Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's Ironheart Mk 1 Armor Was Entirely Practical (& Weighed 50 Lbs)

On top of introducing Namor and the underwater nation of Talokan, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" also presents another major Marvel Comics character: Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart. Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato in 2016, Her vast intellect allowed her to create a suit similar to Tony Stark's. Eventually, the character became Iron Man before coming into her own as a superhero under the name of Ironheart. "Wakanda Forever" marks the character's first live-action appearance, played by Dominique Thorne, with the character providing an interesting dynamic with Shuri.

Since "Wakanda Forever" is meant to serve as the character's introduction before she gets her own Disney+ series, it makes sense to introduce the armor she builds as well. Hinted at being developed around Stark technology, Riri's mark one suit is reminiscent of the Iron Man armors from the earlier Marvel Studios films. The best part about the first armor seen in the movie is that it was entirely practical, and just like the mark one suit from the first "Iron Man" film that started it all, it's got a real weight to it.

Feeling the weight of the suit

In an interview with Variety, Dominque Thorne talked about putting on the Mark I Ironheart suit for the first time, recognizing both the literal and metaphorical weight of taking on the role, and how putting on the suit helped her understand the character of Riri Williams better:

"Unlike some of the other suits that may be added in later with visual effects, the Mark I was all practical. To get to feel the weight of that on my body and just understand how it moves — you almost want to say it's clunky, but when you have it on, you realize, 'Oh, this is actually such a smart build, like all my joints are free so I have so much movement. But also, this is heavy as hell. And it flies? Whoa!' The doors open wide into Riri's mind and how she thinks. What she saw was possible and then actualized."

While the final suit Riri wears in "Wakanda Forever" is mostly VFX work, it's refreshing to see Marvel Studios continue to honor the practical effects that helped establish its success with the Mark I Ironheart suit. When asked how much it weighs, Thorne precisely answered that the armor is "52.5 pounds, and that's without one piece." While 50 pounds of practical armor may seem like a lot, it's relatively lighter than the original Mark I armor from 2008's "Iron Man," which just shows the progress practical effects have made over the past decade.

The weight of a Mark I armor

In an article published by the Stan Winston School, special effects creator Shane Mahan revealed the Mark I Iron Man suit to have been an astonishing 90 pounds. Moreover, while Robert Downey Jr didn't wear it, stunt performer Mike Justice put in plenty of work to be able to wear it:

"Mike Justice had to get into great shape, and he had to keep that up the whole time because there's a lot of parts on the Mark I suit. It's very heavy. We were limited to the materials we had, the epoxy armor, the aluminum frame, the backpack, and lots of leather. I think it came in at around 90 pounds, which doesn't sound like a lot until you're in it all day. If we were to do it today, with all that we've done for Iron Man 1-3 and The Avengers... The Mark I would be about 40 pounds now. But whenever you do something for the first time, it's kind of an experiment."

While the Mark I armor was weighty on the set of the first "Iron Man," it was an entirely new endeavor for those involved. Interestingly, Mahan believes that with today's advancements, the Mark I could be made 50 pounds lighter, thus hypothetically making it 10 pounds lighter than the Ironheart Mark I. The two suits are vastly different designs, and no matter the case, it seems like the first suit of armor for both Riri Williams and Tony Stark will always be the heaviest to wear. Whether the next Ironheart armor in the Disney+ show is more practical or CGI remains to be seen, but hopefully, it will be easier for Dominque Thorne to wear.