Though competing against titles like “Man of Steel,” “Star Trek 2,” and “Kick Ass 2,” summer 2013’s most anticipated cinematic release is perhaps Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” directed by Shane Black and starring Robert Downey Jr. Since the film’s May 3 release is still six painful weeks away, ample time remains to “prep” by delving into the Iron Man source material to waste time crafting theories and predictions.
While much of the plot for the series’ third installment remains a mystery, contextual clues found in trailers, casting information and comments from the director, coupled with inferences drawn from the first two films and Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” indicate that “Iron Man 3” may draw many of its plot elements and themes from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s 2006 comic arc “Iron Man: Extremis.”
Undoubtedly one of the most influential Iron Man story arcs of…ever, this six-part collection from 2006 pits Tony against the Extremis serum, a nanotech-based super-soldier serum meant to rewrite DNA that, unlike many other attempts to create such a serum (the Hulk being result of such failures), actually kind of works. When a right-wing terrorist named Mallen survives an encounter with a “stolen” sample of the enhancile and goes on a killing spree, Stark is forced to use a self-modified version of Extremis to essentially restructure his biology so that he can more aptly interface with the Iron Man armor, allowing him to mentally communicate with and command technology.
Whether you’re one of those moviegoers who loves to know what to expect before it happens or just a fan who appreciates the way superhero filmmakers build from source material, here are four reasons you should experience “Iron Man: Extremis,” either the graphic novel or the animated short on Netflix, before watching “Iron Man 3.”
1. The Cast
Perhaps the biggest clue tying Extremis to “Iron Man 3” is the cast. The inclusion of characters like Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), co-creators of Extremis, definitely indicates that the enhancile will likely play a significant role in the film.
Though Killian was dead by the end of “Extremis” issue number one, his expanded role in the upcoming film could concern the illegal dispersion and testing of the Extremis enhancile. Maya, on the other hand, was a major character in the comic, responsible not only for involving Tony in the Mallen issue, but also for injecting Tony with Extremis after his near-death encounter with the terrorist.
Sal Kennedy is another Extremis character on the “Iron Man 3” roster. Though Tony’s philosopher/hippie mentor in the comic, this interpretation of the character, played by William Sadler, seems to be more of a politician than a hermit. Hopefully, however, Sal’s presence will still lead to a thoughtful discussion about Tony’s responsibility as the world’s most innovative engineer.
2. The Upgrade
Previous Iron Man films have depicted a Tony Stark who is always improving his high-tech armor. First he created the suit and the arc reactor to escape captivity and incrementally improved the design as a means of actively helping those he had previously put in harm’s way as an weapon designer, then he developed the new, more powerful core for the Arc Reactor (and that sweet suit-case Iron Man) in “Iron man 2,” and at the end of “The Avengers” we saw Tony Stark’s first step towards making a suit that could be mentally commanded and summoned. The next logical step: integrating the suit into his body, duh.
This is where Extremis comes in. Not only have scenes from trailers and concept art depicted Tony manipulating components of the armor and even an entire suit, but there are also shots of him atop an operating table breathing through a respirator. These clues hint towards the implementation of, for some reason, a biological alteration that will allow Tony a more intimate and efficient means of interaction with the suit.
Tony’s altered form of Extremis may not be the only version of the upgrade in this movie. Just as Mallen became a super-human with enhanced strength, speed, near-invulnerability and, for some odd reason, the ability to breathe fire, so too may some characters in “Iron Man 3” be similarly enhanced.
Not only does footage show what look like human test subjects (or volunteers) being placed in medical braces presided over by Killian, but one brief clip in the second trailer depicts what seems to be a shirtless human engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an Iron Man suit—surely not a task for the average Joe. “Iron Man 2” presented the problem of Iron Man copycats, so it makes sense that the sequel presents the biological answer to the technological weapon issue.
3. The Brooding
The Tony Stark represented in Extremis is, perhaps to movie-goers’ chagrin, not quite the witty playboy thus far portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. While the book is not without Stark-zingers, Tony is mostly a tortured, burdened soul trying to figure out his place in a constantly evolving world. At one point, Tony can’t even bare to look at his reflection in a bathroom mirror.
From what we have seen of the upcoming film through trailers, director Shane Black’s Tony Stark may exhibit some of the same moods. We know that he is experiencing trouble sleeping, that he is conflicted about his duties as a superhero and as someone engaged in a romantic relationship and that he will eventually seek revenge on someone in the film—probably Ben Kinsley’s Mandarin, but we cannot know for sure.
4. The Flashback
During the coma that results from Stark being injected with Extremis, he relives the fateful Iron man origin story. Updating the story for modern readers, Ellis places Stark in Afghanistan, captured by Al Qaeda. Just as in the first film, he builds a device to keep shrapnel from entering heart with the help of Dr. Yinsen, the terrorists want him to build weapons for them, but he escapes using what would later be known as the Mark I Iron Man armor.
This brief aspect of the narrative is a great catch-up for those who may not have seen the original film, and it also offers movie fans who may not be into comics the opportunity to delve a little bit further into the Iron Man origin story.
For those who want to read more Iron Man graphic novels in preparation for the film’s release, here are several others I’d recommend.
Written by Daniel and Charlie Knauf and illustrated by Patrick Zicher
Taking place shortly after the Extremis storyline, this narrative involves Tony’s creation and control of many Iron Man armors. Why care? Well, in the first trailer for “Iron man 3,” we got a glimpse of the armor vault, containing several seemingly unfinished suits. The second trailer, however, concludes with Stark assembling a small squadron of various Iron Man units, including the famous Hulk Buster armor, presumably controlled via Extremis
Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Salvador Larocca
Though the plot for this book is probably far from anything we’ll see in this summer’s movie, this is the origin of the Iron Patriot, the War Machine unit decked out in red white and blue. This collection also features Pepper Potts, Tony’s girlfriend, getting an Iron man suit of her own named Rescue. Is it possible that Pepper may get this treatment in the film? Tony let Rhodey keep the War Machine armor…
Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Salvador Larocca
These are the most recent and, in my opinion, best adaptations of the film’s major villain: the Mandarin. Though he probably won’t be equipped with ten magic rings, this cerebral terrorist portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley definitely has a plan to destroy Tony Stark, life and legacy.
Feature photo courtesy of screenrant.com