Tony Stark’s workshop has had an upgrade. At first it all looks pretty much the same, and then you notice the floor. In the first film Tony had a desk that projected holograms with which he could interact; in Iron Man 2 the entire floor of the workshop projects those holograms. Which means that wherever he might be at any one time he can call up schematics, plans and information and move the items about with a flick of his wrist.
Which means that the entire floor of Stark’s workshop has been covered in glass, and to walk onto the set you must be given a little set of booties. Exploring the set (in my little booties) I quickly noticed that not everything was given over to this glass; in one corner there was a little living room set up – a rug and a couch and a TV and an Xbox. And scattered all over the rug were documents pertaining to Tony’s father, Howard Stark. There were newspaper and magazine clippings, bits of film reels, a German passport… and a diagram of Captain America’s shield. And a map of Antarctica.
What was Tony Stark looking for in all of these old documents? Whatever it was, it was likely related to the Stark Expo of 1964, a forward thinking fair put on by Howard Stark. In the scene I was there to see shot, Tony stood over a scale model of the fairgrounds – pretty obviously the 1964 New York World’s Fair Grounds, including the Unisphere – and was trying to find something hidden.
Robert Downey Jr can make even the most mundane moment interesting. We saw him do a number of takes where the camera slid over the surface of the model, and each time he brought something subtly different. Finally he moved into the big special effects moment – pretending to pick up the model and throw it into the air. In the finished film Tony’s hands will lift a digitized hologram of the model, and when he throws it into the air he’ll be presented with the entire fairgrounds as a map, which he begins to color code, trying to find the key to… something that his father hid.
If I tell you what it is that his father hid there it could be a major spoiler for the film. And I know that you want to walk into Iron Man 2 as pure as possible, so I’ll save you the heartbreak of having it ruined.
Director Jon Favreau spent a lot of time with the assembled group of journalists by a monitor – expect a lengthy interview when the full embargo on this visit is lifted – and filled us in on what it was that he wants to do with this sequel. Favreau knows what made Iron Man tick – the humor, the characters, the tone – but he also knows where it was lacking – the big action set pieces – and he wants to keep what worked while improving everything else. What was heartening was hearing Favreau and Downey both talking about the film in ways that accentuated the characters. For instance, Tony has serious daddy issues in this film, trying to live up to a father who Favreau compares to Da Vinci, a man very ahead of his time. Many of the advances that Howard Stark made can’t be achieved until now, when Tony is a grown man struggling in his father’s shadow. Howard Stark is so important that Favreau has hired Mad Men‘s John Slattery to play him in the film, although I got the sense that it’ll be in some sort of holographic form.
Tony has other problems. Favreau, Downey and screenwriter Justin Theroux were careful to try and figure out just what would be the logical next step from Iron Man‘s ‘I am Iron Man’ ending (which was pretty much something they came up with on the day). Iron Man 2 is set six months after the first and Tony is really dealing with the ramifications of his announcement. Said Favreau: ‘He’s already gone from somebody who’s been one of the most famous people in the world and one of the richest people in the world to now being a superhero on top of it and how his infrastructure attempts to manage that, it’s like when a billionaire becomes a reality TV star on top of it, it’s a wonder how that integrates with their life. This is a more extreme version of that.’
One way he won’t integrate it into his life is by becoming a huge stinking drunk. Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told us that those looking for the Demon in a Bottle storyline will be disappointed. Downey Jr and Favreau were also quick to emphasize that this film won’t feature Tony vomiting all over himself in the Iron Man armor, and Feige insists that Stark won’t drink all that much more than he did in the first film. But that doesn’t mean all is rosy. ‘About midway through the film he hits rock bottom,’ Feige said. ‘Rock bottom is not in an alley way with alcohol alongside a dumpster.’
As Tony worked to solve the puzzle of the Stark Expo, I noticed something behind him. He had a display case for his armors, with four slots. The Mark I was in there, as was the end of Iron Man Mark III and the Iron Man 2 Mark IV. But the Mark II was gone. The silver version of the Iron Man suit had somehow disappeared from the display case. I immediately went into sleuthing mode, and my guesses turned out to be proven correct at Comic Con: Rhodey has the armor and has turned it into War Machine.
But what does the pile of Howard Stark related paperwork mean? We saw Cap’s shield in the first film, but what does Antarctica have to do with anything? And why does Stark have a German passport? Is Tony finding out that his great and wonderful dad had a darker side, something hinted at by Whiplash in the Comic Con footage? I’m curious to see what it all adds up to, and how it impacts the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.