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Immersed in Movies: Shane Black and Kevin Feige Talk Going Over the Edge in 'Iron Man 3,' Stark's Demons, VFX

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood May 3, 2013 at 2:35PM

With "Iron Man 3" already smashing box-office records internationally ahead of its domestic release Friday, grabbing more than $300 million in nine days (including the highest opening ever in China), Marvel's post-"Avengers" Phase 2 plan is off to a smashing start. The trick apparently was giving Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark an existential crisis, and no one was better suited to the task than director Shane Black, who, like Downey, knows a thing or two about confronting personal demons, which is what "Iron Man 3" is all about.
'Iron Man 3'
'Iron Man 3'

But Stark still requires a more bad-ass suit, so in "Iron Man 3" he's advanced his way to the Mark 42, which, allows him to assemble all of the various pieces by remote control (courtesy of some marvelous animation by Trixter). But that's not enough, so he builds an army of tin men for different attack-mode situations. In terms of VFX firepower, this time the Iron Man suits stemmed from Digital Domain, which did all of the foundation development before turning over assets to Weta, Trixter, Method, and others for customizing and finishing in their sequences. This cooperative handling of suits, which required a more rigorous examination of the animation process, and even a "guide rig" system at Weta, resulted in the best kind of global collaboration.

However, Black insisted that "Iron Man" still retain the franchise's vaunted humor, despite the darkness and Dickensian orphan riffing when dredging up daddy issues with a little boy sidekick (Ty Simpkins) that bonds with Stark."Even Chris Nolan knows that you can't go so mythic and dark that you can't occasionally lighten it up, so along the way we take the piss out of it."

In "Looney Tunes"/"Lethal Weapon" fashion, of course. But with such a complete character arc for Stark, will Downey be back other than the obligatory "Avengers" appearances?

"We've already got plans," insists Black.

"The game-change at the end will certainly be explored in the next 'Avengers' film," adds Feige.

In the meantime, we've got the next wave of Phase 2 existentialism coming with "Thor: The Dark World" (November 8) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (April 4, 2014).

This article is related to: Iron Man 3, Immersed In Movies, Robert Downey Jr., Interviews, Interviews

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.