When it comes to both fashion and firepower, it’s fair to say that Tony Stark is Marvel Universe’s ultimate suited and booted Super Hero. And with Marvel’s Iron Man 3, his weaponised wardrobe gets an upgrade that’s guaranteed to blow his enemies – and audiences – away.
From Iron Man through to Iron Man 2, and the blockbuster-demolishing mega-movie Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, fans have seen Tony survive all manner of robotic, human and super-powered threats, but with Marvel’s Iron Man 3, he’s set to face a combination of the three.
With more powerful villains comes the need for an even more powerful Iron Man armour, and the question of how you improve a suit that already boasted rockets, grenades, lasers, anti-tank missiles, hand repulsors, jetboot-propelled flight, its own in-flight AI butler, and a protective armoured exterior so sturdy it could withstand a hefty clobbering from the Chitauri, Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield combined.
For Marvel’s Iron Man 3 director and action movie veteran Shane Black, the appeal of the mysterious Mark XLII comes less through its bombastic firepower, and more through its bleeding-edge technological evolution.
And while he wasn’t able to divulge the full extent of the suit’s spectacular new powers, Black’s excited to explore the prehensile abilities first displayed in Marven’s Avengers Assemble Loki-bashing climax.
“All I can say is that the Mark XLII is more responsive to Tony’s needs and his body movements. It’s also available to him in pieces, as opposed to the previous suits, which were sort of the equivalent of medical armour,” says Black.
“My favourite piece of tech in the film would be the detachable multi-faceted suit, which responds to Tony seemingly telepathically. I think [fans] will enjoy the ways we’ve found to open up the suit so it’s a little more than just an armour plate.”
It’s only fitting that as the tech has evolved, so has the design. Marvel’s Iron Man 3 will debut an array of never-before-seen suits, but it’s the sleek, golden Mark XLII that was the main focus for Marvel’s Head of Visual Development, Ryan Meinerding.
“The inspiration for the Mark XLII comes from a few places. Shane and Marvel really wanted to create an iconically different Iron Man suit that the audience would still recognise as the Armoured Avenger,” Meinerding says.
“In looking for a new aesthetic, we explored going back to Iron Man’s comic roots as the Golden Avenger. Since most of the designs from previous movies have focused on having a relatively small proportion of gold, it opened up a lot of possibilities to start playing around with a lot more.”
And it looks like both fans of the comic books and the movies are in for a treat, with an array of comic homages and subtle upgrades for keen-eyed fanboys and girls to spot along the way.
“For the Mark XLII, we looked back to Tony’s second set of comic armour. In the early comics, Tony first wore a grey suit, then transitioned to a golden version. In the progressions of the Cinematic Universe, we felt like we could pay homage to this classic look,” Meinerding reveals.
The visual evolution doesn’t end with the suit design, either. Thanks to Marvel’s Iron Man 3’s incredible action scenes and SFX trickery, Shane Black thinks it’ll be hard to tell where the physical suits end and the CGI begins.
“We actually built two suits for the movie: the Mark XLII and the Iron Patriot suit. A lot of other armours that you see in the movie, some are models and some are CGI creations. It’s up to you to decide if your eye can tell the difference,” Black says.
Fittingly enough, the rapid-fire evolution from the Mark I to the Mark XLII has been as genius and adaptable as Stark’s own character arc, with Meinerding noting the suit’s progression from disparate, clunky life saver to organic, bio-synthetic war machine.
“The Mark I was meant to save his life in captivity, and was purposefully crude. The Mark II was Tony’s first chance at refining the Iron Man, and he did so with the flight suit. The Mark IV was about trying to add a heroic sleekness, while the Mark V – the suitcase suit – is his portable emergency suit,” he says.
“The heavily weaponised and armoured Mark VII is the Avengers suit, and is meant to be the armour designed for war. Finally, the Mark XLII can fly onto Tony in pieces, and he can control the pieces with his mind.”
Excitingly, that seems to be only the beginning. With Tony’s tantalising Extremis upgrade (the techno-biological threat at the heart of Marvel’s IRON MAN 3) guaranteed to offer all manner of dazzling developments, it’s clear that even at over 40 incarnations in, Iron Man’s potential is only just beginning.