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

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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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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