Filming has wrapped up on Avengers: Infinity War, and the Russo brothers are hard at work on the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. We don't know much about that film's plot (even the title has been described as a spoiler), and that makes every detail exciting for Marvel fans. Between the thin details and the steady trickle of casting confirmations, it's no wonder that any new information even mildly connected to Avengers 4 will set off the MCU fandom into a theory frenzy.
Take this latest intriguing example: a casting announcement about actor Ty Simpkins returning for Avengers 4. The announcement was posted via IMDb on Sunday, October 22 and has left fans fascinated and already speculating.
It seems that Simpkins is reprising the role of Harley Keener, the child who became a friend of Tony Stark's back in Iron Man 3. Interestingly, just a few weeks ago there had been rumors that Simpkins would return to the #MCU in Avengers 4, but most fans had dismissed them. We'd instead thought he was simply in Atlanta for a major MCU photoshoot celebrating the upcoming 10-year anniversary, but it turns out that that's totally not the case.
If anything, expectations should be kept low when it comes to wondering if Harley will have a major role, given that the film is already jam-packed with more superheroes than you can shake an Infinity Stone at. So what should we expect?
The Funeral Of Tony Stark
The top theory is that Simpkins is there to attend the funeral of Tony Stark. Fans have long expected Infinity War and Avengers 4 to feature some high-profile casualties among the good guys, not least because several actors' contracts are coming to an end. A recent casting call seemed to confirm this, asking for actors to play background characters in a funeral scene.
Many fans believe Tony Stark is the most likely hero to die. Robert Downey Jr.'s beloved hero effectively launched the #MCU back in 2008, and it would be appropriate for Downey Jr. to bow out at the end of Phase 3. What's more, the death would work in terms of Stark's overall narrative arc. The Avengers saw #IronMan choose to risk his life saving the world from the Chitauri. Since then Stark's been doing the best he can to get the world ready for the inevitable rematch, and for him to sacrifice himself saving the world would be for the arc to come full circle.
As appropriate as this would be, set photos have perhaps teased that Marvel intends to take things in a different direction. We've seen Mark Ruffalo and Downey Jr. embracing in what seems to be an emotional scene, perhaps mourning the death of a comrade. Some fans believe that bodes ill for Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, rather than Iron Man. That said, given the scale of Infinity War and Avengers 4, there's no reason Marvel is committed to only killing off one character.
The Passing Of The Torch
Another popular theory is that Avengers 4 closes with Stark retiring as Iron Man, settling down with Pepper and choosing to become your average billionaire genius philanthropist. If that's the case, Avengers 4 may well set up a replacement.
In the comics, Tony Stark has been replaced as Iron Man many times, most recently by Riri Williams and Victor Von Doom. Back when Marvel released Iron Man 3, fans speculated that Simpkins was being set up as a future Iron Man. As such, it's certainly not inconceivable that within the MCU, Harley Keener could follow suit and become an Avenger. After all, Stark seems to be developing a habit of giving advanced technology to teenagers!
These are the two most popular theories, but right now the truth is that we don't know. All we can be certain of is that Simpkins' appearance is a promise from Marvel that #InfinityWar and Avengers 4 will indeed be a celebration of everything Marvel has done over the last decade and that Marvel is committed to keeping the fans on their toes. It looks like we'll just have to wait a little longer to see why Harley Keener is coming back for Avengers 4.
Why do you think Ty Simpkins is returning for Avengers 4? Let me know in the comments!