'Iron Man 4' release date, news: Will MCU allow mantle to be passed for Robert Downey Jr.\'s well-loved character?

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Marvel may not be shying away from the prospect that its first-generation of superheroes on the big screen will be passing the mantle to a different set of actors. Company president Kevin Feige hinted that they may just follow the characters’ comic book narratives for their movies. Given this, there is renewed uneasiness for Robert Downey Jr.’s fans that an “Iron Man 4” may eventually come to fruition but just not featuring the actor.

It is no secret that there is a major push for a new standalone movie for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s original superhero. For months now, there has been no scarcity in terms of rumors regarding a supposed swan song for RDJ’s incarnation of the well-loved yet snarky Tony Stark. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things standing in the way of a possible “Iron Man 4” movie including scheduling conflicts and lack of official word from Marvel Studios acknowledging the clamor.

In a recent interview while doing promotional rounds for Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Doctor Strange,” Feige was asked by Collider if it is possible for fans to see a “Captain America” without Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. Answering it in a very clever way, he cited the comic books saying that with them being their primary source material, it is possible that not all “Captain America” movies need to have the serum-enhanced soldier from the early 1900s. That being said, he quickly disclaimed that it does not necessarily mean that they will be adopting it to their movies.

In the pages of the comics, the Captain America mantle has been taken over by quite a few people including Sam Wilson and even Bucky Barnes. Lifting Feige’s comments and layering it onto RDJ’s situation with Iron Man, the persona has also been passed down in the source narrative with Rhodey eventually putting on the red and gold suit. This is furthered with the recent introduction of Riri Williams also known as Ironheart who is tipped to be Stark’s mentee moving forward.

This particular scenario is not entirely new in the MCU as rumors of RDJ relinquishing his Stark persona has been going on for quite some time now. However, it is important to note that in this particular case, the veteran actor is not just an actor working on a huge franchise; he has arguably been the poster boy of the whole lore since it started back in 2008. This could play a pivotal role in Marvel’s decision to let someone else take over the role in case of his retirement from the superhero scene.

Throughout the extensive conversation, Feige was also asked about the contracts binding the actors to the MCU. More or less, this specific aspect of the business usually gets overlooked with movies confirmed until 2019, but crossing Phase 3, there are a lot of actors in the MCU that may have their existing deals expiring.

“It’s weird to say ‘at the end of their deals’ when in some cases they have three whole movies to go. So we don’t usually think about it until necessary,” Feige admitted. “I can’t remember the last time we did it but it was like with Robert, after Avengers came out, we were dealing with his next movie so we have a long way before we have to worry about that.”

The contracts are not really published publicly so fans are just reduced to play the guessing game. Needless to say, the majority of these first-generation MCU actors are still tipped to appear in “Avengers 4.” What happens after that, however, is still a mystery.

For RDJ’s case, the 51-year-old is confirmed to be appearing in two more movies “Spider-Man: Homecoming” out on July 7, 2017, and “Avengers: Infinity War” to be released a year later on May 4. Since the splitting of the next two “Avengers” movies, it is still unknown if the actor will still be appearing in the latter one given the narrative of its predecessor.