Initiative” before the superteam gets its own film?

So, in an effort to sort out what we know thus far about the much-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Iron Man,” here’s a roundup of what we know about the story and cast of characters hitting the screen when “Iron Man 2″ premieres May 7, 2010:

The Heroes: While star Robert Downey Jr. has insisted that Tony Stark’s battle with alcoholism in the popular “Demon in a Bottle” comic book story line won’t factor into the “Iron Man 2″ plot, he did hint at some inner demons for the film’s hero. Calling it the story of “how a dysfunctional family saves life on Earth,” Downey said the film will largely focus on how Stark deals with his newfound popularity and the new types of attention he receives because of it.

As far as Stark’s supporting cast, actor Don Cheadle (who replaces Terrence Howard as Stark’s military buddy James “Rhodey” Rhodes) recently insisted that War Machine’s role in the film will be “significant,” while Scarlett Johansson won’t reveal which side her character, the Russian superspy known as the Black Widow, is even playing for. On a semi-related note, Downey previously hinted that a love triangle between his character and those of Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow (who plays Stark’s assistant, Pepper Potts) isn’t out of the question.

The Villains: Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke make their debuts as shady weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer and Russian tendril-wielding ex-convict Ivan Vanko (a.k.a. Whiplash), respectively, in the next chapter of the “Iron Man” film franchise. Rockwell recently hinted at a team-up between the two characters in their efforts to take down Robert Downey Jr.’s superhero industrialist Tony Stark, who they both have a grudge against for very different reasons.

Meanwhile, Cheadle hinted that the two aforementioned characters might not be the only trouble Stark faces as his armored alter ego. Could a fan-friendly brawl between Iron Man and War Machine be in the cards?

The Story: Ever since the sequel to “Iron Man” was approved, Favreau has said the film will be largely focused on the nature of being a superhero without a secret identity — and what it means to be a public figure who happens to moonlight as an armored avenger. During our visit to the set of “Iron Man 2,” however, Downey hinted that one of the other themes of the sequel will involve Stark’s hunt for an alternative energy source for his armor, and how that quest might connect to the Stark Expo held each decade.

As far as specific scenes go, we know from the Comic-Con footage and various photos released over the last year that Whiplash will attack Stark during a race at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and, from the look of things, the film’s hero won’t be in much shape to defend himself. Where this encounter fits in the duo’s history, though, has yet to be revealed.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Iron Man 2.”

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