There may be no more Iron Man, and I’m okay with that.
If you haven’t already heard, now that Iron Man 3 is in cinemas Robert Downey Jr is considering hanging up the red and gold armour for the last time. He may appear in the Avengers sequel, but that has not been confirmed. This is a pretty ballsy decision for the actor most responsible for getting Marvel’s in house Avengers franchise off the ground. He could make Iron Man movies for years to come and sell out theatres every time. Downey Jr’s screen presence is that powerful.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing that he’s thinking about stepping down. Not because I don’t like him as an actor (I do), or because the concept of Iron Man is tired and played out (it isn’t), but because it’s better to go out on a high than end up going the way of the 80’s/90’s Batman movies.
Marvel have given Iron Man a strong three movie arc, four if you count Avengers (which you really should). We’ve followed him through both good times and bad, seen him face terrible foes, remake himself as a champion for good, and get the girl. As much as we could just keep watching, maybe it’s time to let him be and follow someone else for a while. We do have a second Thor movie releasing later this year, and Captain America returns next year, so it’s not like we’re going to be short on heroes.
As for bowing out of the Avengers franchise altogether, that is an understandable decision. As fit as he looks, Downey Jr is 48 years old, 50 by the time Avengers 2 releases in 2015. Stepping back also allows him to accept other film work and spread the RDJ love to wider audiences. Who can say they wouldn’t want more movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Tropic Thunder?
It also makes sense from a comic book perspective. The Avengers have been around for 50 years and, in that time, dozens of superheroes (and the occasional supervillain) on their roster. The comic is a bit like Glee, with heroes joining the team, serving their time, and then moving on to other things. It’s an easy way for Marvel to team up sometimes disparate groups of heroes and it works.
We’re starting to see hints of this as we move into Phase 2 of Marvel movies. We know there are movies coming for Ant Man (a foundation member in the comic) and Doctor Strange, as well as rumours that the sequel will include Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (which presents a whole raft of issues). While they’re part of the team in the comics, they’re very closely attached to the mutant side of the Marvel universe; a side that is almost wholly owned by Fox.
I suspect that we’ll see some changes in the line up in the future. Most actors don’t like being typecast, and new characters allow Marvel to create new fans for even more of their characters. It wouldn’t even be that hard to introduce the concept, either. Captain America could be elected President, Thor could return to Asgard as ruler, and Hulk could be lost in deep space, stranded on Planet Hulk. The options are there, they just need to be convincing on the big screen.
In the mean time, let’s make the most of what we’ve got. If you haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet, make sure you do. It’s possibly the best of the three, and the spin they put on existing characters is both excellent and hilarious.