MANHATTAN BEACH, California — It's hard to believe that it's only been three years since MTV News visited the set of the original "Iron Man" movie and declared "Iron Man is getting his own movie. And what a movie it's shaping up to be!"
A short while later, the world finally saw the film and seemed to agree, as Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero debut went on to become one the biggest hits in recent memory. So when we went back to the set of "Iron Man 2," even though Tony Stark's digs had been moved from Playa Vista, California, to Marvel's dazzling new soundstages in Manhattan Beach, there was definitely a sense of déjà vu.
"I think that was the big buy last time around," Robert Downey Jr. said of the scene at the end of the last film that had billionaire industrialist Tony Stark bucking hero tradition by announcing to the world's media that yeah, he is Iron Man. "We weren't sure if we were going to do that or not."
"It was Kevin [Feige]'s thing," remembered series director Jon Favreau, referring to the Marvel honcho as he sat alongside Downey outside a re-created set depicting Stark's basement headquarters. "It was a funny ha-ha as an out [at the time], and now the exciting action of the whole [sequel] is him dealing with the repercussions of revealing that. What does that really mean to a real person in a real world? Then we heighten it for our superhero reality."
We'll get an answer to those questions May 7, when "Iron Man 2" finally hits theaters. The action picks up six months later, as Tony grapples with a new life that has no secrets, a post-warmongering attitude, and new characters including the deadly Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), sexy but mysterious Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and trigger-happy arms dealer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).
"Ivan Vanko is our dark character, and we also have Justin Hammer, so we have a bit of a mélange of characters that come together that are different combinations of elements from the books," Favreau explained, promising fans that even if they've read every Iron Man comic ever made, they may still be in for a surprise. "We like to spin it against expectations sometimes, against what the books say. We definitely take into consideration what the comics had and then know that our core audience is going to be aware of what was written — and we'll either play into that or against it."
"As far as Rhodey [now played by Don Cheadle] and even Pepper [Gwyneth Paltrow], this time around, everybody is a lot wider and deeper," Downey said of the sequel's intention to further flesh out the franchise's beloved characters. "Mickey, we're about to come into a big sequence that we have together — our initial meeting, which doesn't end too favorably."
Ultimately, Favreau said, his "Iron Man" films are trying to carve out a unique corner of the superhero market that falls somewhere between the too-silly shortcomings of something like the "Fantastic Four" films and the darker-than-ever mentality of the Batman films. "We definitely like the absurdity of it all," the actor/filmmaker explained. "If we go for the heaviness of it over the absurdity, well, that market got cornered by [Batman filmmaker Chris] Nolan and his crew. And you're just not going to plumb deeper [into darkness] than that."
"There's this whole energy-crisis thing, and he's having his own energy crisis of sorts," Downey explained of the sequel's basic plot. "Stark's [suit] is always a spectacular energetic source, but [in the first film], it's not a Duracell; it's more of a Rayovac. So there's this crisis of energy [as he's trying to upgrade his technology], and there's this legacy of his dad and these expos occurring every decade or so. [His father's energy innovations] are kind of the grail of the movie, isn't it?"
"Yeah, technical innovation that takes everything that he's involved with to the next level," Favreau agreed. "Because it's still a flawed technology that he's working on, and it's still a life-support system of sorts."
As for the new Iron Man suit that all this yields, Favreau said much has been improved, both in real life and on the silver screen. "From my perspective, we did everything we could to make it lighter, easier, more flexible," he explained. "And we shot more with [the Iron Man suit], but he's the guy that has to strap into the thing."
"It's fine," Downey said of his new suit, before teasing his director with the promise of a scene where he'll throw down with Favreau's cameo-ing limo driver. "You're going to like it when you see me and Happy Hogan slugging it out; that's all I've got to say."
Check out everything we've got on "Iron Man 2."
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