Statement definitively ends recent rumors.
In a move that is sure to depress fanboys (and gals!) out there, Kevin Feige, CEO of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, has put to bed recent rumors that were beginning to swirl online that actor Robert Downey Jr may return to the self-styled MCU in reprising his career-resurrecting signature role of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.
Over 10 films and 11 years, Downey Jr was undoubtedly the heart and soul of the cinematic behemoth, earning wide acclaim, immense goodwill and popularity from a worldwide fanbase, and literally hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, backends, and bonuses. Ultimately though, the actor wished to move on from the role and made it clear to Marvel bosses that once his contract expired in 2019, he was done with the role, and has reiterated that stance ever since.
Stark sacrificed his life in the conclusion of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame to finally defeat the genocidal galactic warlord Thanos, bringing to an end a rounded and satisfying character arc whereby Stark went from selfish billionaire playboy industrialist at the beginning of 2008’s original Iron Man film to selfless savior of the world giving his life to rescue Earth from complete extermination in what was undeniably one of the most moving and emotional moments of any genre film in recent years.
Feige stated in a recent interview with Vanity Fair that “We all worked very hard for many years to get to that, and we would never want to magically undo it in any way.”
Rumors had been building online that the MCU was considering ‘rebooting’ its release slate by getting not only Downey Jr to return but also Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America and Chris Hemsworth as Thor… and possibly even Scarlett Johannsen as Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (despite her character also dying in Endgame).
The rumors were fuelled by the MCU evidently losing its box-office magic incrementally since the critical and commercial high of the two-part Avengers: Infinity War (2018)/Endgame (2019) storyline. Despite the billion-dollar success of Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021 (which was actually more of a Sony movie than a Disney one, even though it existed in the MCU) and the nearly-$900 million box-office take of trilogy capper Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 this past summer, Marvel has seen interest and box-office takings wane increasingly, with it’s two other cinematic releases this year, Ant-Man and Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels being negatively received upon release and becoming certified flops, losing the studio hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
There is a definite and tangible sense that since concluding the so-called ‘Infinity Saga’ in 2019 that the MCU has become rudderless, lacking a cohesive narrative center of gravity, concentrating on sheer volume of content over quality, and sacrificing good storytelling for virtue signaling. So the more pertinent question should be not whether RDJ is coming back to the MCU – he isn’t – but why on earth he would possibly even want to and what advantage could it possibly offer him to return to a franchise that, by all accounts, is faltering badly?
But hey, if RDJ isn’t coming back to the MCU, can we instead get one last shot with Jack Bauer in a 24 movie… how about it, Disney!?