This is PART ONE of an ongoing investigation into what I believe could be the direction Marvel is planning on taking with the Avengers and Phase Four and beyond. Do I think I’m going to be 100% right? No. But I think, over all, I’m seeing a pattern that will lead to a brave new world for the Avengers and a massive change in the lineup. BUT, before I get into the total game plan, I need to look over the individual parts of the whole.
I chose Iron Man first because he has become the linchpin of the grenade that is the massive Marvel parade of blockbuster movies. Iron Man opened phase one and phase two and broke all sorts of box office numbers in the process. As seen in the picture below, the Iron Man trilogy built an impressive following that led to the Avengers massive success. Even the much maligned Iron Man 3 stands unmatched if not for the opening Avengers movie. So much for the lack of action and the horrible treatment of the Mandarin (it was painful at the time) ending Iron Mans box office run. Instead, it built more momentum for Phase Two pushing the numbers to continue to rise for the Thor and Captain America franchises.
Not only did the following and box office success make him the foundation of the whole Marvel movie franchise, but it brought us the star power that is Robert Downey, Jr. He became the highest paid star in the Avengers movie and rightly so. He had already rebuilt his floundering career from rehab to superstar status almost seemingly overnight. He stepped into the role of Tony Stark and BECAME Iron Man. Much like Hugh Jackman before him did with Wolverine, Robert became synonymous with Stark. Even Avengers creator, Stan Lee, said so, so it must be gospel right?
But, despite all of this, the very fact that, in comic canon, Tony Stark was unmistakably part of the holy trinity of what the comic world think of when they think of the AVENGERS. He was not only a part of the ‘Big Three’ along with Captain America and Thor, but was instrumental in holding up the Avengers as an institution. Thor brought the power and the majesty. Cap was the moral and motivational center. But Tony brought the bucks. Now, I hear some of you groaning, but it’s true. Without the backing of the Stark money machine, the Avengers would have only been a rouge band of vigilantes. Stark not only brought the money, but he brought international respect to the team. The world (people and the politicians) may not get their head around the star spangled hero thawed out from what seems like eons ago. They may not ever wrap their heads around the god of thunder. But they know Stark. He has built a reputation although a shaky one at times that gains respect worldwide. No matter what they thought of him, they respected his legacy through his father and they respected what he was able to build. They respected the cash also though.
SO, this is why Iron Man is so pivotal in the days to come. For all the reasons above, but, most of all, because of his box office presence and what it means to the whole. But that leads us to the next question, doesn’t it? Ok, we’re probably getting an Iron Man 4. But, the way things look; it will be an Iron Man without Robert Downey, Jr.
So, what will the future of Downeyless Iron Man look like? Well, in all of my research, I find a handful of viable options.
1) War Machine/Iron Patriot Spinoff
While promoting Iron Man 3, co-stars Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow suggested that this could be the end of standalone Iron Man movies. Cheadle went on to express his hopes for a War Machine spinoff. While this means nothing, it may be an option. Keep the Iron Man legacy alive while they ponder who will be the next Stark on screen. I think Cheadle would be a bit challenged to hold the whole movie, so you would probably have to surround him with a great supporting cast and/or drop an incredible actor into the project to play his nemesis.
Unfortunately, they would be crazy to pull the Mandarin out against a 'stand in' for Stark, but they could do another story building to the actual Mandarin's entry into the MCU. It would be build up at best because I don't see them building a franchise around this character. Although, this saddens me. Rhodey is a great character and he would be a great character of color that the fans have been awaiting for so long.
POSSIBILITY: LOW/ maybe 10-15%
2) Young Tony Stark
I was reading the other day and someone actually brought up one of the old Avengers story-archs: THE CROSSING.
This is actually one of my favorite stories due to the buildup of prophecy and great characters, but, in the end, the payoff was botched and the whole story was scrapped.
The basics of the plot include the mysterious warnings from unknown characters who turn out to be future versions of well known children in the Marvel universe at the time. In the end, we find out the Tony Stark we know and love is actually a brain washed disciple of Kang, the conqueror. In the finale, Tony, of course, redeems himself and sacrifices himself to save us all and foil Kang's plans. This leaves us with a world without Tony Stark much like our future in the MCU could look.
The punchline was that the Avengers journeyed to the past and pulled out a younger version of Tony Stark and brought him back to fill the older, misguided Tony's armor. Yeah, that's nuts right? I was cool with the whole story until they pulled that bit of hack-job narrative. THEN, within a year, (and they knew this) they scrapped the whole thing with the HEROES REBORN story-line and rebooted the whole damn thing a year later; bringing Tony Stark back all grown up and moving along like nothing ever happened.
Now, not only is this unlikely, this is plain nutty and I can't believe anyone would bring that possibility up in the first place. I won't name the source because we all make stupid comments. I mean what has two thumbs and made some crazy assumptions? This guy..that's who.
Possibility: Almost non-existent/I'll give it a 1% just to be nice
SEE ALSO---- Where is Marvel going with all of this?
3) Arno Stark; the IRON MAN OF 2020
Another of my favorite stories is the first Machine Man mini-series. It was in this futuristic setting that the 'IRON MAN OF 2020' was introduced. Arno was the first cousin of Tony and son of Tony's uncle, Morgan. Arno had degraded into a hired mercenary; totally demeaning the heroic legacy of Iron Man.
Now, in 1984, 2020 seemed so far away. It reminds me of growing up as a kid convinced that we would all have flying cars by the year 2000. But today, 2020 is not far away at all. In fact, consider the known line up of Marvel movies. They all finish up in 2018 with Avengers 3. From there, they will be gearing up for PHASE 4 and a whole new phase of the Avengers. Arno Stark as the Iron Man of 2020 seems more and more credible. Bringing in a younger man to begin the legacy again could give the franchise a long life with a new face. But there are still complications.
With all of the hubbub about the Mandarin possibly returning (I think it's happening personally), having him go up against a younger, less experienced Stark might lessen the experience. However, the Mandarin could be the villain that could make a new Stark.
Possiblity: Pretty Good/50-60%
4) Just pick another actor to play Tony
Kevin Feige has been recorded as saying
"I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man installment. Even a fifth and sixth and a 10th and 20th," Marvel Studio's President of Production, Kevin Feige previously said. "I do not see any reason why Tony Stark cannot be as evergreen as James Bond."
This is the main man of the MCU stating that he sees TONY STARK like James Bond; IMMORTAL. In other words, he plans on keeping Tony going and bringing another actor to play him is in the cards.
"I have said it before and it was not negotiating tactics. I believe Tony Stark is just as strong a character as batman. So there will absolutely be future Iron Mans and future Tony Starks."
Stark is to Marvel what Batman is to DC. He is the center piece, the root, the absolute foundation. Tony has to live on with or without Robert Downey, Jr. And, the way things are laid out now, it will be without.
Now, I could go through a list of great actors and play the whole fan casting bit, but I hate that kinda stuff. I will leave that for others. But I have read powerful comments about one particular actor and I'm not sure how I feel about him OR if he's big enough to fill Downey's shoes (I mean, who is?).
Polls on whoever may be the top candidate to replace Downey resulted in excitement over the 38-year old actor Collin Farrel.
According to the website hosting the poll, "Farrell has a strong resemblance to Downey's Stark, filling out a suit nicely and working a very similar hair style.”
Now, that is debatable and I believe there is a number of actors who could make Tony Stark live again. The point is that the greatest likelihood is that Feige and Marvel will pick someone else to carry on the franchise.
I don't envy the man who has to follow Robert Downey, Jr. And I wouldn't want to be the company trying to replace him. But the hunt is on, I will guarantee it. Personally, I would rather them do Arno Stark, the Iron Man of 2020 for, at least, a one shot. Hell, I'd be game for a War Machine or Iron Patriot one shot. But the odds just don't seem to swing that way.
The bottom line is: They are gearing up for the real Mandarin and their going to need a REAL TONY Stark to put up against him. There's just no doubt in my mind.
(Oh, and young Tony? lol...yeah right)