At this point, Robert Downey Jr. can easily return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Iron Man, but that isn’t the problem. As the MCU’s inaugural hero, Tony Stark was the poster hero of the franchise. He was the most influential character of the Infinity Saga, so it was only fitting that his death in Avengers: Endgame marked the end of the MCU’s first storytelling chapter. Aside from that, wrapping up Iron Man’s arc by seeing his sacrificial play perfectly encapsulates Marvel Studios’ knack for long-term character development, considering what kind of person he was when he debuted in 2008’s Iron Man.
While Iron Man’s Avengers: Endgame death made sense — both for the character’s personal story and the MCU as a whole, the conversation about his return never really died down. Almost four years since the culmination of the Infinity Saga and Phase 5 into the Multiverse Saga, discussions about how, when, and why Downey can come back as Iron Man continues. Considering everything that’s happening in the franchise at this point, there are certainly several ways to bring back the genius, billionaire Avenger back. However, that isn’t what’s stopping Marvel Studios from doing that.
How RDJ’s Iron Man Can Return (Without Undoing His Death)
Marvel Studios has long established that death doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for certain characters. Granted, several players died and stayed dead, but the MCU has undone many significant losses. Loki has cheated death one too many times. Marvel Studios stuck to his brutal murder in the Sacred Timeline, but he continues to be an integral part of the Multiverse Saga as a variant thanks to the concept of the multiverse. As the idea of multiple realities and timelines becomes a central plot device in the MCU, Marvel Studios can use this to justify bringing back Downey’s Iron Man.
Going the multiversal route means a potential re-emergence of Iron Man’s variant in either Avengers: The Kang Dynasty or Avengers: Secret Wars. Aside from that, however, there are a couple of other ways to see Stark again in the MCU. Flashbacks are the easiest way to do this, especially with projects such as Armor Wars and Ironheart, which will do a deep dive into his legacy. A cameo using Stark Tech from Captain America 3, BARF (Binary Augmented Retro-Framing), is also an option.
Marvel’s Real Problem Is It’s Still Too Soon For RDJ’s Iron Man Return
Although Marvel Studios has several ways to bring back Downey’s Iron Man into the MCU, that isn’t actually what’s hindering his return. Instead, it’s that it’s far too soon to see him, in any shape or form, in the MCU following his Avengers: Endgame death. Marvel Studios is still trying to rebuild the universe following the culmination of the Infinity Saga. This means that they need to focus on developing their remaining characters to be the next faces of the MCU and usher in new blood with the arrival of fresh players like Ms. Marvel, Shang-Chi, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk, among others.
Reintegrating the Avenger into the MCU could also cheapen his perfect send-off. This is the worst thing that Marvel Studios can do to the Infinity Saga culmination because his demise was its emotional core. As tragic as it was, Iron Man’s death was necessary to Phase 4‘s storytelling. Without it, certain narratives in the Multiverse Saga wouldn’t have worked. That included WandaVision, as he would have likely fought for Vision’s body, making it difficult for SWORD to experiment on it. The propaganda against Peter Parkers wouldn’t have worked in Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well.
When Can Marvel Studios Bring Back RDJ’s Iron Man?
Since there’s no hard rule that prevents Downey’s return as Stark in the franchise, it will all boil down to Marvel Studios’ storytelling. As mentioned, however, bringing him back in the Multiverse Saga is way too soon, but since the MCU’s plan runs up until 2032, there are more opportunities for his much-anticipated return. That way, there’s at least some substantial separation between his death and his next appearance. Iron Man has shaped the MCU‘s Infinity Saga and beyond with his legacy, so it will always be great to see him come back. However, it’s best to wait a while longer before he returns.
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