At the moment, Marvel fans are jazzed about the imminent release of Thor: Ragnarok, the rare threequel that is wowing critics (read our review). But, even as the God of Thunder prepares to hit the big screen for his third solo outing, news continues to trickle in about Thor’s next appearance in the next two Avengers films, which are set to wrap up Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Thanos on a collision course with Earth in Avengers: Infinity War, the stakes are higher than ever, and fans have long assumed that the two-part tale will see some fan-favorite characters give their lives for the cause.
A recent casting call for a funeral scene in the untitled Avengers 4 seemingly confirms that suspicion. To date, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the only major hero to die in battle, though he looks to be joined shortly by some fellow Avengers. Moreover, the addition of Iron Man 3 star Ty Simpkins — a character who only has an emotional connection to the titular hero — has us pondering the impossible. What if Robert Downey Jr.’s beloved Tony Stark/Iron Man is one of the characters set to die in the grand finale of Phase Three? Here are a few reasons why such a shocking move would make sense for Marvel Studios at this point.
6. Robert Downey Jr.’s availability and paycheck
For nearly a decade, he’s been the face of the MCU. But Downey has gone on the record in saying that he hoped to leave Iron Man behind “before it’s embarrassing.” After eight big-screen appearances as the character, Downey is probably looking for an epic conclusion to the journey he started with Tony Stark, and Marvel Studios is likely looking to turn its attention to other characters in its catalog, especially since the long-rumored Iron Man 4 is probably not in the cards. Then there’s the matter of Downey’s mounting paydays with each contract extension. Take it from Logan, even the most iconic actor/superhero pairings ultimately come to an end. This could be the best time for Downey to bow out.
5. Does the MCU even still need him?
When the original Iron Man proved to be a breakout hit, it made sense for Marvel Studios to heavily lean into Downey’s role as the centerpiece of the franchise. However, he’s already headlined his own trilogy, is bringing this incarnation of the Avengers line-up to a close and has helped introduce Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the mix. Story-wise, there’s only so much the MCU can do with Tony Stark without simply resorting to the aforementioned Iron Man 4. Besides, now Marvel Studios is such an established brand-name that even more offbeat titles like Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange are instant smash hits with casual moviegoers. It’s time to look forward, not back, to keep the MCU and its stories fresh.
4. A sacrificial end to his redemption narrative
During a heated discussion midway through The Avengers, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) accuses Tony of only fighting for himself, declaring that he would never be willing to sacrifice his life to save others’. Of course, Tony nearly does just that in the Battle of New York, delivering a nuclear missile through the Tesseract’s portal and into space before (naturally) freefalling to Earth and the safety of Hulk’s green, giant grasp. He may have survived that time, but considering Tony’s apocalyptic vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron — which may have been foreshadowing Thanos, not Ultron himself — we’re willing to bet that Iron Man is still willing to die to protect his planet and his teammates.
3. The mother of all misdirects
Thanks to the source material, many fans expected Captain America to die in Captain America: Civil War. When that didn’t happen, those theories naturally carried over to Infinity War and its sequel. After all, there’s no hero purer or more willing to sacrifice himself than Cap, who essentially did just did that in the final moments of Captain America: The First Avenger. Plus, with pals Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) already established, Marvel could easily slide either into the role of Captain America, as they did in the comics. It seems almost too perfect for Cap to die in Avengers 4, leaving Marvel Studios the perfect opportunity to subvert expectations and deliver an emotional gut-punch by having Cap’s Civil War opponent bid farewell to the MCU instead.
2. Death is never the end in comic books
Let’s face it: the MCU exists not only to inspire and exhilarate fans but to keep the higher-ups at Disney happy. Thankfully, if Tony Stark’s hypothetical death does hurt box office grosses, Kevin Feige and company always have the option of concocting a storyline that will reintroduce Iron Man into the fold, either with Downey back in the role or by recasting with another actor. Either way, it gives fans a break from the character — making a recast easier to swallow — and allows the MCU to focus its energy on what lies ahead for newer heroes like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. When you’re dealing with a comic book world where supernatural forces, time travel, and alternate realities are on the table, anything is possible.
1. A true conclusion to this era of the MCU
The most important reason why Tony Stark’s death makes sense for Avengers 4 is that there is no more significant way to convey that Joe and Anthony Russo’s epic marks the conclusion of a 22-film arc. Feige himself has already confirmed this is the case, and seeing as Iron Man was the springboard for the entire MCU — and, accordingly, Stark’s “I am Iron Man” revelation the foundation for everything that followed — it’s only fitting that the final film in this mega-narrative provide a definitive (and tragic) close to his story. Tony Stark started the MCU as an arrogant, selfish weapons manufacturer. Imagine the impact his journey would have if it ends with him dying a hero who literally puts the entire universe before himself. If we’re right and Tony Stark’s days are numbered, you might want to start stocking up on tissues now.
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