Considering it just became the highest grossing film of all time, it is safe to say that everyone who wanted to see it has seen Avengers Endgame. And if you have, you know that Tony Stark is sadly no longer with us (but we will always love him 3000). The question that can be asked right now is, will Iron Man ever show up in any more MCU films? Not only physically, but story wise as well.
Iron Man is arguably the most important superhero in the MCU. After all, the entire series started with his first film, Iron Man in 2008. After that film, Robert Downey Jr. reprised his role nine times in many more entries. Now that he’s gone, the franchise has lost it’s arguable mascot and it will be interesting to see how Marvel deals with that.
The first opportunity we’ve had to see what his impact is after his dead was Spider-Man: Far From Home. In that film, we see Spider-Man coping with his dead and having the weight of following him up on his shoulders. We see special memorials on the street for Iron Man and it is clear that his death is still fresh on everyone’s mind. We even see a zombified version of Iron Man during an illusion created by Mysterio!
The approach that Spider-Man: Far From Home took will probably also be taken by soon to follow MCU films that take place on earth after Endgame, but I expect it to slowly decrease over time. Marvel does not want to get stuck in the past and want their other (and new) heroes to shine as well.
At Comic Con, Marvel announced their MCU slate and one film stood out as having a clear connection to Iron Man. Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings promises to tell us the story of the real Mandarin and his organisation the Ten Rings. This organisation was referenced throughout the Iron Man trilogy (they’re the ones who kidnapped Tony Stark in the beginning of the first film) and of course the Mandarin was supposedly in Iron Man 3, but turned out to be an actor. I expect this film to reference Tony Stark in a way, due to his previous connection to this organisation.
Another way for the character of Iron Man (not Tony Stark) to return is an Iron Heart film. Iron Heart tells the story of Riri Williams, who in the comic books created her own Iron Man suit using Stark tech and became a new Iron Man. Whilst this film isn’t announced, it might become real in the future phase 5, especially with Marvel now focussing on making it’s hero lineup more diverse.
That leaves just one question to be answered: will Robert Downey Jr. ever return to the role of Tony Stark? It’s a hard question to answer. For now, he’s distancing himself from the role, saying in an interview that he had a great run, but now wants to focus on different roles. Perhaps in a few years time, he can return gloriously, much in the same vein as Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Force Awakens. With the next Doctor Strange film exploring the multiverse, that could be a way for him to make his comeback.
For now, we just have to deal with the fact that we will not see Iron Man in action in the foreseeable future. However, the MCU is much bigger now then when phase 1 started and there are a lot of new heroes to love. Sure, we don’t have Iron Man anymore, but we do have Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Thor, Scarlett Witch and the Guardians of the Galaxy to look forward to! Although he might be gone, Tony Stark’s legacy in the MCU will be felt for a little while.