Marvel fans could be in for a big surprise as swirling rumors suggest Robert Downey Jr. is set to return as the fan-favorite Iron Man.
As the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) struggles to find itself among stories of Hulk attorneys and Multiversal mazes that have no end in sight, there is one surefire way that Kevin Feige and the team could resurrect the glory of the good old days: quite literally.
Casting Robert Downey Jr. Was a Stroke of Brilliance
Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy of Stark Industries, was the cornerstone of the MCU’s rise to prominence at the box office since his induction into the film franchise back in 2008.
Marvel, whose casting prowess typically finds itself superior to other studios, landed on Robert Downey Jr., despite his checkered past, to play the popular Stan Lee and Jack Kirby character.
Little did MCU fans realize, as Tony Stark was building the first generation Iron Man suit in a remote cave in Afghanistan, that he would become the focal point of the MCU, ultimately giving his life for the world in the fight against the Mad Titan, Thanos in Avengers: End Game (2019).
Stark, whose family made its fortune through lucrative contracts to build arms, would be one of the most intriguing character arcs over the last 15 years, and no one encompasses the wit-filled cockiness of Stark better than Robert Downey Jr.
How Could Iron Man Fail?
Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, once suggested that Iron Man (2008) would be a failure before its final cut. Interestingly enough, Robert Downey Jr. and his portrayal of Tony Stark would not only prove Feige wrong; it would go on to create one of the most beloved franchises ever after joining forces with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) in Avengers (2012).
Iron Man would receive three sequels, but RDJ’s best work would come alongside MCU greats like Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier, and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the four Avengers films from the early stages of the MCU.
Tony Stark, who was responsible for almost destroying the Earth alongside Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), would ultimately become the measuring stick for what it meant to be one of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” once Thanos, heralded by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wiped half the planet’s population from existence with just one snap.
The culmination of decades of work would happen in 2019 when Avengers: End Game bulldozed its way up the earning charts after its explosion of a debut. The film, which currently sits as the second highest grossing of all time, accepted as the final chapter of Tony Stark and the original Avengers, would leave fans in tears, as the beloved character that Robert Downey Jr. brought to life made the ultimate sacrifice, uttering his final words, “I-am-Iron-Man.”
Iron Man Returns: What Makes Downey Jr So Great?
Let’s be honest: even outside of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. is likable. Despite a past dotted with drug use and arrests, Downey reminds us all that we can rise above the worst parts of ourselves and be something greater.
The Due Date (2010) actor isn’t only a Marvel product of success. Downey Jr. has experienced an illustrious career spanning decades full of Acamdey Awards and high-profile roles in films such as Natural Born Killers (2004), Gothika (2003), and, of course, Sherlock Holmes (2009).
Although Downey Jr. is best noted for his work alongside Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), his career has led to other impressive onscreen performances with notable greats like Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, and Jamie Foxx.
RDJ, not one to back down from a challenge, much like his Iron Man persona, would also show us his range in the now-highly-controversial Tropic Thunder (2008). The war-torn comedy would feature other funny names like Ben Stiller and Jack Black. However, Robert Downey Jr. would steal the show with his portrayal of Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor who has undergone a pigmentation procedure in an effort to portray an American black man during the Vietnam War.
The MCU Has Fallen, Only Iron Man Can Save It
Since the culmination of Avengers: End Game in 2019, MCU fans have had a mixed bag of feelings regarding the general direction Marvel Studios is headed. Although they’ve heavily depended on popular characters such as Loki, Thor, Dr. Strange, and Chris Pratt as Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (2023), things just haven’t felt the same.
Instead of clarity, new films and Disney+ shows have created chaos within the MCU, which finds itself in crisis mode. Direction seems as lost as the once-great studio could be destined for failure. Even popular original characters such as Thor can’t save the modern-day MCU from itself, as many feel the creative decisions of new products, such as She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022) or Ms. Marvel (2023), are unbecoming of Iron Man’s legacy.
The excitement within the MCU is missing, and many feel as if it’s because the franchise’s best character is now gone, seemingly forever. But, as we saw with Robert Downey Jr. in End Game, could a bright light at the end of an endless void of nothingness be the salvation the MCU needs?
Rumor Has It Robert Downey Jr Is Back
This ain’t no clickbait, baby! Serious rumors are swirling loudly that Robert Downey Jr. and his extremely popular Iron Man character are headed back to save the MCU from disaster. According to CBR, “a recent report suggested that Marvel Studios execs have discussed making a new Avengers movie that brings back the original crew, including Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. This was followed by movie scooper MyTimeToShineHello on X reporting that RDJ already agreed to come back, possibly revealing the actor as the first name to get on board for the Avengers reunion film.”
Highly speculative, it’s hard to ignore smoke; as you often know, it means fire, and as CBR isn’t the only one hinting at a return from Robert Downey Jr., there’s plenty of smoke to go around. The thought isn’t as far-fetched as it may initially sound, either.
The MCU is struggling fiercely to get anything off of the ground. Recent box office debacles like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) have left the studio grasping at straws on where to go from here. As the MCU, primarily derived from comic book stories, has a multitude of material to draw its inspiration from, and as we’ve already seen multiple character variants in the Multiverse Saga, bringing back Tony Stark would actually be a realistic possibility.
Not only would RDJ’s agreed return be realistic, but it would also be the fresh pump of energy the studio needs to garner new interest from its fanbase. Citing questionable decisions with shows like Secret Invasion (2023), Marvel fans haven’t had a lot to hold their attention of late, especially nothing the caliber of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: End Game (2019).
Pumping the lifeblood of Robert Downey Jr. Back into the fold of a dying franchise is probably one of the only definitive ways to ensure the survival of the MCU moving forward.