When I sat down to speak with Bleeding Cool favourite and Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce last week, our conversation had three clear phases. We started with Pearce and I just chatting a little – though that’d probably be far too boring for anybody else to read. We ended with some talk about Pearce’s other projects – and that will be along coming later.
And in the middle, for our lengthy act 2, we talked about Iron Man 3. I asked Pearce about the Extremis technology, and the whys and wherefores of how it is presented in his Iron Man 3 screenplay. That provided the back bone of our chat, though we did talk around quite a lot of the meanings and themes burned into this story.
Some of what we talked about is spoiler material, so I’ve clipped it. What follows is the rest of what Drew Pearce had to tell me about Iron Man 3, ending with a very light tease of sorts.
The big inspiration for the presentation of Extremis is one key phrase that Warren [Ellis] used [in the original Extremis comics], the idea of “hacking the human operating system.” We actually went a lot further down that path in one draft, but there’s a lot stuffed into this movie and the science, or fake science, is one the first parts to get pruned away.
Our jumping off point was that key phrase, though, and the idea that an upgrade in an operating system could transfer power. This was the stuff we wrote, and some of it was shot – you know the statistics about the brain and how you only use ten percent of it? Well, there are complementary statistics about how inefficiently the body processes the amount of energy it takes in. That was the sci-fi extrapolation we were going for. But we also didn’t want a fight between men in suits.
The thematic thing we wanted from Extremis, from the upgrade aspect, is actually in the scene where Killian is describing the hologram. There’s a hole in the human brain and we don’t know what it’s for. His answer to that hole was the creation of Extremis.
I think the whole movie is about how, post-Avengers, there’s still a hole in Tony. We get to mirror Robert in these movies. There’s a question mark about when he’s become King of the World, why does he still feel things?
There’s a level on what he’s going through is PTSD, but there’s also this idea that other people’s adoration and respect doesn’t fix you. We liked the idea of a hole in you and trying to fill it.
Shane [Black, the film's director] and I talked a lot about [Frank] Capra in the beginning, when we were putting everything in the stew, as he calls it. There’s that weird thing in Capra, the tension between destiny and the concept of self-improvement. That’s one of the interesting conflicts throughout this film.
There’s a certain sense that Extremis feels like a leap too far, but Tony is a futurist so he believes in pushing those boundaries. But I think what we actually show is the development of a moral code in Tony, where futurism has to be embraced a sense of responsibility. The whole movie is about Tony accepting responsibility, both for his past, and for the idea that he is now a figurehead.
And that’s what all the kids are about in the movie. There’s that interesting thing about people when they become very successful or have been vindicated that they don’t feel worthy of it, on some level. I like to think that’s what joins up the Extremis ideas and Tony’s journey.
Also, Extremis is an action Maguffin to a degree as well.
I wish there was more Maya in the movie, and in various drafts there was much more of Maya written, but again, you’re balancing the stew. It really helps that Rebecca is really good in it. Again, in a kind of Capra sense, there’s an inverse of the Tony story. He starts the movie and his journey as someone wholly compromised and becomes this figure of responsibility, but her beginning point is innocence and the bright-eyed wonder of science, then we see how that gets compromised by industry and ego… I think ego is a big part of it.
Ego a big part of an Iron Man film? Yep. That’s part of what makes it an Iron Man film.
Thanks again to Drew for taking the time to talk to me.
Iron Man 3 is on release across the UK now. US readers will be able to see it from next Friday, May 3rd.