Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) died heroically in Avengers: Endgame, breaking the hearts of millions of Marvel fans in the process. But as soon as Tony Stark died, many people started wondering when and how Marvel would bring Iron Man back. After all, Endgame also showed us that revivals are possible. It gave us new variants of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), characters who had just died in Infinity War.
As soon as the Loki TV show was announced, I knew that Iron Man would just have to be resurrected. Years later, we know just how important the Loki variant in the Disney Plus TV show is for both the Infinity Saga and Multiverse Saga. And I dare say this character variant is even more loved than the original.
Fast-forward to early December, and we have an official statement from Kevin Feige that says Marvel will not revive Iron Man. Resurrecting Tony Stark would ruin that Endgame death, a moment Marvel worked more than a decade to get to.
I think that’s both the right and correct stance on the matter and a lie. I’m fairly certain that Marvel will have Iron Man appear in Secret Wars without resurrecting him. Spoilers might follow below.
Kevin Feige on bringing back Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. is in the running for an Oscar for his role in Oppenheimer. Vanity Fair just ran a great profile on the actor. It’s all the more impressive, considering that RDJ did not actually sit down to talk to the magazine on account of the ongoing actors’ strike. Therefore, Vanity Fair spoke to his wife, Susan Downey, for the story, as well as others who worked with RDJ over the years.
Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo were part of that group. It’s here where Feige commented on Iron Man’s fate and future in the MCU.
Vanity Fair noted that Marvel has a reputation for resurrecting characters who died. But Feige said that won’t happen to Tony Stark. “We are going to keep that moment and not touch that moment again,” Feige says. “We all worked very hard for many years to get to that, and we would never want to magically undo it in any way.”
Furthermore, the report hints that the actor might not want to come back. RDJ was reluctant to even do reshoots for Endgame, the famous “I am Iron Man” line he delivers to Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the climax of Endgame. “We’d already said tearful goodbyes on the last day of shooting. Everybody had moved on emotionally,” Joe Russo says. “We promised him it would be the last time we made him do it—ever.”
“That was a difficult thing for him to do, to come back to pick up that line,” Anthony Russo adds. “When he did come back, we were shooting on a stage directly opposite where he auditioned for Tony Stark. So his last line as Tony Stark was shot literally a couple hundred feet from his original audition that got him the role.”
Tony Stark’s death is permanent, but that’s not a problem
Of course, they would say all of that. Marvel can’t ruin the surprise that fans expect. But I don’t think for a second that Tony Stark isn’t going to be one of the Avengers fighting against Kang in Secret Wars. I also think the death we saw in Endgame will be permanent.
Since the early days of the Multiverse Saga, it’s become increasingly clear that Marvel has various ways of either reviving characters or giving us a look at variants from the multiverse. That’s the beauty of the current saga. The multiverse makes all that possible, for better or worse.
The Kang Dynasty and Infinity War will give Marvel the chance to try to repeat the Infinity War and Endgame movies. That is, the Avengers will probably lose to the Kangs initially, only to then win the war. And characters like Iron Man will be key to that success.
I explained time and again that Marvel doesn’t have to revive dead superheroes like Iron Man to still use them in upcoming movies. Marvel will show us next year how it’ll do it with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in Deadpool 3.
As a reminder, Hugh Jackman retired from his iconic role after Logan, in which Wolverine died. He said repeatedly he didn’t want to undo that end for the character. Talking about Deadpool 3, the actor revealed a big spoiler that can explain Iron Man’s return.
Wolverine will not be resurrected. Marvel will use time travel tech to simply get this Wolverine variant from a point in the past. He’ll then return to his reality, where his character will die. After Loki, we know that the multiverse is possible thanks to the work of Loki and the TVA. That’s why the Spider-Man multiverse that Sony manages and the Fox universe of X-Men stories coexist with the MCU.
As long as the script is done right, bringing the same Iron Man back without resurrecting Tony Stark is certainly possible.
A different Iron Man variant might be even more exciting
Another possibility for Marvel is to just give us a different variant of Tony Stark from the multiverse.
“When he’ll come back to set, Robert is famous for throwing the plan out the window and climbing on top of the couch and whatever, sort of going off-book,” Joe Russo told Vanity Fair about how RDJ plays Iron Man. “He does this because he likes to surprise himself. He likes to keep things fresh. He lights up for that.”
“There’s no other way that he could have played that character for 10 movies unless he was doing that,” Anthony added.
“Robert has certainly lived a complicated life. He understands the stakes, he understands loss, he understands the turns life can take between ups and downs. He’s always looking for that level of depth, that level of complexity. I think he knows that’s what we all come to movies for in the first place.”
What that tells you is that RDJ has found ways to challenge himself by playing Iron Man time and again. Playing a different Tony Stark from the multiverse should be just that. Another great challenge for the actor who might get an Oscar for his performance in Oppenheimer.
Interestingly, the same piece gives us an exciting detail about RDJ’s plans for the near future. He will play four different characters in Park Chan-wook’s The Sympathizer. That’s an upcoming spy movie set in the US in the 1970s during the Vietnam War. RDJ asked Park how unrecognizable he should be for the four characters.
“I answered that I wanted the audience to be well aware a single actor is playing multiple roles—but to forget this as they become immersed in the story,” the director told Vanity Fair.
“To accomplish this, each character must have strong idiosyncrasies but remain within the realm of realism. For the audience to understand the concept that these characters are the various faces of the American ruling class, they must sense the fact it’s one actor playing them all.”
I’m certainly excited about The Sympathizer for this reason alone: Seeing RDJ play four characters. But the fact that RDJ will make this movie further makes me think that his return to Iron Man is inevitable.
Marvel’s once-in-a-million opportunity
Finally, I’ll point out the obvious thing here. Secret Wars will be Marvel once in a lifetime chance to unite all the movies based on Marvel characters from the past three decades. Whether it’s a Sony, Fox, or Marvel movie, the leading characters in them should show up in Avengers 6.
It’ll be the only chance Marvel gets to have Iron Man, Wolverine, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), and at least three Spider-Man variants on the same set, fighting the big villain. And Marvel can’t pass this opportunity up.
Once that happens, however, I’m certain we won’t see RDJ as Iron Man again. That’s why Feige’s comment isn’t a complete lie. RDJ’s Iron Man died tragically in Endgame. He’ll stay dead even after RDJ returns to play Iron Man once again.
Whether Marvel recasts Iron Man after Secret Wars, that’s a different story.