‘Iron Man 2′ finds its past (and some of Marvel’s future) in the Stark Expo

April 23, 2010 | 3:25 a.m.

“IRON MAN 2″ COUNTDOWN: 15 DAYS

Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity), and he always seems to comes out on top — that’s why we love him. But now comes “Iron Man 2,” a film about secret dangers, the sins of the father and the nasty price of modern celebrity. The movie lands May 7 in the U.S., and every day until then, we’ll have behind-the-scenes scoops on the summer’s most anticipated film and a look at all things Iron Man.

Worlds Fair 1964

Iron Man was the first major West Coast superhero in Hollywood history, but in “Iron Man 2” there’s a major valentine to the East Coast in the creation of the Stark Expo, an event that (in the movie’s presented history) was created by Tony Stark’s father and revived by the superhero billionaire.

In addition to being concept that bookends the new film, it’s a loving tribute to major backdrop of director Jon Favreau’s youth.

“With the Expo I got to revisit where I grew up, which was across the street from Flushing Meadows Park — the whole Stark Expo is in Flushing Meadows Park, the old World’s Fair fairgrounds. I grew up looking out my window at the remains of the 1964 World’s Fair, and this was a way to represent that in our story. It’s a love letter to Queens — and Queens doesn’t get a lot of love.”

In the film, the Expo is ground zero for much of the story’s themes of family secrets, complicated legacies and the searing spotlight of modern celebrity.

Jon Favreau filmmaker

“The Expo dates back to the 1930s, but the last one was in 1974 when Tony’s father was still alive and Tony was just a kid,” Favreau said. “Now Tony is reintroducing this concept of the Expo at the start of the film and it’s presented a part of peace dividend — now that Iron Man is keeping the world ‘safer,’ this is Tony’s way of turning guns to butter and changing the conversation about the future.”

Production designer J. Michael Riva found a massive challenge in the modern-day Expo, which was eventually filmed using an enormous green screen that took over the Sepulveda Dam and featuring thousands of extras. The faux vintage images of past Expos, meanwhile, were cooked up by Industrial Light & Magic and keyed to signature images of the real-world World’s Fair, which you see in the photo above.

“It’s just a click away from reality,” Favreau said.

SPOILER ALERT, THIS PARAGRAPH: The filmmaker said that the fabricated history of the Stark Expo will echo in other Marvel films, too. “It does figure in to the other films because in the Captain America movie you’re going to see the early one, which I think is a lot of fun,” Favreau said. “They’re going to have a reference to Tony’s father, Howard Stark, played by John Slattery, and his earlier Expo. But I don’t want to say more than that.”

Here’s a bit of tie-in fun via a viral video…

– Geoff Boucher

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One Response to ‘Iron Man 2′ finds its past (and some of Marvel’s future) in the Stark Expo

  1. […] race track sequence is also a gem of action filmmaking, and the clever concept of the Stark Expo will pay dividends in the expanding Marvel Universe on screen. The movie, though, was not unified like the first one […]

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