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Here’s how Marvel could bring Robert Downey Jr. back for Iron Man 4

Published Jun 21st, 2023 9:38PM EDT
Iron Man Endgame
Image: Marvel Studios

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I’ve been discussing Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) inevitable MCU return since the character died in Avengers: Endgame. But I never considered the possibility of Marvel making another Iron Man movie. Instead, I’ve always expected the Avengers to bring back Tony Stark from a different reality or the past for a massive fight like Secret Invasion. Yet RDJ’s reaction to a question about a future Iron Man 4 made me realize there’s scope for such a movie in the current MCU context. A film that I’d love to see should Marvel want to make it. Before I explain, note that MCU spoilers might follow below.

How Iron Man returns

Leaks say that Secret Wars will be a massive Endgame-like conclusion to the Multiverse Saga. Marvel might feature all sorts of superheroes joining the Avengers in their fight against Kang. It wouldn’t just be Iron Man coming back from the dead.

Other dead or retired characters might appear in the film. Think Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). And we could see superheroes from Fox’s X-Men universe and Sony’s Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (SSU). Also, rumors say that Spider-Verse characters could appear in the movie.

Also, rumors say Secret Invasion is so big Marvel might have to split it into two parts.

Avengers: Endgame
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) embracing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in an emotional scene from the climactic Avengers: Endgame final battle. Image source: Marvel Studios

With all that in mind, Secret Wars appears to be the perfect place to bring back Iron Man.

I’ve already explained there are multiple avenues to bring Tony Stark back. The simplest one is grabbing the superhero from the past, maybe right before he died in Endgame. The Avengers would still put him back by the end of Secret Invasion so that he could fulfill his destiny.

Another equally exciting concept is Marvel introducing a Tony Stark similar to the one we’ve grown to love, but different. A variant from the multiverse that might have a bone to pick with the Avengers. That’s where Iron Man 4 would come in.

How Iron Man 4 could shock the audience

An Iron Man 4 seems unlikely at this point. But remember that RDJ’s brilliant performance as Iron Man made the multi-billion dollar MCU success possible. With the current slump, Marvel could always decide to bring RDJ back, no matter how much his payday would be. He’d get a fourth installment in the Iron Man saga, probably right before Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars.

This would be a movie that Marvel can’t keep secret. It would have to announce it beforehand, losing the element of surprise. The alternative is to never confirm RDJ’s return to shock audiences when Iron Man appears in Secret Wars.

But Marvel could announce it in a very misleading way. It could market it as something it isn’t. Maybe a prequel like Black Widow. You’d only discover what kind of story Iron Man 4 is when you watch it in theaters.

John Krasinski as Mister Fantastic in Doctor Strange 2.
John Krasinski as Mister Fantastic in Doctor Strange 2. Image source: Marvel Studios

Imagine Tony Stark waking up all shaken next to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), telling her something like, “I dreamt I beat Thanos, but I still died. You know, again.” Then she’d console him reminding him the Avengers beat Thanos (Josh Brolin). That he’d put a suit of armor around the world, and his job was done. That he promised he’d give up his own armor.

The camera pans out, and this isn’t Earth-616. Moments later, the alarm bells go off, and a Jarvis-voiced Ultron (Paul Bettany) informs Stark of an attack at the Illuminati compound and that his presence is urgently required.

Tony gets ready in his Superior Iron Man suit, only to witness live footage of his friends getting savagely killed by Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen).

Iron Man 4 would be a direct response to the action in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Rejoining the Avengers

The Iron Man 4 story I want to see is of the Tony Stark of Earth-838. A character who hadn’t quite reached the same superhero maturity that Earth-616 Tony did. A character who would embark on a massive quest to find Wanda and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and avenge the Illuminati.

This path would put Tony-838 on a journey that might end with an attack on Earth-616. After all, incursions are inevitable, and these two realities are bound to clash before Kang Dynasty and Infinity War. Then, we’d have this Iron Man redeem himself by joining the Earth-616 Avengers once he realizes how big the Kang threat is.

All of this is speculation from yours truly. There’s absolutely no indication that Marvel wants to make another Iron Man movie with RDJ at this point. And I would know, considering the years I’ve spent closely watching the MCU rumors. But I’d absolutely love to see such an MCU story in the not-too-distant future.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.