Iron Man has done a lot of things at this point. The first film practically single-handedly brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to life. It also resurrected Robert Downey Jr.'s career and launched him into superstardom. And while the Iron Man films have been hugely entertaining, they have left certain aspects of the character pretty much untouched.
There's one battle that has defined the character for ages and has only been hinted at in the films. His battle with the bottle. Yes, Tony Stark is an alcoholic.
The 70s storyline "Demon in a Bottle" found a malfunctioning Iron Man suit killing an innocent man and Tony Stark being kicked out of the Avengers. This resulted in Tony hitting the bottle pretty hard and achieving that "rock bottom" moment. Everyone's favorite, most charming and confident of superheroes was suddenly being shunned and full of self-doubt.
They've Been Hinting At It
There's a few reasons why the timing may be perfect for a dark and stormy Iron Man 4. There have been many hints at Tony's taste for booze over the past three films. While the first film seemed to give Stark a path away from the booze and partying with his new superhero distractions - it popped up rather strongly in a cringe-worthy karaoke scene in Iron Man 2 but was quickly swept under the carpet.
For Iron Man 3, writer/director Shane Black reported that Disney shot down the possibilities of examining Tony's alcoholism in that film, but hinted that it may still be used sometime down the road.
Post Civil War Hangover
The timing for a downward spiraling Tony Stark is going to be perfect in the years ahead. With Marvel's Civil War being primed for Captain America 3, the fallout from Tony's battle with Captain America could be just the thing to send Iron Man looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle in [Iron Man 4](movie:886190).
In the "Demon in a Bottle" story, no longer being the leader of the Avengers is one of the big triggers for Tony's drinking. And the Civil War movie is definitely being seen as the end of the current Avengers lineup as we know it. Post Civil War, we could easily be seeing Iron Man working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and putting him in the drowning his sorrows situation.
Also, and what gets me excited to think about, is that the story features a nice breaking and entering role for Ant-Man, giving that character a lead into another film an possibly introducing him to the Avenger's family. Maybe I just really, really want to see Paul Rudd and Robert Downey Jr. together...
Keeping Robert Downey Jr. Around
Possibly the most crucial part to Iron Man's future is being able to keep Robert Downey Jr. on board. With [Iron Man 3](movie:24391) he got to collaborate with his friend, and great screenwriter, Shane Black and spend a good deal of the film out of the suit. So for a fourth solo feature, it could be attractive to Downey to be able to explore Iron Man's dark side and an issue that is close to his heart.
It made sense that this subject wouldn't be the first, second or even third story to surface in a somewhat family friendly franchise. But with so much goodwill being generated by the Marvel movies by now (and the shaky Iron Man 2 far behind us), I think audiences would feel safe and attached enough to the character that they would show up to an Iron Man film that showed a damaged Tony Stark. What do you think?