WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Infinity War
Marvel fans don't know what's coming in Avengers 4, but there's a good chance it will bring the death of Tony Stark. That's our theory, considering the growing evidence that the one-time MCU poster-boy will be heading for the exist sooner rather than later. Not as a case of the studio wanting to shift away from their most established (and most expensive) leading actor. Nor is it, as in the case of Chris Evans, a desire to move on to other creative pursuits or roles. Robert Downey, Jr. has spoken candidly about the fact that playing Iron Man well past fifty could prove disastrous, and would rather go out on top.
So as Marvel angled the marketing for Avengers 3 as a major turning point for the MCU, and decided not to comment on the fact that Iron Man won't appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming 2, there was more reason than ever to assume that with the arrival of Thanos raising the stakes, the time had finally come: Iron Man would die in Avengers: Infinity War.
That obviously wasn't the case... in fact, Tony was one of the few Marvel heroes who survived Thanos's plan. But fans shouldn't exhale just yet: Tony Stark's death may still be the grand finale to the second part of this story, coming in Avengers 4.
All Signs Point To Robert Downey, Jr. Leaving The MCU
To assume that future in the Marvel movie universe is set in stone - especially after the conclusion of Infinity War - would be wishful thinking. Mainly because the future of the MCU itself seems to be undecided... with Tony the leading candidate to actually set things right.
For obvious reasons, it's hard to believe Infinity War's ending is going to stick. Sure, the original cast of The Avengers has all survived into this bigger, more plentiful universe. Seeing the teams, legacy heroes, and most popular new MCU franchise leads turned to dust was a shock not just for story reasons, but because it seemed to be the opposite of the obvious twist. That's likely why Marvel made the choice, upending the expectation that it would be the old heroes cast aside, leaving the new stars to save the day. And where Iron Man was concerned, see Tony Stark among the most meaningful heroes to die in that hand-off.
That may still be the plan, however, when taking into consideration the movie's final twist. The evidence suggesting Robert Downey, Jr. will be hanging up his Iron Man armor isn't changing. And with Doctor Strange's final words, and the claim that Downey would be up for "one last Iron Man adventure," the answer is clear. Downey's last Iron Man story... is quite possibly the last Iron Man story there can be.
We think it's time for fans to prepare to see Tony Stark die in Avengers 4 - and accept that it's the best possible ending for the character to not just meet, but embrace.
Tony Stark's Story is Ready For An Ending
In no uncertain terms, it was the arrival of the first Iron Man that sparked the newborn Marvel Universe into existence. Ever since, the story of Tony Stark has paralleled the growth of the MCU from infancy to adulthood. The first Iron Man saw Tony rise from irresponsible adolescence to adulthood, choosing a place in the world, and a mission. Iron Man 2 was something of a midlife crisis, grappling with his mortality, looking past those who loved him, and realizing his role in a larger peer group. The Avengers made him obsessed with avoiding-- no, preventing his own mortality, and what danger might come to those he loves once he's gone.
The introduction of Spider-Man has shifted Tony into a phase never before thought likely for the billionaire genius playboy philanthropist: fatherhood. It started in Civil War, blossomed in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and has now taken center stage (in heartbreaking fashion) with Infinity War. Tony's desire to fan the flames of genius and heroism in Peter Parker was clear from the start. And his confessed hope that Peter wouldn't just follow in his footsteps, but "be better." In other words, be able to protect the world once Tony no longer can. And his indelicate way of teaching this lesson may be the perfect culmination of Tony's love/hate relationship with his own father.
But things have taken a turn. With the arrival of Thanos, it's the son who has died... leaving the father with no future to prepare him for.
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018