By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 7, 2011 at 2:15AM
It's hasn't been all that long since Jon Favreau confirmed that he wouldn't be returning to the franchise that made his name: after reportedly feuding with Marvel on "Iron Man 2," the former-Pete-from-"Friends" opted to helm the Disney blockbuster-in-waiting "Magic Kingdom" over the third installment of the metal-suited comic book hero. But in an unusually streamlined procedure, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" writer/director Shane Black was officially hired in a directing capacity a few weeks back (Oscar-winner Tom Hooper was also offered the director's chair earlier).
Word's been quiet on the film since -- unsurprising, as filming on "The Avengers," Marvel's biggest priority, hasn't quite gotten underway. But over the weekend, Black appeared on a panel at the Omaha Film Festival, and an Ain't It Cool reader in attendance sent in a report with a few tidbits the director shared about the direction that the threequel might be heading in. Firstly, despite Marvel playing coy at the initial announcement as to whether Black would also write the film (an unnamed source saying at the time "That's not figured out"), the idea of hiring the writer of "Lethal Weapon" and "The Last Boy Scout" in a purely directorial role was obviously a silly one, and Black confirms that he will be writing the script.
Indeed, he's set to team with Robert Downey Jr in Los Angeles this week for the first story meeting -- the star apparently taking a more up-front role in the film's creation this time out -- not surprising, as it was Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" that, despite commercially underperforming, was seen as starting to revive the once-troubled actor's career.
Black also suggests that Marvel weren't happy with the direction of "Iron Man 2" (a bit rich, considering that most of the problems came from a pre-ordained release date less than two years after the original reached screens), and describes the pitch for the third movie as a 'Tom Clancy-thriller, with Iron Man fighting real world villains.' While this'll disappoint fans of magical dragon Fin Fang Foom, it probably seems like the right move -- the robot-duels that ended both previous movies were pretty useless. We're not sure we'd hold our breath for Tony Stark going head to head with Gadaffi just yet though.
Black also suggests that the crossover-set-up that plagued the second movie will be absent here, saying that there are no plans to include characters from elsewhere in the Marvel universe, and that, after "The Avengers," the company plans to focus on single-character stories again. This is where we have to raise an eyebrow a little; the company wouldn't be bothering to sign new cast members to multiple movies (as many as nine options, in some cases) if they weren't planning continuing crossovers, particularly when the chance is there to launch new characters off the back of established, successful franchises.
We're not saying Thor or Captain America will have a major presence in Black's film, but we'd place money on some kind of crossover, whether return appearances from new "Avengers" cast members like Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye or Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill, or from one of the next wave of characters the company plans to introduce. Marvel has proven interference-happy in the past, so we wouldn't be surprised to see Black's hand being forced here.
Still, Black's statements mostly bode well for the picture, and he's got more than enough goodwill off the back of his previous directorial effort that we're happy to trust him; at the very least, it suggests that both he and Downey Jr. have learned from the errors of the disappointing "Iron Man 2." Frankly, all they have to do is announce that Sam Rockwell's coming back and we'll be there opening day. "Iron Man 3" will hit theaters on May 3, 2013.