Robert Downey Jr. is ready to put his metal suit back on, but not in the way some had been expecting. Last week during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Robert Downey Jr. (kind of) confirmed that he would be returning to play Iron Man in a Marvel movie, sparking rumors that a fourth film in the Iron Man franchise was in the works from Marvel. Later, in a Reddit Ask Me Anything, Downey Jr. responded to questions about a possible Iron Man 4 by saying, “Sooner than later the Marvel Roster will be made public and all questions will be answered.”
Now those questions have been answered, as Variety has reported that Downey is in final talks to reprise his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man not in a fourth Iron Man film, but in the third Captain America movie. While there has been no confirmation from Marvel or Downey Jr.’s team, the talks are described as being in their final stages.
In the past the actor has said he wouldn’t be interested in continuing to play the beloved character, citing his age and fans possibly tiring of the character as reasons for his hesitancy. He’s also busy pursuing other projects with the Team Downey production company he runs with his wife. The Hollywood Reporter says that doing Captain America 3 will push back several of Downey Jr.’s planned projects, including the third Sherlock Holmes movie and a film version of the TV series Perry Mason.
The actor was already on board to play Iron Man in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron as well as the third Avengers movie, but his decision to reprise the role is a surprise given the hesitancy he’s expressed about it in the past.
“To me, it comes down to what’s the half-life of people enjoying a character?” Downey said in a recent interview with Deadline. “Marvel keeps stepping up its game, and I appreciate the way Kevin Feige and all the creatives there think. They are as in the creative wheelhouse as any great studio has been at any point. So it becomes a matter of, at what point do I cease to be an asset to what they’re doing, and at what point do I feel I am spending so much time either shooting or promoting these films that I’m not actually able to get off the beachhead and do the kind of other stuff that is good for all of us.”
Those familiar with the Marvel comic book universe are guessing that Iron Man’s presence in Captain America 3 will set into motion some important plot details that can be carried out over many more Marvel movies for several years. Iron Man will likely play a crucial role in introducing the Marvel Civil War, which puts Tony Stark and Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers on opposite sides of an argument over the Superhero Registration Act, a government proposal that would force superheroes to register with the government and act as an aid to the military and police. Stark supports the the measure, but Rogers doesn’t, and it splits the Marvel heroes into opposing camps, some even siding with villains.
So far, the recent Marvel films have appeared to be laying the foundation for exactly that storyline to emerge. At the end of the first Avengers film, a long pan showed numerous TV screens with coverage of the battle in New York City. Among them was a New York senator saying, “These so-called heroes have to be held responsible for the destruction done to the city. This was their fight. Where are they now?” This resounds perfectly with the Civil War plot, in which the government wants to keep tabs on the heroes, and know the answer to the question, “Where are they now?”
The plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier also may have done some work to set up the Civil War, as it has Steve Rogers going head to head with the government and S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit a Hydra-controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. The end has him soured with the government. However, Tony Stark might not share his sentiments, especially as it was noted that Stark had helped S.H.I.E.L.D. develop some of the technology that would enable its sinister drone program.
With Cap already disenfranchised, all the groundwork is set for the Super Hero Registration Act to kick off the Civil War in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if the film hints weren’t enough, Marvel is running the Civil War comic series next summer, though it’s unclear if it will be a redo, reissue, or slight revision.
Captain America 3 is set to hit theaters on May 6, 2016, leaving plenty of time to fill up the Marvel Cinematic Universe with more heroes to take part in the Civil War.