'Iron Man 4' release date, news: Villain-swapping controversy continues to haunt Robert Downey Jr-led franchise

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As Marvel Studios continues to grow with new movies introducing new characters, time is becoming more and more important with the company having to strategically plan the next phase of their cinematic universe. Debuting over the weekend, Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Doctor Strange” is the first of three new characters joining the ever-expanding universe. Given this, and some developing franchises like that of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor,” it almost becomes a struggle to have all the characters pop up at regular intervals and that is exactly what has become of the supposed “Iron Man 4.”

In defense of the studio, they have yet to confirm that there will be a fourth standalone film for Robert Downey Jr.’s most iconic role. Even when its president, Kevin Feige mapped out a timeline for the Marvel Cinematic Universe dating until 2019, nothing related to “Iron Man 4” was mentioned. Instead, the movie is purely based on fans hoping that should the actor finally retire his superhero alter ego in the near future, a fitting swan song is much deserved.

Part of the clamor for an “Iron Man 4” is that while all three films from Tony Stark’s series were successful, there were some glaring loopholes in the last two. It would be quite sad if the character that started it all will just slowly fade away in the MCU without a proper send-off. Particularly with the case of “Iron Man 3” as fans found out belatedly that it had so much potential to be a better film if not for the changes made to the overall narrative.

As it turns out, director Shane Black originally pitched for a female antagonist until the top executives put a stop to it. Rebecca Hall, who played the supposed villain Maya Hansen, has been very open in expressing her dismay with the role reversal that turned Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian into Stark’s main nemesis, aside from Ben Kingsley’s the Mandarin decoy.

“I signed up to a role that played to the end of the film, and had a big part in the ending, a significant role,” Hall candidly revealed during an interview for The Wrap’s Oscar magazine. “But halfway through filming, that all changed. It was quite shocking. It happens more than you think.”

Should Marvel ever execute a plan to service arguably the biggest MCU character and his fans, an “Iron Man 4” is definitely the ideal way to do so. Needless to say, since the studio has yet to even start talking about the prospect, viewers are reduced to just waiting for any new updates.

In the meantime, while waiting for Marvel to announce any substantial development for “Iron Man 4,” die-hards can busy themselves with a couple of other MCU films that will feature Stark. RDJ has been already confirmed for Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” out on July 7, 2017, and “Avengers: Infinity War” to be released a year later on May 4, 2018.