A geek bombshell has landed. Apparently Iron Man 3 may be arriving in 2012. Not that it’s coming at us out of nowhere. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were two years apart. There’s no reason to believe the same wouldn’t be true of Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3. Also, The Avengers was the only major Marvel film planned for 2012… well, before the Spider-Man reboot got moved back to 2012, but that’s a co-production with Sony. Marvel have strived to get a bit of momentum going – Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were released in 2008 as a double-act and Thor and Captain America will have the same partnership next year. The Avengers is big enough to open by itself, but it seemed likely that Marvel would have some other support feature designed to lead into it a month or two before release (in case audiences forgot about Captain America: The First Avenger in the year since its release). I like the idea of Iron Man3 in 2012.
Of course, this could be hot air. Robert Downey Jnr could have been jokingly referring to The Avengers as “a third Iron Man flick” – it is a film featuring Iron Man, after all. So there’s no need to get carried away. But my inner geek likes the prospect of a trilogy of movies before Iron Man joins up with his Marvel-on-film buddies.
Let’s face it, any individual sequels to these movies are going to be a bit of a problem after The Avengers. You’ve just teamed them all up for a huge budget-busting spectacle and possibly one of the biggest action movies ever made. What have you got to convince audiences that seeing any of the characters on their own is a good idea? How can follow-up movies focusing on single characters manage to be box office successes without seeming like cheaper versions of the combination event? I imagine it’ll be a tough sell. Not too tough – they’ll still do well, I imagine – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight dropoff in interest in single-hero films and difficulty from a writing and staging point of view. How do you top a film that is the sequel to four (five if you could the individual Iron man films and six if they do make a third one) different summer blockbusters?
It makes sense to do Iron Man 3 before that happens. Before the platter gets over crowded. Three is “the magic number” – it’s a number well suited to structuring films and their sequels (maybe because of the three-act structure, just on a bigger scale; maybe because Cicero was right and we just like the number three; maybe because the world ‘trilogy’ just sounds better than ‘duology’). Maybe this is why Jon Favreau is not directing The Avengers. It would be impossible for a director to manage two huge summer tentpoles, and I’d rather have him on Iron Man 3.
I’m more concerned about Robert Downey Jnr. He’s looking at quite a bit of next year as Tony Stark if he’s starring in two blockbusters as the character. It seems more than a little intensive. On the other hand, it would suggest that The Avengers won’t be Iron-Man-centric. It would be unreasonable for Marvel to expect him to lead both films, so I imagine he’ll be an honest-to-god member of the ensemble, rather than “a lead by any other name”. Which is good, because I was worried that he may hog the limelight as the biggest name on the cast list.
I like the idea of growth and character development across sequels. In fairness, this is a relatively recent invention in movie land. The notion always was that sequels generally allowed to tell a new story using the same characters and actors as means of protecting against the risk of producing a big budget flick – it was basically a new movie with a familiar and comforting face in it. Since most of these movies were actions or adventures, there was little room for character growth or change – just amping up the threat. indeed, as characters in the movies became more iconic, they were typically simplified. Compare the Indiana Jones of Raiders of the Lost Ark to that of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; or the John McClane of Die Hard to Die Hard 4.0.
What is most promising about the Iron Man sequels is the promise that Tony continues to grow and change, rather than simply serving as a friendly face to see the audience through some CGI-created mayhem. Given the fact that Tony will become a member of the ensemble in The Avengers, it’s great that he may have completed a significant character arc across several movies before he joins. At least I think it’s great. But I’m a nerd.
All this is speculation. It’s probably a misunderstanding of Downey’s quote. But, on the one-in-a-billion chance it is true, I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.