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[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]
It is arguably the most emotional moment in any Marvel Studios’ 22 films.
Tony Stark’s death has a profound impact, not only for fans, but for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if Robert Downey Jr. ever returns to a Marvel film in the future, everything accomplished in the devastating, profoundly heroic finale of Avengers: Endgame, will be undone.
Here is why.
One of the most cynical takes when Infinity War was released was the argument that the film carried zero emotional weight, because although half the characters died when Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers, it was obvious from future projects (such as the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home) that they would return.
The cynics were proven wrong in Endgame. Stark’s death in Endgame felt final. It should be final.
Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo told The Hollywood Reporter that Downey was the only actor they brought their ending to in order for him to weigh in on his character’s end. He was at peace with it, they said, even if he had mixed emotions. Bringing Tony Stark back as some sort of A.I., or even for a new flashback in a future film, would undercut that monumental death.
There are ways Tony’s legacy could live on. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) looking at an old photo or news clipping of Stark in Far From Home is fine. A flashback with archival footage from a previous film is also fine. And a new generation of heroes being inspired by Iron Man would also work.
Stark’s death arguably holds more weight than any other character in the MCU would, and that includes Captain America (Chris Evans) whom many fans assumed would be the one who died in Endgame as the actor said he intended to retire the role after this Avengers film. Fans have been with Tony Stark the longest thanks to Jon Favreau’s 2008 film Iron Man. Younger fans grew up watching him. Downey has appeared as Stark in 10 Marvel films (including that post-credits cameo in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk).
After legal troubles derailed his career, Downey hit A-list status thanks to Tony Stark. And for more than 10 years, fans seemingly could not get enough of the actor and his genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. Downey has yet to comment on his character’s fate. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts on saying goodbye to Tony Stark and what filming that final scene was like for him after such an amazing 10-year run, especially since playing the character made him is own Tony Stark-sized bank account.
Disney CEO Bob Iger made it a point to thank Downey for all he had done for the franchise before the film played at the Hollywood premiere of Endgame (Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was the only other person Iger thanked). Perhaps that should have been a clue to Iron Man’s demise. But at the time, it felt like a simple nod to the actor who kicked off the MCU.
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