What's next for Tony Stark after Iron Man 3?

With the dust beginning to settle on Iron Man 3, it's hard not to look to the horizon to where Marvel will take Tony Stark next. With the ending of Iron Man 3 imprinted firmly in my mind, it's time for some harmless speculation about the future of Tony Stark in the MCU.

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By Samson - 4/28/2013
FULL SPOILERS FOR THE PLOT AND EVENTS OF IRON MAN 3 AHEAD. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT, GO AND SEE IT THEN COME BACK, SERIOUSLY, GO SEE IT.

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Still here? Goody gum drops. Let's get started.

If you've watched Iron Man 3, you'll know that it's a pretty big game changer in terms of the character of Tony Stark. He has a pretty rough time throughout the course of the movie, not to mention the fact he's still recovering from the events of The Avengers, both mentally and physically. We quickly saw how he is suffering from anxiety attacks and post traumatic stress, and he's having a pretty hard time coming to terms with the fact that he's 'just a man in a can' whilst there are aliens and gods to contend with. He once thought himself to be in a position of power, but since The Avengers, he's quickly realised there are bigger and stronger things out there than him and his suit of armour. This had him shaken up anyway, then 'The Mandarin' appeared and flipped his world upside down. But when The Mandarin made him most vulnerable, Tony realised that his greatest asset wasn't his suit of amrour, but his intellect and his mind. By the end of Iron Man 3, Tony activates operation 'Clean Slate', seemingly destroying every single suit of armour he owns. On top of that, he finally gets surgery and has the shrapnel removed from his body. So in a way, he is saying goodbye to the man that was created in the cave in Afghanistan, and welcoming a new Tony, one that values himself and his mind more than a suit of armour. But what does this mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

It's no secret that Robert Downey Jr. is getting older, and ever since Iron Man 3 began production there have been comments flying around about Iron Man 3 being his last stint as Iron Man. For me, his age isn't a concern, personally I thought Iron Man 3 was his most powerful and convincing portrayal of Tony Stark to date, and if anything he looked younger than he did in The Avengers. But there will come to the inevitable point where Robert Downey Jr. bows out of the role of Iron Man, and at that point, Marvel will have a large gap to fill. With Iron Man 3 seemingly serving as a conclusion to this chapter in Tony Stark's life, what does the role hold for him in the upcoming sequel to The Avengers? It's easy to say "A threat will surface and Tony will be forced to put on his suit again", but him getting rid of his arc reactor chest piece and destroying all of his suits for a more humble life with Pepper is a pretty bold statement, one that would not be easily undone. I think his future in The Avengers 2 is very dependent on a number of things.



I can quite easily see Tony taking more of a backseat in The Avengers 2, and becoming more of a directorial figure in the sequel. Instantly, I'm thinking of S.H.I.E.L.D. Depending on the direction and plot of the Avengers sequel, we could see Tony Stark becoming the director of SHIELD, replacing Nick Fury. This would put him in more of a backseat role, but he would still be very prominent. Though this raises the issue of how and why Tony would replace Nick Fury.

Alternatively, with the revival of Agent Coulson in the upcoming Agents of SHIELD tv series, we're looking at the inevitable confrontation in Avengers 2 when all the members find out that they were deceived and lied to by Fury. This could easily be a huge plot point of the sequel, and could result in The Avengers separating themselves from SHIELD. Personally, I would love to see The Avengers detach themselves in the sequel and become their own group, one that is not governed by SHIELD. At the end of Avengers, we saw a nod to Stark constructing the Avengers Tower, so seeing the group break off and start doing their own thing and having their own base of operations is a definite possibility for the sequel. This could lead to Stark being the leader of the Avengers, and directing them as a team from Avengers Tower throughout the movie. But... that would mean the Avengers team would now have a substantial hole, if only we had someone with an Iron Man suit who is willing to save lives and be a hero. Oh wait...we do.



I can definitely see War Machine/Iron Patriot becoming a larger character, and possibly filling the Iron Man sized hole left in the Avengers team if Tony takes a backseat. I thought Don Cheadle was on top form in Iron Man 3 and he really proved to me that he could fit into the Avengers. With a standalone War Machine moving rumoured to be in the making since Iron Man 2, I think Marvel definitely have an interest in him, and this will likely be increased now that Iron Man 3 has been released. All of this would be great, Robert Downey Jr. still appearing as the Tony Stark that we know and love, Don Cheadle giving us our armoured hero fix in Avengers 2, but Marvel could easily do something else entirely...

Re-casting Tony Stark. Now, to me, this isn't ideal. Sure I'd like to see Tony Stark flying around in the Iron Man suit for the foreseeable future, but when I picture that in my head I see Robert Downey Jr. He says it best at the end of Iron Man 3: 'I am Iron Man'. I'd rather them treat the character with respect and give him a fitting end like in Iron Man 3, rather than recasting someone younger for the sake of having more armoured adventures. If Iron Man wasn't so interwoven into the MCU and he was more of a solo film franchise, then treating Iron Man as a James Bond-esque character would work (i.e. re-casting him every few movies but keeping the character the same). That would work, but since Robert Downey Jr. has brought so much to the character and formed these relationships with the other characters, I find it hard to imagine anyone else as Tony Stark right now.

So, in my opinion, Iron Man 3 should be the last time we see Iron Man onscreen for a while, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see Robert Downey Jr. return as Tony Stark in future Marvel movies.

What do you think? Do you want to see Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark for the foreseeable future, or would you rather see him step down from the role and let Marvel re-cast ol' shell head for more armoured antics? Sound off in the comments below.
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12 Comments
calin88 - 4/28/2013, 6:54 AM
what's with the whole "I don't want to see Ironman, just Tony Stark" these days. RDJ/Tony/IronMan is the MCU's biggest asset, and the character is great for the big screen, do you really think non-fanboys would want say Dr Strange or Quicksilver instead of RDJ on screen? I've seen the movie with some friends a cople of days ago(not at all into comics) and they said "I hope RDJ is playing Ironman again, otherwise we're not going!" the movie Ironman is way to cool to be left out IMO
Samson - 4/28/2013, 7:10 AM
I'm not saying that at all. I think the way they concluded Iron Man 3 was a very appropriate end to this chapter in Tony Stark's life. I wouldn't want them to carry on pumping out Iron Man movies for the sake of putting RDJ in movies and making money. For Avengers 2, I'd still like to see RDJ, just with a more backseat role, and having Don Cheadle as War Machine/Iron Patriot to fill the void that Iron Man will leave seems like a great way to do it. I'm all for having RDJ and an armoured hero in Avengers 2, but I'd much rather have Iron Man 3 as the finale of this Iron Man trilogy.
Samson - 4/28/2013, 7:12 AM
@KryptonianAbominationClone I think the way that they handled 'The Mandarin' in IM3 was contextually brilliant. Using the Mandarin as a customisable terror threat was a stroke of genius, and whilst it didn't reflect the comic book version of Mandarin, I felt it was a brilliant adaptation and it gave something new to the character. The 'chinese magical correct Mandarin' that a lot of people wanted wouldn't have really fit the tone of the movie at all.
MrCBM56 - 4/28/2013, 7:22 AM
Im probably just over looking this, but any one else notice after the credits it said, "Tony Stark will return". Why wouldnt it say Iron man will return like it did with the other movies?
Samson - 4/28/2013, 7:31 AM
I hadn't noticed that in the credits, but that's probably pretty important! You'd think that they would put Iron Man so maybe some of this speculation could be partly true. Nice spot!
kinghulk - 4/28/2013, 7:39 AM
i think tony will be back in the avengers 2 take a back seat role until the final battle and come to save rhodey and capt's asses.
DarthMauve - 4/28/2013, 7:59 AM
Marvel have set up Iron Man perfectly for a 'soft reboot'. The 'clean slate', the removal of the shrapnel and the reacor from his chest and the destruction of his house (hell even his car) all help to allow Marvel to completely re-fit Iron Man. New actor, new armour, new house - all new iconic imagery but stiil within the current canon of the MCU. Its actually pretty damn clever.
AC1 - 4/28/2013, 9:25 AM
I get the feeling that this article and some of the comments may be close to what happens, in that Tony may be a presence, but War Machine may replace him as an actual Avenger, and that toward the end he may be forced into becoming Iron Man again, and building a new suit of armour (the lack of an arc reactor in his chest is purely symbolic of his not needing it to be Iron Man, as the armours seem to have their own arc reactors any way, hence all the sentient armours in the finale of Iron Man 3, or Rhodey being able to pilot War Machine).

However, if Iron Man 3 WAS the last time we'll see RDJ as Tony, then it's fantastic that he's ending so strongly. But I'd rather they didn't recast the role - just retire the character when RDJ leaves.
Ocelot - 4/28/2013, 10:17 AM
Well before watching the film I thought that War Machine/Iron Patriot would have a bigger role in this movie however that wasn't the case and was barely in the movie until the last half an hour and didn't do anything remotely interesting or noteworthy other than to serve as a plot device for an action sequence. War Machine had a bigger role in Iron Man 2 than Iron Man 3.

@ACira they'll recast the character, the "actor" should never ever be bigger than the "character"

@DarthMauve that makes sense however i'm sure Robert Downey jr will still be in the Avengers 2 though
AC1 - 4/28/2013, 12:49 PM
@Ocelot Robert Downey Jr already is bigger than the character, and if Marvel recast Tony Stark any time soon, I'm 99% sure it'd bomb (both financially and critically). The majority of the audience paying to watch these films are non-comic fans, and Iron Man was never a well known hero like Batman or even the Hulk, so most people will only associate the character with RDJ, because he established the character for most people in a way that all the comics and all the cartoons never did.
Starkasm - 4/28/2013, 10:01 PM
Heres what has been going through my head.
The ten rings are real. The organization at least. We know Trevor was an actor and underwent plastic surgery. Now what if he was just playing the actual Mandarin. Because why would he need plastic surgery?
Wallymelon - 4/29/2013, 7:03 AM
i agree completely. i really want RDJ to just sit down with marvel and his agents and lawyers and just be like "i'm tony stark till i decide to give it up" as simple as that, he doesnt need to be in the suit, he just needs to show his face as tony stark and thats it. like you said don cheadle killed it in iron man 3. i think he would fit very nicely as an avenger. i feel a huge part of RDJ wants to do more but also feels the weight of am I sacrificing my art for a bunch of tweens and geeks, i know he's having fun but it is gonna get to him at some point. i'm sure it already has.

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