I still remember my shock when I saw Robert Downey Jr. playing a rogueish Tony Stark, sitting in the back of a troop transport and playfully teasing some U.S. soldiers on his way to an arms demonstration. That was the moment I caught myself thinking, "Wait, do I like Iron Man?"
Like most other comic book fans, my experiences with the character until that point had been bland, with the expception of a few good stories that had more to do with the character's adversaries than Stark himself. However Robert Downey Jr., or "Robby DJ," as his lawyers asked me stop calling him, found an underutlilized element of that character -- his aloof charm -- and brought it to the forefront.
Suddenly, Tony Stark went from being one of the more boring Marvel characters to one of the best.
That has been a consistent trend in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This massive company has access to hundreds of comic book properties -- and rather than only using the most popular, it has instead chosen to build the brands with the most potential.
It's paid off. For the better part of two decades, we've been seeing a shared cinematic universe filled with characters we've always loved and characters we've grown to love. But unlike the characters, actors age, and this golden age of superhero cinema had to end eventually.
We're in the endgame now: Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor and the Hulk will assemble for one last adventure, at least with their original cast. Theories abound on what this movie will be about and what it will mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
Anyone who is familiar with the Ant Man quantum realm theory will know this is a possibillity. It could be that "the snap" will be undone by Ant Man, who has the ability to access the quantum realm, where time can be manipulated. There are several Marvel movies that deal with time travel, and the same result would be achieved if someone on the good guy's side got ahold of Doctor Strange's time stone.
The result in this theory would be more than an undoing of "Infinity War," but of the whole MCU. If this comes to pass, expect to see all plots undone and all main heroes recast, with the exception of one holdover who remains in the new timeline with the intent of better preparing the universe for Thanos.
2. Reality breaks
One of the more interesting potential ways forward for the MCU is for someone to overuse the reality stone. Think a begloved Thanos on his heels against the united Avengers. In this scenario, you get the best of both worlds, and elseworlds!
The main MCU would go on, a new one with new actors would begin and the movies that proved most profitable would get the most sequels. One version of Iron Man played by Robby DJ (come at me, lawyers!) and another by a new actor, each with their own perfectly canon realities. Any Spider-Men (Spiders-Man?) would be legitimate, and so on.
This is an exciting possibillity because it leaves all doors open. A silver age of superhero movies may yet be around the corner.
3. Wakanda Forever
Finally, there could be a curveball -- in that there may not be a curveball. "Endgame" could finish with a defeated Thanos, the infinity stones used to restore everything to normal and an agreement to hide them, Gandalf and Bilbo-style.
In and of itself, this would seem like it would bring the fewest number of changes to the MCU, but time being what it is, we would only have so many more movies to expect out of the main cast. This means focus would shift to the lesser known heroes, such as Black Panther.
This would make me nervous, but Marvel has a history of finding diamonds where others saw dirt.
Although I want to see more from the movie heroes I love already, it may be time for new ones to save the day.
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