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It was expected going into Avengers: Endgame that while those who were dusted at the end of Avengers: Infinity War would somehow be brought back, there would nonetheless be permanent casualties when all was said and done. Sure enough, Black Widow and Iron Man both perished during the course of Endgame, with Tony Stark meeting his demise when he channeled the power of the Infinity Stones to turn Thanos and his army to dust.
While speaking about Tony Stark’s death, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recalled how when planning out how the hero who launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe would fall, he and the Avengers: Endgame filmmakers looked to the death of Wolverine in 2017’s Logan for inspiration on hitting the right emotional chord. In Feige’s words:
We saw Logan like the audience did, in a theater having nothing to do with the making of that film and went, 'oh my god, what an amazing ending for Hugh as this character.' And there are only a handful of examples where an actor so associated with a character can go out perfectly. That's what we desperately wanted to give Robert, and that was what our focus was on.
Like Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was a superhero audiences watched in action for a long time, with Jackman’s tenure as the clawed mutant lasting nine movies across 17 years. Wolverine died at the end of Logan from wounds sustained during a battle with his berserker clone, X-24, and his final words were to his daughter Laura, telling her she doesn’t need to become a weapon like she was made to be. That moment definitely pulled at the heartstrings.
In his interview with Empire, Kevin Feige talked about when work on Avengers: Endgame started, he and the other creative minds wanted to deliver the “stakes and real emotion” that fans wanted after years of there being the sense that deaths didn’t matter in the MCU. They were committed “100%” to taking Tony Stark off the board, and by making Tony’s death just as impactful as Wolverine’s would help with sticking the landing.
Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo previously said that Tony Stark’s fate in the movie was “destiny,” as Tony was a futurist who could not rest until he defeated the threat coming for humanity, Thanos. He finally accomplished that goal, bringing into existence the one successful future that Doctor Strange glimpsed in Avengers: Infinity War, and whether you find Tony death more emotional than Wolverine’s or not, you could feel the heartbreak as Tony’s allies and loved ones watched him die.
While there’s always technically the possibility that Robert Downey Jr. could return to the MCU years down the line somehow, Avengers: Endgame gave a fitting and emotionally resonant conclusion to Tony Stark’s journey. We’ll be revisiting Black Widow’s life next year, but Iron Man will not be gracing the big screen again anytime soon, if at all.
Which makes sense, as Phase 4 marks a new direction for the MCU. Sure we’ll be reuniting with other familiar faces in the coming years, like Thor, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel, but we’re also meeting plenty of new characters, like the Eternals, Shang-Chi and Blade. Tony’s death closed one MCU door and opened up a new one, similarly to what Wolverine’s death did for the X-Men franchise.
Avengers: Endgame is now available on Digital HD, and you can purchase a Blu-ray/DVD copy starting next Tuesday, August 13. If you’re interested about what’s next on the horizon for the MCU, look through our handy guide.