Iron Man has been dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over a year and a half, and there's still a community of fans not convinced it's going to take. That's not too surprising given the history of comic books frequently killing off and resurrecting heroes on a whim, and that even happening in the MCU when Gamora was successfully brought back. Plus, with all the crazy rumors 2020 has given fans with actors reprising roles (including Iron Man) that seemed long gone, it's understandable chatter would ramp back up that Robert Downey Jr. could return as Tony Stark.
On the heels of Marvel Studios’ executive Victoria Alonso reiterating that Tony Stark is probably dead for good, I'm here to remind the world that bringing back Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark would be a terrible idea. Apparently, since enough time has passed for people to start floating that idea again, here's a rundown of why re-introducing the character to the MCU would be a mistake.
Bringing Back Iron Man Completely Nullifies The Emotional Impact Of Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame may not be the best standalone Marvel movie, but that's really not its purpose. The film was meant to serve as a conclusion to the dozens of movies the MCU made over a little more than a decade, and to be a sendoff to some of the actors who helped make it great. This is especially true in the case of Robert Downey Jr., whose vanquishing of Thanos and subsequent emotional death was seen as a thank you for being the actor who really helped the MCU take off.
Bringing back Tony Stark, even within the next decade, drastically reduces the relevance and emotional impact of Avengers: Endgame. Not that I'm sure that's of huge consequence to Marvel considering how much money's been made off Endgame by now, but still, it's not a great way to preserve the movie's legacy.
Bringing Back Tony Stark Repeats The 'Zero Stakes' Mistake DC And Marvel Made In Comics
There's a camp out there that would argue "The Death of Superman" arc was one of the worst things to happen to comics because it ultimately created zero stakes for all future death storylines for superheroes. DC killed off Superman and saw massive success in sales by doing so. Of course the company brought Superman back to life so it could continue to profit off the character. It's a tactic that works again and again for all major comics, as the mainstream non-comic reading audiences are still alerted when a major hero is headed towards their death.
Of course, people tend to take it less seriously now, because they know that in actuality, the hero is only going away for a while. These heroes almost always return, so I've often feared from the moment major characters started getting killed off in the MCU that Marvel would backpedal and work them into the universe in whatever way they could. Marvel has already done this with characters like Gamora and Loki, utilizing time travel and diverging timelines that were introduced in Avengers: Endgame.
As I mentioned, this isn't stuff that Marvel hasn't done before, so it's all above the line in terms of lore. With that being said, comic book sales have been on a steady decline for years, with the fact that characters are frequently rebooted, relaunched or killed being an undeniable factor with some of that. No one likes to be fooled, and if someone as important as Iron Man is brought back after years of anchoring the franchise and a high-profile death, I certainly see a community of people could feel cheated by Marvel or faked out.
Not to mention if you bring back one of the MCU's biggest characters, you open up the can of worms where it's hard to justify any hero will stay dead or gone forever. It would be exhausting to never trust that any hero is gone forever, and frequent re-introductions would run the risk of the MCU becoming too complicated and convoluted for the mainstream audiences to care. Like it or not, the mainstream is what keeps the superhero genre a blockbuster affair, so driving them away would almost surely mean the death of those days. Would bringing back Iron Man be worth potentially degrading the quality of the MCU overall?
Marvel Already Passed The Torch, There's No Need To Retread Old Ground
The future of the MCU is in its new/forthcoming characters, not staying attached to its past. Captain Marvel, Spider-Man and eventually the X-Men and Fantastic Four will be the heroes that take the MCU far into the future and, Disney can hope, lead to another decade of box office dominance. For that to happen, Marvel Studios needs to be putting more time into delivering those characters happen, fleshing them out and making them the best they can
Bringing back Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, be it through time travel, diverging timelines or a parallel Earth, demeans the value of the current heroes slated to take over the MCU, and it keeps Marvel fans from being able to move on. Yes, RDJ's Iron Man is iconic, and we have numerous movies that point to that. Anyone wishing to re-live the awesome sarcastic hero can do so in the past, and leave the future to the actors like Brie Larson and Tom Holland working to make it a reality.
As Kylo Ren once said, "Let the past die." Iron Man died in Avengers: Endgame, and that's the way it should remain. I don't think any cameo, guest role or easter egg appearance in the future is worth the potential damage done by re-introducing a character who had one of the most significant and impactful deaths in the MCU. There are other ways to help audiences re-live nostalgia beyond bit casting, and given the wonderful ways Marvel has done that over the years, I can't help but think those in chage have better ways of doing so than throwing a wad of cash at Robert Downey Jr. to appear every so often in a movie.
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