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Why Was There No Iron Man 4

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2008's Iron Man is responsible for launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe and changing the landscape of cinema forever. Robert Downey Jr.'s role as Tony Stark was instantly successful and beloved, making the character, and the actor, the cornerstone of a nearly $23 billion franchise, for more than a decade. All told, Downey appeared in 10 MCU films, including Iron Man and its two sequels, before saying goodbye to the role with 2019's Avengers: Endgame.

However, despite years of speculation, and Downey dancing back and forth, a much-discussed Iron Man 4 never materialized. Why is that?

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Marvel Moved Away From Iron Man 4, and Toward Riskier Projects

The writers of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, explained why Marvel Studios opted out a fourth Iron Man, pointing to the brand recognition and loyalty built up by the MCU, which allowed the freedom to branch out to riskier properties, like Guardians of the Galaxy.

"You would’ve already had Iron Man 4 if it was any other studio," McFeely said in 2019. "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."


Downey's New Contract Prioritized Other Films Over Iron Man 4

Another reason Iron Man 4 didn't end up on the film slate is that Downey's contract was negotiated to prioritize the Avengers movies and his appearances in other projects, like Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. In the process, Downey became one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors due to his work in the MCU.

Iron Man was relied up to not only to help strengthen the connections the films in the cinematic universe, such as with the blockbuster crossovers Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame, but to also create new ones, such as with his pivotal mentor role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which fully brought Tom Holland's Peter Parker into the MCU.


Other characters like Black Panther and Doctor Strange appear in movies that are not their own for the same reason of deepening those shared-universe links. However, they are only able to do so effectively because Iron Man did it first. The way Iron Man crosses over into other films is also different than how Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury does. Fury is undoubtedly a cool character, vital to the success of the MCU, but even he is connected through Tony Stark.

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Endgame Was a Better Conclusion to Tony's Story Than Iron Man 4

It's interesting that Tony Stark was able to bring some credibility and reliability to the MCU's other films because when Iron Man was in development, it was considered a substantial risk. Iron Man really paved the way for the expansion of the MCU so brilliantly, that the character ended up being less-effective in his own franchise than when he appeared in other films. So while there was Iron Man 4, Tony Stark's presence was never lacking.

Eventually, however, Iron Man had to step back from the center of the MCU for practical reasons, to give his story an ending. "It needs an end or it loses meaning," Markus said in 2019. "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…"

If a character has no flaws and no weaknesses, their stories grow tired, and the audience's investment in their journey never pays off.

Once it became clear that Tony would be central to defeating Thanos, and saving the entire universe, there was no longer a need for Iron Man 4. To see Tony face smaller stakes after Avengers: Endgame might be appealing to fans of the character, but the weight and impact of a solo adventure would pale in comparison to his previous achievements. Therefore, Iron Man 4 never came to fruition; instead Tony's legacy is rooted more deeply in his relationships with other characters than any other MCU hero.


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