Though 2013’s Iron Man 3 remains one of Marvel’s more divisive movies to date, there’s no denying that Tony Stark’s third solo outing was a huge hit, ranking at the time as the fifth highest grossing film ever made. Despite this box office success, however, the original MCU hero has never been given a fourth standalone flick, and considering his demise in this year’s Avengers: Endgame, he probably never will.
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Endgame co-writer Stephen McFeely discussed Marvel’s decision not to release an Iron Man 4, arguing that the studio took a chance when they chose to focus on new and relatively untested properties like the Guardians of the Galaxy:
“Whether you like all of the 24 movies or not, the capital that Marvel built up allowed them to do things like make a movie starring a raccoon and a tree, right? You would’ve already had Iron Man 4 if it was any other studio. But they decided, ‘No, we’re going to take chances on all these other things.’ To put a flag in the ground and say, We’re going to end something and take characters off the table, is, I think, kind of daring, but selfishly it was really great for us.”
While Iron Man has maintained a consistent presence in the Marvel franchise in the six years since his last solo film, his death in Endgame effectively confirmed that another standalone outing was off the table. According to McFeely’s co-writer Christopher Markus, however, keeping Tony on for Iron Man 4 would’ve been a sequel too far:
“It needs an end or it loses meaning. The end is what cements the thing, to actually sew it together and bring it to a crescendo, and yeah, take people off the board, finish their arcs. If Tony made it out the other side, and Iron Man 4 was waiting there, you’d be like, [shakes head] One too many…”
As it stands, no MCU hero has been given more than three solo movies, and looking at the schedule for Marvel’s Phase 4, that pattern is unlikely to change anytime soon. Even the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, which is technically the fourth in its series, will see a passing of the torch between Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and Chris Hemsworth’s title character, much like we saw earlier this year between the two Captain Americas.
In fact, at this rate, the only Phase 1 hero with another solo movie left in them might well be Black Widow, whose first standalone film is scheduled to hit theaters on May 1st, 2020.