'Iron Man 3' Brings Tony Stark Back To Basics

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige previews 'Iron Man 3' for MTV News: 'Robert Downey Jr. gave his all to this performance.'

"Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist." That's how Tony Stark described himself in "Marvel's The Avengers," the 2012 blockbuster that dazzled critics and obliterated box-office records left and right.

You'll notice that Stark makes no mention of a certain set of armor in his self-analysis. That's a good thing, too, seeing as he won't be able to rely on his red-and-gold suit much at all when he returns to theaters this summer.

"Iron Man 3" kicks off MTV News' preview of the hottest films of 2013, launching onto screens on May 3 with a brand-new director (Shane Black, who previously worked with star Robert Downey Jr. on "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang"), a red-hot cast (veterans Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are joined by newcomers Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley), and a back-to-basics Tony Stark. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige joined MTV News to tell us much more about the can't-miss superhero threequel.

Earth's Most Traumatized Hero

Though "Iron Man 3" will pivot away from the team-up aspects of "The Avengers," the new adventure of Tony Stark (the character's fifth appearance on the big-screen to date) won't ignore the events of Joss Whedon's superhero epic. Indeed, everything that Iron Man witnessed while fighting alongside Earth's mightiest heroes has changed the brilliant billionaire irreversibly — understandable, considering he, you know, fought aliens and nearly died in the far reaches of space.

"So much of the journey of 'Iron Man 3' is informed by Tony's experiences in 'The Avengers,'" Feige told MTV. "It's almost like post-traumatic stress: he really has retreated after the events of 'The Avengers' into his workshop, where he's building advanced versions of his suits. He has [designed] a version of the suit that can latch onto him in individual pieces ... anytime, anywhere. As he starts to realize, it's basically because he doesn't want to be out of the suit: he's seen a lot of things in 'Avengers' and has encountered a lot of powerful people, much more powerful than he is."

Out Of The Armor And Into The Fire

Tony's latest trip to the workshop will be short-lived, as anyone who saw the "Iron Man 3" trailer already knows: in the movie, our hero's armor and home are demolished in a horrific assault, "just as he's starting to realize he needs to be in the suit at all times and in the safety of his workshop," according to Feige. That devastation pushes Tony on a new, but familiar, path.

"It brings us back to the Tony we met in the first part of 'Iron Man' where he's removed from that convoy and brought to the cave with nothing but a box of scraps," said Feige. "It's fun for all of us to watch Tony try to figure out how to get out of that scenario. Much of the movie is Tony in the middle of the country without his tools and a fairly broken suit to help him. But that's his superpower: he wasn't born on Asgard, he wasn't hit by gamma rays, and he doesn't have the super soldier serum. His power is his brain. It's fun to put Tony Stark in a corner with nothing and see how he can get out of it."

The Wearer Of The Rings

Powerful as his brain might be, Tony could certainly use a brand new set of armor when engaging the Mandarin, his latest and most lethal foe to date. Played by Sir Ben Kingsley, Mandarin stands out as one of Iron Man's most iconic nemeses in the comic books — but the version fans are getting in "Iron Man 3" is a far cry from the super-villain with alien rings and Fu Manchu facial hair who first debuted in the 1960s.

"We felt there was leeway to explore the Mandarin in a way that hasn't been explored before," Feige explained. "We found we couldn't point to any sort of definitive Mandarin story in the comics — but if you print this, I'm sure a million fans will point to a specific story — so as we've done with many of the films, we did an amalgamation. The Mandarin is relentless: he's a non-stop threat, and you've seen that in the first teaser trailer when Tony Stark's house tumbles into the sea. He doesn't mess around, this guy."

Nothing On The Field

Another person who doesn't mess around: Robert Downey Jr. The veteran actor has played the brilliant superhero in five films now, and according to Feige, he hasn't slowed down one bit. Indeed, Downey even sustained an ankle injury while shooting "Iron Man 3," delaying production for some weeks — all in the name of making the best and most believable "Iron Man" movie possible.

"Robert Downey Jr. gave his all to this performance," said Feige. "He left no stone unturned." The Marvel executive praised the rest of the "Iron Man" cast and crew as well, including returning leads Paltrow and Cheadle, but especially the work of the film's director.

"No one has been shy — myself, Robert and [original 'Iron Man' director Jon] Favreau — about how Shane worked in the shadows of the first 'Iron Man' film, helping with certain scenes and helping with tonal things," said Feige. "This film, it's much less the culmination of the previous 'Iron Man' movies in part three: this is 'Iron Man: A Shane Black Film.' That, to me, is by far the most unique thing about this movie."

The Story Continues

There is a lot of new ground to cover in "Iron Man 3." Tony Stark needs to rediscover how to become a hero, with or without his high-tech suit of armor. He needs to overcome the trauma he endured in 'Avengers.' He needs to find a way to beat the Mandarin. After that? It's anybody's guess — but it's certainly not the end.

"Characters like James Bond and Batman, whose stories go on and on and on — I think Tony is one of those characters," said Feige when asked if "Iron Man 3" marks an ending of sorts for Tony Stark's cinematic journey. "Where we go directly after 'Iron Man 3' ... I'm not looking too far ahead. I'm looking to finish 'Iron Man 3,' getting into 'Avengers 2,' and then seeing where we go from there. But I do think we have more Tony Stark tales to tell, and we'll take it one movie — or maybe two movies — at a time."

Marvel releases "Iron Man 3" on May 3, 2013.

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