Every year Marvel Studio’s Cinematic Universe is getting bigger and bigger. The studio has released at least one film every year since 2008, and just last year capped off their Phase One plans with The Avengers. But as any franchise gets bigger it becomes harder and harder for people to get into. That’s why I’m here to help.

Just as I’ve done with every single Marvel movie since and including 2010’s Iron Man 2, below I’ve worked to try and help franchise newbies have a clearer understanding of what’s going on in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. Want to know where the Iron Patriot comes from, what The Ten Rings is and who The Mandarin is? Read on!

WARNING:This article contains some minor spoilers for Iron Man 3. While the first nine entries are safe, the last two may affect the surprise element and are clearly marked. Please be careful while scrolling!

The Battle of New York
What Is It? Those of you who saw Joss Whedon’s The Avengers will be familiar with this epic fight. At the end of the 2012 film, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) successfully opens a portal in space that allows the aggressive alien race known as the Chitauri to enter our world. In the face of incredible disaster, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye joined to form the titular superhero group and save the city of New York from destruction and the world from enslavement.

How Does It Fit? It turns out that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) isn’t having such a great time adjusting to life after the traumatic events witnessed at the Battle of New York. The knowledge of intelligent life beyond our own, and his incredible trip into outer space to destroy the alien mothership has left him shaken and unable to sleep. As a result, he’s just been playing with his toys…

Iron Patriot
Who Is He? First introduced in Marvel's Dark Avengers series, the Iron Patriot armor was actually first worn by Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn. He wears the suit when he decides to create a new team of Avengers, and feels that he needs to make both Iron Man and Captain America's presence felt.

How Does He Fit? Seeing as the rights to the Norman Osborn character belong to Columbia Pictures (he’ll be played by Chris Cooper in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2), it has always been clear that the comic book origin wouldn’t fly in Iron Man 3 (no pun intended). Instead, the armor is a modification of the War Machine suit stolen by James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in Iron Man 2, given a new paint job and a few weapons upgrades. Rhodes is hired by the President of the United States to wear the suit and serve as the nation's bodyguard - a reaction to the events during the aforementioned Battle of New York.

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