Gwyneth Paltrow had a tough gig in the Iron Man series, playing both the role of “straight man” and romantic interest to Robert Downey Jr.’s charming-yet-erratic Tony Stark. Her character, Pepper Potts, is essentially the rock that prevents the eccentric superhero from collapsing under his own impractical urges. Her absence from Iron Man’s two most recent MCU appearances (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War) speak volumes about why he’s become an accidental antagonist in both those chapters. Civil War established that Pepper was, at least temporarily, out of the picture, and that Tony was trying to make responsible choices to earn her back.
Fans have been left to wonder whether Paltrow will, like many other romantic interests in the MCU, simply fade out of the picture. Whether or not there is room for Pepper in Marvel’s future plans is still uncertain, but according to Paltrow, she’s still on contract to return if called.
In a recent interview with ET, Paltrow mentioned that she’s not currently keen to return to acting, but that she still has obligations to Marvel. “I think it’s Avengers or Captain America, one of those,” she said, indicating that the specifics of her possible return isn’t something that has been a pressing issue for her.
Fans will surely be divided over whether or not Marvel should re-focus on the relationships between their heroes and the romantic interests in their lives. Despite shifting a film’s attention away from superhero hijinks, it’s hard to argue that many of these relationships aren’t an important part of the heroes at the heart of the film. Since Marvel’s episodic character building has been such a successful draw to audiences, it at least makes sense to satisfactorily tie up these romantic subplots, even if they don’t hold as much sway over the plot as they used to.
Iron Man will next appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and subsequently cross paths with his fellow Avengers in Infinity War. Whether or not these chapters or beyond will see him resolve his romantic troubles seems very uncertain. There is such a generous gaggle of new heroes stepping in as MCU mascots, it’s possible that Iron Man himself may finally fade from the picture. If it is the case that Robert Downey Jr. is nearing the end of his term with Marvel, we can only hope they’ll give him a satisfactory farewell.