It's the news all us Marvel fans were dreading - Robert Downey Jr has revealed that there are no plans to make Iron Man 4.
Speaking with Variety, the actor revealed that not only is he only signed on for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers 3, but that there are - at the present time - no plans for him to reprise the role in any other movie. Asked specifically about Iron Man 4, he responded unequivocally:
“There isn’t one in the pipe...No, there’s no plan for a fourth Iron Man.”
Which is...just about as bad a piece of movie scheduling news as it's possible to get.
The big question, then, is this: with Marvel Studios having already revealed their upcoming release schedule - if not the films that will fit into it - what does this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Well, Marvel has previously expressed a desire to release only one sequel, and one new property, each year. Which is why 2015 is already tied up with a neat little bow, with Avengers: Age of Ultron taking the sequel spot, and Ant-Man the other. 2016, in turn, is set to see Captain America 3 and Doctor Strange make their next and first appearances respectively.
2017, though, could shake things up a bit. Marvel has, so far, announced three movie releases for that year, with a May 5th release joined by July 28th and November 3rd. By opening up the winter as a release window, they seem to be gambling that they can get away with three MCU movies a year without suffering from audience fatigue. The year after, July 6th and November 2nd have already been claimed. But what does this all mean for the sequels we're dying to see?
Well, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 has already grabbed the July 28th slot in 2017, leaving only two windows that year, and Avengers 3 is widely expected in 2018, meaning we likely won't see another sequel that year.
Which means that at best, we're unlikely to see another Marvel sequel until May 5th, 2017, and possibly not until as far away as 2019.
But what will that sequel be? There are, after all, only three real contenders.
Iron Man 4
With Robert Downey Jr's recent revelation, the odds of us seeing Iron Man 4 anytime soon seem slimmer than ever - but that doesn't mean it's entirely out of the realms of possibility. After all, RDJ has shown himself to be a shrewd negotiator in the past - and one willing to play a very public game of contract negotiation chicken when need be.
With the two below entries on this list offering far less of a guaranteed box office draw than ol' Shellhead, will Marvel really risk losing their second-biggest franchise? Only time will tell.
The first of those less guaranteed options, you ask?
Back in January 2014, Marvel announced that Thor 3 was still very much on the cards - with Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost writing the screenplay. The only problem? Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite Thor: The Dark World making almost as much worldwide as Cap's second outing, the difference in perceived quality - and perhaps therefore success - was huge. Add in Guardians of the Galaxy's huge popularity, and Thor seems very much the runt of the Marvel litter.
A third Thor movie still seems likely - or indeed, as with all Marvel sequels, an inevitability - but will we see it as soon as 2017?
Or, as many are hoping, will we see the return of many fans' favorite Marvel hero?
The Incredible Hulk 2
The less-than-jolly green giant hasn't had a solo venture since 2008's Edward Norton-starring effort - since which time Mark Ruffalo has taken over the rage-monster reins. There's a huge amount of fan-pressure for Marvel to bring some sort of Hulk-based adventure to the screen - with the comics' World War Hulk and Planet Hulk storylines both often argued for.
There seems to be a fair amount of reticence within the top brass at Marvel - which essentially means Kevin Feige - about returning The Hulk to the screen. The budget would be predictably huge, Mark Ruffalo remains unproven as a solo blockbuster star, and the original didn't exactly set the box office (or critic's columns) alight. It's also been long enough since the last movie that a new Hulk movie would essentially function as a reboot - with an entirely new generation of Marvel fans having grown up with a very different Hulk to Edward Norton's.
So, taking into consideration RDJ's [Iron Man 4](movie:886190) comments, here's the big question for you guys:
Which (currently unannounced) Marvel sequel will we see next?