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Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. is doing his very best to gracefully move on from Tony Stark, the role that re-established him as an actor and catapulted him into the Hollywood stratosphere. But it’s proving to be quite difficult. The actor is out promoting Dolittle, his first movie since Avengers: Endgame, and as one might expect, he’s being asked as much about Marvel as he is about his on-screen doctor.

Downey was asked earlier if he could ever see himself returning to the role in Iron Man in a future MCU movie. He answered. A few days later, he was asked again. (This is how the cycle goes.) This time by The TODAY Show. He answered, again, but left the door slightly ajar.

I'm not sure. Are we in bargaining now? I am so pleased, just that, I wound up where I have. I’m very fortunate so, I’m not the kind of guy who -- I want to try to keep it classy. We'll see.

One is never truly OUT from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As we already have learned, several active cast members from the Marvel movies are lending their voices to characters on the What If? television series that will come to Disney+. That’s certainly an avenue where Robert Downey Jr. could return as Tony Stark, allowing an alternate storyline to play out without having to actually “return” to the screen.

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The way that Downey is playing coy in these interviews makes me wonder if conversations already have taken place, and if RDJ might be aware that more Iron Man is in the cards for his future.

On the other hand, it’d be wise of him to wait longer, so that the impact of his death in Avengers: Endgame truly can be felt. Should Tony return to the MCU after a movie or two, then his sacrifice to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) will be more of a gimmick, and the emotional punch it landed will be diminished.

Still, Black Widow is showing that Marvel, at the very least, is open to prequel movies that revive deceased characters. We won’t know how that works until that movie opens in theaters in May. But there’s a very real chance that bringing Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) back for a movie right after Avengers: Endgame will reduce the impact of HER death in that film, as well.

No matter what happens with Downey, the future of the MCU looks intriguing. The Eternals will make their big-screen debut, as will Shang-Chi. Is there room for RDJ in the studio’s future plans? Or do you think he should stay retired, and leave well enough alone?