Before what we know about the plot of “Captain America: Civil War” had totally coalesced, you may remember there was a ton of drama at Marvel. Before it was finalized, the concept of the movie was to essentially make Iron Man the villain and have him face off against Captain America —this plot is not unlike the narrative of Marvel Comics’ 2006 company-wide crossover of the same name. But Robert Downey Jr. apparently enraged notoriously tightfisted Marvel chief Ike Perlmutter with his salary demands, and the CEO was so angry that he demanded that the script be rewritten to completely excise the Iron Man character. Marvel president Kevin Feige was called in to smooth things over, and and presumably that’s why Feige demanded and won emancipation from Perlmutter’s rule when Disney’s Bob Iger had to step in and make a decision on Marvel’s own internecine Civil War. Feige had proven himself the keeper of the Marvel braintrust, and essentially threatened to walk if he couldn’t move ahead creatively as he wanted to. Iger agreed to Feige’s ultimatum, and now he gets to run the film division autonomously, leaving Perlmutter to oversee the TV wing and other divisions.
So one would think with this schism out of the way, Feige would be free to move forward how he liked, especially with Downey Jr. on his side. But when asked recently about a potential “Iron Man 4,” Downey Jr. told USA Today, ”I don’t think that’s in the cards.”
“In a way, [‘Civil War’} is ‘Cap 3,’ but for me it’s like my little ‘Iron Man 4’ and then it’s back to the thing we all recognize,” he said. “Everything pulls over to the side of the road when the thunder of an Avengers thing comes through, because that’s how it is until it changes. If it changes.”
What he means by “if it changes” is unclear, but the actor suggests he’s not quite the villain of ‘Civil War’ per se. “If we’re going to go there, then we’ve got to save it for my swan song. I would still like to keep a general audience and mildly be in their favor somehow,” he said. This is good news for fans who probably already suspect that there will be no “swan song” for Iron Man yet, and the character will presumably be in both installments of “Avengers: Infinity War” and who knows, possibly beyond.
But at this point, with “Doctor Strange,” “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” coming along, there’s an argument to be made that Marvel can definitely ease back on their star player and give these new characters room to grow and to become more defining members of the always-changing Avengers lineup. Furthermore, the nature of Downey’s comments haven’t changed since September 2014, when he said “Iron Man 4” wasn’t part of his future plans. So apparently nothing’s changed on that front, but if Marvel can keep Downey Jr. around —and he seems happy to stay involved for as long as possible— it’s conceivable we may not be saying an official goodbye to RDJ within the Marvel universe for several years to come.