UNDATED (USA TODAY) -- For Tony Stark, the brain is just as powerful as the blaster.
After saving the world alongside superhero pals Thor and Captain America in the box-office hit The Avengers, Robert Downey Jr.'s tech genius playboy in the Iron Man suit is back for his third solo big-screen adventure in Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black and in theaters May 3.
The movie begins "Phase 2" of Marvel Studios' grand movie plan, continuing an epic story that will ultimately lead to The Avengers 2 in 2015.
Instead of getting his superhero mojo from a mythical land like Thor or Captain America's super-soldier serum, Tony Stark's super power is his intellect, according to Kevin Feige, Iron Man 3 producer and president of Marvel Studios. And he is going to need every bit of his mind for his latest situation.
Iron Man 3 picks up some months after The Avengers, with Tony and love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) back and running Stark Industries. However, Tony is targeted by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) - Iron Man's most iconic foe from the comics - and has a vast array of gadgets and weaponry wiped out.
"He basically loses all of his toys and is forced to just use his mind to rebuild and to face his biggest enemy," Feige says, resulting in the most advanced Iron Man suit yet.
"He's ultimately the engineering superhero. He's so charming and so flamboyant that sometimes you forget that's what he is: 'Hey, kids, learn this stuff and you can maybe build an Iron Man suit.' "
Sifting through the rubble
Tony Stark's come a long way since he was held captive in a cave in Afghanistan and built a weaponized suit to survive in the original Iron Man movie. But Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is left to survey the damage caused when the Mandarin attacks Tony in a very personal manner in Iron Man 3. "While he is a charming guy, it is often hard to root for a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist because they seem to have it all," Feige says. "In this movie, we are again going to see him stripped down more than we've ever seen him since he was in that cave, again with his back against the wall and with nothing but his wits to help him survive."
Pepper adds spice
The connection between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) began in the two previous Iron Man movies and grew even more in The Avengers, and the new film will be filled with trials and tribulations that will bring them closer together, Feige says. "That's one of the things we love about (Tony). It is not a new girl in every film. Pepper Potts is an incredibly important part of his life and his evolution as a hero. She plays a very big part in this film."
'He's given 120% on this one'
The Iron Man 3 set in North Carolina was shut down for a few weeks in September due to Robert Downey Jr.'s sprained ankle, according to Feige, but he's been back in action for nearly a month now. "It's an example of what Robert's always said: 'Leave nothing on the field. He always gives it 100% but I think he's given 120% on this one." That's important particularly in Iron Man 3's very Tony Stark-centric story line. "Robert is in almost every scene, which, when you have Robert, is not a bad thing," the producer says. "The goal with Iron Man 3 is to again prove that all of our single heroes are as interesting alone as they are when they're all together in an Avengers movie."
Knight in shining armors
Seven Iron Man suits in total have been seen in two Iron Man movies and The Avengers, but the all-new one in Iron Man 3 represents the most advanced version yet - particularly in how Tony Stark suits up. In the first movie, Tony had to stand in a gantry for five to 10 minutes to get fully armored, he had a lightweight "suitcase" suit for the second film, and in The Avengers a big coffin-sized case could fly out after him in midair and encase him in his high-tech armor. "Now we see he's invented a technology that allows him to basically have the suit arrive to him anywhere at any time, piece by piece," Feige says. "And it doesn't always work at first."