Everything We Know About 'Iron Man 3' So Far

The brightest light of the Marvel cinematic universe rests comfortably in Tony Stark's chest plate as he suits up once again to defeat evil and crack wise in "Iron Man 3."

While taking place within continuity of "The Avengers" and other films in this cycle, this new entry is being positioned as an action-packed capper to a trilogy that made it okay for shining knights to not be so dark. We've hacked into the mainframe of Stark's computer JARVIS to access all the info that's fit to print about next summer's most anticipated thrill ride.

Release Date

May 3, 2013

Star Power At 400%

It wouldn't be an Iron Man movie without Robert Downey Jr… would it? Although the quip-handy actor defined the role with his trademark wit and style, it remains to be seen if this will be his superhero swan song before he hands it off to his "Roger Moore," respectively, for "Avengers 2." "My sense of it is that we need to leave it all on the field — whatever that means in the end," Downey told The LA Times. Returning from the previous installments are Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's sparkling girlfriend/business associate Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle as Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes (and occasional War Machine), and Paul Bettany as the voice of JARVIS. Although he leaves the director's seat behind, Jon Favreau continues his role as bodyguard/chauffeur extraordinaire Happy Hogan. New additions to the roster include Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian and Rebecca Hall as Dr. Maya Hansen, a pair of scientists who cause Tony no end of trouble, while the big bad slot goes to Ben Kingsley as the ultimate Iron Man villain, The Mandarin.

Enhanced Suits

Known for his flashy-but-brief turns in films like "The Departed" or the recent hit "Flight" (where he plays a cancer patient), actor James Badge Dale is poised to be the breakout star of "Iron Man 3." He is slotted to play Eric Savin, who in the comics is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army who after an accident becomes a cyborg (ala Robocop) known as Coldblood. Dale told Vulture that, "The great thing about my costume in 'Iron Man' is that it's very low-pro," meaning he probably won't be sporting the comics' metallic head fittings and body armor straight out of "American Gladiators."

In a truly left-field casting choice, former "Dancing With the Stars" contestant and "Extra" correspondent Ashley Hamilton will also get into the action as Firepower, a bad guy in a giant suit (wow, haven't seen that before in these movies.) Chinese actor Wang Xueqi ("Warriors of Heaven and Earth") will get some international exposure, as well as exposure to radiation, playing Chen Lu, a.k.a. Radioactive Man (not the "Simpsons" character).

New Directive

Outside of whatever cool armors or weaponry are on display, the most exciting new addition to the Iron Man franchise is co-writer/director Shane Black. At age 23, Black wrote "Lethal Weapon," which essentially defined the action genre for the next few decades, and then scored huge paydays for explosive scripts like "The Last Boy Scout" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight." After a decade-long hiatus he made his directorial debut with the noir comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," which re-introduced Robert Downey Jr. to the world and got the ball rolling on that comeback trail which led to "Iron Man." Some might say Downey is returning the favor, but it's Black who'll more than likely deliver the goods, as he knows how to balance character and action like a pro. The guy also knows a thing or two about acting, having played supporting roles in big movies like "Predator" and "As Good As It Gets."

Movie Math

Iron Man + "Lethal Weapon" ÷ "Caffeine-Free Diet Coke" = "Iron Man 3"

Backstory Battleground

Shane Black stated early on in his process with co-writer Drew Pearce that Marvel was unhappy with the direction "Iron Man 2" went, as were many fans. He vowed that "Iron Man 3" would not turn into another "'two men in iron suits fighting each other' film. Instead, it will be more like a Tom Clancy-thriller, with Iron Man fighting real world villains." Producer Kevin Feige told Collider that the threequel would take Tony Stark metaphorically "back to the cave, which is he’s stripped of everything, he’s backed up against a wall, and he’s gotta use his intelligence to get out of it. He can’t call Thor, he can’t call Cap, he can’t call Nick Fury, and he can’t look for the Helicarrier in the sky."

Through some healthy tax incentives, the film began lensing in Wilmington, North Carolina in May 2012, where stealthy spy photos captured Rhodey in his star spangled Iron Patriot armor. Chinese star Andy Lau was originally set to play Chen Lu before dropping out, as was Jessica Chastain intent on playing Maya Hansen before scheduling conflicts intervened.

Shooting was halted for over a week when Downey suffered an ankle injury in August, but he returned in time to shoot scenes in and around South Florida, including Dania Beach. The U.S. portion of the shoot wrapped in November, with additional shooting by a second unit to take place in China sometime in December.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Dossier

The story this time around has been culled directly from the pages of Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's popular 2005 "Extremis" story arc, which redefined the character for a new generation and played an important part in influencing the films, both visually and storywise. (An animated version of "Extremis," taken directly from the pages of the comic, is available on Netflix Streaming.) It involves a nanotechnology serum which, once injected into the human bloodstream, makes a person nearly invulnerable, essentially wearing a suit of armor inside their body. Characters Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen (a former lover of Stark's) are taken directly from there, and footage shown at this year's San Diego Comic-Con showcased Stark pulling his suit on through sheer will, possibly an after-effect of Extremis. Somehow The Mandarin and The Ten Rings fits into this plot, along with terrorist organization A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), with the recent trailer treating us to helicopters explodifying Tony's Cliffside mansion. Bleeding Cool also has reported rumors that Pepper Potts will finally get into the action this time when she dons the famous Rescue armor from the comics.

Positive Arc Reactor

Being the #3 box-office draw of all-time, "The Avengers" is no easy act to follow-up, which is why a lot of fans have responded overwhelmingly positively to the grittier direction Shane Black is taking the series.

At SDCC, fans packed Hall H, where the series got its first kickstart, and Marvel showed a pile of footage. Collider was there, and as Kingsley eerily intoned "If you beg for mercy, you will be silenced," they reported that the lights in the auditorium came up and "everyone in the audience has lost their mind over what they just saw."

The Huffington Post was especially pleased the new film has actual stakes, unlike the shambling, metal-grinding "Iron Man 2": "The new 'Iron Man 3' trailer is dark. Not just dark because Iron Man's house explodes and his girlfriend gets tortured, but actually dark… the trailer shows Stark systematically losing everything. There's even a shot of Happy Hogan lying in a pile of rubble. Will Happy die? At the very least, he won't be too pleased with the mess caused by The Mandarin."

'Iron Man 3' Triples Our Anticipation

As huge fans of Black and Downey's first collaboration on "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," we were already psyched about this franchise taking a bold new direction. As predicted, Black is shooting action with massive scope and propulsive dramatics, lending that pulpy feeling he's been so keen on in his career. "Iron Man 3" will take a man who's literally just saved the world from an alien invasion, a guy who's proven again and again that he always comes out on top, and truly puts him to the test. While we're proceeding cautiously into this, having been burnt by the awesome-looking/not so awesome in reality "Iron Man 2," but we get the feeling fans are going to be in for an extreme dose of fun.