New 'Iron Man 3' behind-the-scenes photo: A look back at history, or a looming threat?

The first official image released from Iron Man 3 reveals that Tony Stark is just like any other guy who has a lot of unused tech lying around.

But instead of having an old Xbox, a PlayStation 1 and 2, and a bookbag full of old cell phones stashed in his closet, he keeps his old hardware on display, as the full photo shows us in detail. We don’t get a good look at Robert Downey Jr.’s character, who is obscured by a crew member’s clapboard, but we get a solid look at the ego of Iron Man’s alter ego.

Of course, Tony Stark would transform his lair into a mini-museum to himself. But is there a hidden danger hinted at in this photo?

In addition to being a cool way to impress the ladies, Stark’s gallery of armor helps keep those dangerous pieces of equipment out of the hands of those who may not use them for such altruistic means. You wouldn’t just want to stand the Mark III armor out at a garage sale for any old weapons trafficker. (“Eh, it’s a little banged up. You sure this fixes that freezing problem at high altitudes?”)

Stark can’t really carry all this armor with him as he trots around the globe. Well, I guess the Mark V armor, which sprang out of a suitcase in Iron Man 2, fits easily in an overhead bin, but the rest of it is in dire need of protection. Unlike a dusty old Nintendo GameCube wedged under a bed, these abandoned bits of tech could massacre people.

It’s a big responsibility for whomever — we presume Stark’s automated butler JARVIS — to guard this stuff. Although Marvel Studios hasn’t released details of the plot, if you couple this official image with paparazzi shots last week revealing the Iron Patriot, a character using stolen Stark tech who literally wraps his armor in the flag to justify his actions, we may be seeing the issue of proliferation rising again for ol’ Tony.

Remember how furious Stark was in The Avengers when he found out [SPOILER ALERT] that Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were looking for ways to manufacturer ever more powerful weapons using the cosmic power of the Tesseract? This from a man who made his billions as an arms manufacturer.

What heroism has shown Tony is there’s not just a lot of hidden good in his self-obsessed little heart, but a lot of bad in seemingly decent people. He knows that Mark armor is only safe in his hands, because he’s the only one he knows will use it responsibly.

Isn’t that how everybody feels?

The Iron Man armor in these films has become like nuclear capability — everyone wants to stop its spread, but everyone wants that power, too. In this behind-the-scenes shot, we see the entire history of Iron Man lined up in a sort of evolutionary chart — from the clunky, walking furnance armor of the Mark I he built in an Afghani cave, to the tricked out state-of-the-art Mark VII that saved the day in The Avengers.

What comes next could be too powerful even for Stark to control. If rumors are true that Iron Man 3 filmmaker Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) is taking his cues from the Iron Man comic series Extremis, which deals with nanotechnology injected directly into human beings to make them more powerful, then it’s no longer a matter of who is inside the weapon than what kind of weapon is inside the person. And that next case on the wall, which looks eerily like a row of coffins now, would have to contain Tony Stark himself.

I don’t think the character would ever be killed, but with that reactor already built into his chest and the threat of nano-machines in the bloodstream looming, we could see a story about that changes the definition of what it means to be alive.

The film, which just started shooting last week in North Carolina and will move on to Florida and China, is set for release May 3, 2013.

Read More:
EW’s exclusive interview with the superhero cast of ‘The Avengers’ — VIDEO
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