Robert Downey Jr, Kevin Feige and Shane Black host an early peek at ‘Iron Man 3’

I have carefully constructed my life so that I do not have to brave the horrors of Los Angeles morning rush hour traffic very often, and on the rare occasions I am willing to do so, it had better be for something worthwhile.

For example, if someone were to offer me a chance to sit down on a late January morning with Robert Downey Jr, Shane Black, and Kevin Feige to talk about “Iron Man 3,” that would be worth it.  I don’t often do roundtables, but in a situation like this one, I know everyone else at the table and I know all three of the people we’ll be interviewing, and I have a pretty good idea that it’s going to be a relaxed and informative conversation.

The morning began with them taking us over to a screening room and showing us the Super Bowl spot (keep in mind this was a few weeks early), and then they tried to show us the new trailer for the film.

“Which new trailer?” you ask.  Well, that would be this new trailer…

… which just went live this morning.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have the right file on the morning we were there, so we left without seeing it.  No matter; they ended up showing us a fairly sizable chunk of the film, with a fair amount of new information revealed to us.

Specifically, we had a chance to see an extended version of the attack on Tony Stark’s house, and we heard what leads up to it.  Evidently, there’s a scene early in the film where Happy Hogan is badly injured in a terrorist attack that is orchestrated by The Mandarin, and Tony Stark is furious.  He goes on television and he taunts the Mandarin, telling him that he’s a coward.  He evidently looks in the camera and dares the Mandarin to make a move.  “Come and get me,” he says.

The sequence we saw began with Rebecca Hall showing up at Tony’s house, just as Pepper Potts is getting ready to leave.  She’s upset at Tony, angry about what he did on television, confused as to how he could think that’s a good idea. It was hard to get much of a sense of who Maya Hansen is in the film.  We know that Hansen is one of the creators of the Extremis virus in the comics, along with Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, but I’m not sure if she’s playing someone who is aware of just how dirty Killian is, or if she’s a scientist whose work is being perverted.  I don’t know this particular run of the comics very well, and I’m excited to be able to approach the movie from that perspective.

If you noticed the big giant weird-as-hell stuffed bunny in the last “Iron Man 3” trailer, rest assured that’s not just some unexplained background detail. There was a whole riff on the bunny in the beginning of the scene we saw, where there’s some real tension, but there’s also that familiar back and forth banter that is so much a part of the dynamic between Pepper and Tony in the films so far.  it’s seasoned here by Pepper’s sadness and by Tony’s frustration in knowing that he’s screwing things up.  He doesn’t want her to go, but he can’t exactly pretend not to know why she’s leaving.

And just as the scene starts to wrap up, we see the helicopters approaching, and the attack on Tony’s house begins.  Obviously the Mandarin decided to take him up on his offer and pay him a visit, and it’s an amazing sequence.  There’s a shot in the trailer where you see the first explosion and both Pepper and Tony are launched into the air, off their feet, in slow-motion.  What you don’t see in that shot is Tony barking an audible order that causes the Iron Man armor to race across the room and snap into place as a suit.

Only it’s not Tony wearing it.  It’s Pepper.

As the house starts to collapse, Pepper is safe.  Tony tells her to grab Maya and get out.  She does, using the suit to make sure she gets them both out of harm’s way.  It’s obviously Pepper’s first time driving the car, so to speak, but she manages to do it without killing either of them.  She gets Maya outside, in front of the house, safe for the moment.  And that’s when Tony, getting battered and bruised, calls for the armor to disengage from Pepper and race into the house to him.  

Tony knows that he can’t let the Iron Man armors fall into anyone else’s hands, so those images you’ve seen in the trailer of the armors blowing up?  That’s Tony’s self-destruct sequence in effect.  He orders Jarvis to blow the suits as he gets the latest suit finally sealed onto him. Just in time, too, because the house goes sliding off the mountainside, right into the drink.

Again, you’ve seen some of that in the trailer now, and it’s very cool.  Black shoots it in a very experiential way, so you get a sense of just how it would feel to have your whole life land on you.  The debris begins to crush him, and he activates a fail-safe program that turns his suit into a projectile, hurled up and out of the ocean, out of control. Tony is barely conscious as the suit rockets out of California airspace, into the middle of America, where it finally comes down, crashing in a forest, and that’s where you get the image that has opened each of the trailers so far.  Tony Stark, on his back in the show, face mask peeled away.  He’s dazed, unsure where he is, and the suit is essentially, at this point, dead weight.

We saw him haul the suit to the nearest sign of civilization, where he uses a pay phone to make a call to Pepper to tell her that she was right and he was wrong, and until he is ready to face the Mandarin and has the power to stop him, he’s got to stay off the grid and disappear, for everyone’s sake.

We also saw a short scene in which Tony, attempting to repair his suit, has to deal with a local kid who is thrilled that he’s got Iron Man standing in his garage.  It was a short scene, but the kid has that natural ability to poke someone’s conscience simply by asking questions, and it’s obvious that he very quickly gets to Tony, who is starting to realize just how out of control and dangerous his actions have been, and how close he came to getting Pepper killed.

The final scene we saw was basically just The Mandarin arriving at a television broadcast, and this is where we got a glimpse of just how they’re playing the character.  The set that he uses for his broadcasts is carefully stage managed for maximum effect, and the Mandarin’s costuming is all designed to create the impression of power and malice.  We saw Killian there in the studio, helping to coordinate the broadcast, so they’re obviously in it together in the film.  But we didn’t get to see much of the Mandarin’s actual address.  It was a very short tease more than anything.

Finally, after showing us all the footage they had planned, they took us back over to the Casa Del Mar hotel, where we had two separate conversations.  I’ll have those for you today.  For now, though, check out that new trailer and tell me what you think of it.

Is “Iron Man 3” looking like the next step from Marvel or more of the same?  How excited are you for the first post-“Avengers” adventure?

“Iron Man 3” opens everywhere on May 3, 2013.