MCU Phase 5 Needs To Let Iron Man Die For

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The death of Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame was one of the MCU’s most pivotal moments, but Phase 5 should see the franchise finally let Tony Stark rest. It’s easily arguable that there has never been, and perhaps never will be, a character more important to the MCU than Iron Man. After all, Iron Man was the titular star of the MCU’s very first movie, the success of which proved that perhaps the fledgling Marvel Studios company was on to something with its idea of a shared superhero universe. However, this key role means that the MCU as a whole needs to move on more than ever.

Despite Captain America nominally being the leader of the Avengers team, it often felt like Tony Stark was the real boss, funding the operation, and being personally responsible for saving the world. Nowhere was that more clear than in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame, when Tony selflessly sacrificed his own life to ensure that Thanos wouldn’t decimate the entire universe. Still, many would argue that Phase 4 of the MCU has proven incapable of letting Iron Man be dead, often to its dramatic detriment.

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As important and beloved a character as Iron Man/Tony Stark is, he’s dead, and unless Robert Downey Jr. suddenly changes his mind about returning, is likely never coming back. Going forward, the MCU can’t continue to spend so much time dwelling on Tony’s loss, his legacy, and the effect his passing had on those loved ones he left behind. While MCU Phase 4 is by no means finished quite yet, Marvel Studios has already begun setting the stage for Phase 5’s arrival, likely near the end of 2023. With Phase 5 on the horizon, it’s time for the MCU to let Iron Man die for good.

Marvel Phase 4 Is Still Defined By Iron Man’s Legacy

Spider-Man Far From Home Iron Man mural

While Iron Man’s death happened in the second to last installment of the MCU’s Phase 3, there’s no doubt that the shadow of Tony Stark has loomed large over Phase 4 thus far. In many ways, that makes sense, especially when people like Tony’s protege Spider-Man, his best friend War Machine, or his trusted sidekick Happy Hogan are involved. Still, Phase 4 has seen lots of little references made to Iron Man, and also the introduction of the true Mandarin in Shang-Chi, traditionally one of Iron Man’s greatest foes.

Even aside from these factors, however, the mere existence of upcoming Phase 4 MCU TV shows Armor Wars and Ironheart demands the legacy of Iron Man and Tony Stark to play a role in their tales. In addition, the use of Tony Stark in the animated MCU series What If?, with Iron Man’s repeated tragic deaths seeming to become some sort of macabre running gag. Even when the message sent by What If? seems to be for audiences to accept that Iron Man’s dead, the repeated nods and callbacks to Tony’s life and career as a superhero actually sends the opposite message. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that so many are convinced that a multiverse variant version of Iron Man will appear in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

Why Phase 4 Couldn’t Let Iron Man Die

Tony Stark

Even beyond the upcoming MCU TV projects that tie directly into the legacy Tony Stark left behind, there are other reasons why Phase 4 just wasn’t able to let Iron Man go. So much of Phase 4 has been directly impacted by the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and no one played a bigger role in those movies than Iron Man, outside of Thanos himself. With so much ongoing fallout from the deaths in the Infinity War arc, as well as those who left and returned as part of the blip, those movies remain focal points for Phase 4 even multiple years after release, and it’s hard to discuss them without also discussing Iron Man.

Related: Why MCU Phase 4 Is So Much Darker Than Phases 1-3

As much as some Marvel fans do think that Iron Man’s continued, albeit non-physical presence in MCU Phase 4 is perhaps a case of Marvel Studios being afraid to leave its past anchor behind, the fact is that Tony Stark really was that important. His absence leaves a gaping hole in the MCU, both in and out of universe, which is exactly why Disney was so willing to spend whatever money was necessary to keep Robert Downey Jr. coming back to the Iron Man role as long he as he did. The death of Iron Man was a major event, and the impact it left on the world needed and deserved to be explored as part of Phase 4, just as Phase 4 continued to explore Captain America’s legacy after the disappearance of Steve Rogers.

How Phase 5 Can Truly Move The MCU Beyond Iron Man

As much as Phase 4 of the MCU has lived in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, by the time Phase 5 rolls around, Marvel Studios should be fully set to move on past it, and also leave Iron Man in the rearview mirror. For one, as Phase 4 continues to explore the multiverse, and with Loki season 1 setting up the rise of Kang the Conqueror, it’s quite possible that Phase 4 will experience its own cataclysmic, world-shaking events. It’s arguable that no MCU movie will ever equal Endgame in impact again, but that doesn’t mean the minds behind Marvel Studios won’t try. There will be no time to dwell on Iron Man’s legacy when the multiverse is in total chaos.

Plus, with Ironheart firmly established as a character by Phase 5, a possible new Avengers team would have a ready-made Iron Man replacement, at least based on her history in Marvel Comics. The Fantastic Four are also set to debut as part of Phase 4, and Reed Richards could easily slot into the Tony Stark-like role of the MCU’s resident genius inventor and tech supplier. Of course, Iron Man will never be completely forgotten by the MCU or its audience, nor should he be. Tony Stark was a terrific character, played by a terrific actor in RDJ. Still, one can’t grieve forever, and that should hold true for movie universes too. By the time MCU Phase 5 rolls around, Iron Man should be resting peacefully, content in the good he did for the world, and with a new generation of heroes firmly in the spotlight.

More: Doctor Strange 2 Explains How Iron Man Quickly Solved Time Travel In Endgame

  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Jul 28, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023

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About The Author Michael Kennedy (4431 Articles Published)

Michael Kennedy is an avid movie and TV fan that’s been working for Screen Rant in various capacities since 2014. In that time, Michael has written over 2000 articles for the site, first working solely as a news writer, then later as a senior writer and associate news editor. Most recently, Michael helped launch Screen Rant’s new horror section, and is now the lead staff writer when it comes to all things frightening. A FL native, Michael is passionate about pop culture, and earned an AS degree in film production in 2012. He also loves both Marvel and DC movies, and wishes every superhero fan could just get along. When not writing, Michael enjoys going to concerts, taking in live professional wrestling, and debating pop culture. A long-term member of the Screen Rant family, Michael looks forward to continuing on creating new content for the site for many more years to come.

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