New characters to create segue to 'Avengers'

The cast and director of the second “Iron Man” installment rocketed into Comic-Con’s densely packed Hall H Saturday afternoon. Director Jon Favreau teased the audience with some conspicuously shoddy footage when Robert Downey Jr. interrupted the proceedings by strutting out on the stage with the playboy confidence of Tony Stark himself. Dramatically deriding Favreau’s canned footage and bellowing, “This is bullshit!”, Downey then introduced the real “Iron Man 2″ footage.

However, the crowd was so overstimulated at this point that the clip could only be partially heard through the hoots and hollers as each new character was introduced, with particular enthusiasm for Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), and Don Cheadle, who is replacing Terrence Howard as War Machine. But it was perhaps Mickey Rourke’s appearance as the villain Whiplash, wielding electric lassos, snapping them back and forth across his torso, that the crowd was truly impressed. The footage proved so successful that the filmmaker and cast members were rewarded with a standing ovation.

The panel itself didn’t get into too many plot points of the new film; rather, the topic remained mostly on the individual characters and the approach to following up a commercial success.

Favreau explained that while new characters were added to keep the new film fresh, he “wanted to maintain the tone and dynamic between the characters that you love.” The new characters were also meant to create a natural segue to the upcoming “Avengers” franchise, a film that Favreau would allow only that he “would be involved in some capacity.”

Favreau said Rourke’s commitment to his villain was such that the actor went inside a Russian prison, since that is what his character experienced. “I thought I was eccentric,” said Downey.

“I’ve never worked on a movie with this kind of scope,” Cheadle told the fans. He also explained his need to partially rely on veteran “Iron Man” cast members to ease the process.

Scarlett Johansson, who reportedly dyed her hair red for Favreau upon meeting for the part, mostly spoke about the taxing physical demands for her role as Black Widow.

“I like to see the actor doing their own stunts … You want to believe it,” she said, confirming Favreau’s assertion that Johansson had done many of her own stunts in the film.

The panel ended with an appearance from “Iron Man” comic writer and artist Bob Layton when an audience member prompted everyone to pay respect to the original source material. Layton happened to be in the audience and he only briefly took the stage to not only accept a few kudos, but also to express his absolute confidence that “Iron Man 2″ would “knock your socks off.”

“Iron Man 2″ opens in May 2010 and there is little doubt fans will camp out to be the first to have their socks blown off.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more