Spoilers? No The Plot: Brilliant inventor Tony Stark battles new exoskeleton-clad villains. Geek Candy: The sophisticated real-world Iron Man suits. The technical chops necessary to create a believable exoskeleton out of CG are nothing compared with what it takes to build one in real life. Star Robert Downey Jr.’s Mark VI suit is made of 10 different materials, including industrial urethanes and automotive paints that coat the dense, foam-rubber core, giving it a hardened, metallic look, according to suit designer Shane Mahan of Legacy Effects. Check the hands for the real mastery, though. The Mark VI gloves originated from a scan of Downey Jr.’s hand. Mahan’s team designed them digitally and then rapid-prototyped each component out of plastic and vinyl. The pieces were metal-plated, assembled with clips and magnets, and strung together with tendon-like cables attached to a tension spring hidden near the metacarpal bones. “You’re really looking at an articulated, interlocking finger joint,” Mahan says. The suits in the new film are much lighter, too, although he confesses that this time he left out the legs. From the thighs down, the actors were covered in digital markers, and the bottom part of the suits were later added with CGI. That’s right: Iron Man has no pants. In theaters May 7 Francois Duhamel/Marvel
This season’s blockbusters prove that great science fiction and futuristic-tech-filled flicks don’t need to rely solely on CG tricks—innovative props can still blow an audience’s mind. Here are the best examples from this summer’s lineup (we’ll try not to spoil anything).