Shane Black replaces Jon Favreau as director, a transition that may breathe new life and vision into the series. Robert Downey, Jr. wanted to "radically challenge Stark’s identity, rather than just have him battle another bad guy." Black, too, felt that the story needed to develop organically from the deeply personal place hinted at in The Avengers. You may remember Stark and Cap's argument, something involving "everything special about you came out of a bottle." This comment alone showed us how deep is Stark's need for validation and his emotional progression demands an answer to the question, "Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?"
The trailer confirms some of the speculated plot details about which Marvel and Disney have been fairly tight-lipped. We pick up just after Stark returns to his Malibu home following the events in New York City. The story was primarily inspired by the Extremis story arc wherein nanotech scientists Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) and Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) develop technology that allows man and metal to become symbiotic machines (via a virus), inspiring Stark's next suit. Ben Kingsley plays Mandarin, the aforementioned intimidating villain and terrorist, who acts as the primary opposing force to Stark.
It is refreshing to see Stark concerned about losing the things that mean the most to him (a.k.a. Pepper Potts) now that he has opened up his heart to the world around him. Based on the trailer, it looks like Gwyneth Paltrow will get significantly more screen time and a substantial arc of her own. The brief glimpse of the suit confronting Pepper in bed is potentially a misdirect, though most likely explained by one of the nightmares Stark mentions and/or the fact that he is now psychically connected to the suit (as evidenced at 0:21 when he calls the glove to his hand). Screen caps reveal a memorial of some kind (0:29), the suit pinning Stark to the ground (1:00), and a massive, curious, stuffed bunny (1:13). It looks as though the suit will represent Stark's inner turmoil, becoming less predictable as he loses emotional control. Whatever the explanations, this trailer raises questions I'm excited to see the answers to.
Given that all of Iron Man's adventures so far have revolved around fighting external foes, I am glad of the chance to see Robert Downey, Jr. sink his teeth into something other than the usual sexy-sarcastic-swagger routine we've come to know and love so well. It is a fine foundation but by no means interesting if that is all he is. The real stakes for Stark are within.