Marvel Must Get Robert Downey Jr. Back for "Iron Man 4"

Once more, Iron Man has proved invincible at the box office. Iron Man 3 opened to $175.3 million in U.S theaters this weekend, second all-time to Marvel's The Avengers.

Reviews are mostly strong for the film that kicks off "Phase 2" of Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) plan to bring thousands of Marvel Comics characters to life on the Big Screen.

That's the good news. The bad? We don't know if Robert Downey Jr. will be a part of the plan going forward. Neither the actor nor his representatives say whether he'll reprise the role of the man underneath the helmet: billionaire industrialist Tony Stark.

Disney needs Downey in the role. There's too much at stake to not re-sign him.

And now playing the troubled genius ... the troubled genius!
Critics are likely to agree. Most praise Downey's work throughout the series. And me? I've been a fan since the beginning, praising Marvel's choice of Downey over Tom Cruise six and a half years ago when others were still unsure.  Here's what I said at the time:

Enter Robert Downey Jr., who, as of yesterday, landed the role. Plagued by many of his own high-profile troubles, Downey remains one of my favorite actors, and a perfect choice to play Stark. Seriously, who better to play a troubled genius than ... a troubled genius, as Downey surely is?

Source: Marvel Entertainment.

Fast-forward to today. The "Iron Man" franchise is already responsible for more than $3 billion in gross box office receipts worldwide if you include The Avengers, proving once again that CEO Bob Iger effectively stole Marvel when he arranged for Disney to pay just $4 billion to acquire the comic book company.

Too much source material, too many unanswered questions
Now that Iron Man 3 is a financial success, fans and observers alike are wondering if Downey will be back to headline Joss Whedon's Avengers 2 and perhaps another slate of Iron Man films.

Count me among the curious, and not just for financial reasons. While my colleagues spent the weekend tracking Warren Buffett's every move at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, I took in two showings of Iron Man 3: once at a late Thursday screening with my fellow nerds, and then yesterday with my sons.

Fun fact: I pitched Marvel as a Berkshire-worthy value buy 10 months before Disney's big bid. I'm available for portfolio management services should you require them, Mr. Buffett.

I'll not spoil Iron Man 3 for you if you haven't yet seen it. Instead, I'll say that I think the ratings drop from 94% to about 80% at Rotten Tomatoes is probably justified. I also find myself wondering if Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Superman reboot, Man of Steel, will outdo IM3 to claim the box office crown among this year's crop of comic book films.

Go ahead, cue the Ozzy
For me, Iron Man 3 leaves a lot of questions unanswered, as it borrows heavily from a more recent plotline in the comics. Decades of source material remain unexplored. Meanwhile, Marvel is creating its own "Cinematic Universe" that strings together films as if they were part of an ongoing comic book series. Actor continuity will aid the effort, yet that's anything but assured at this point.

All we have are clues as to Downey's return. For example, there is a moment in Iron Man 3 when, in a nod to the closing of 2008's Iron Man, Downey once more says "I am Iron Man" to the delight of many in the audiences I was with. The closing credits also say, "Tony Stark will return."

Source: Marvel Entertainment; YouTube.

Disney and Marvel want Iron Man to be a multibillion-dollar franchise in the way that Harry Potter was for Warner and Transformers still is for Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA  ) and licensor Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS  ) , which means it can't end with Avengers 2. There has to be an Iron Man 4, and Robert Downey Jr. has to star in it.

Do you agree? Please vote in the following poll, and then leave leave a comment to let us know what you think of Disney's handling of its Marvel Comics properties.

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 8:48 PM, grey7399 wrote:

    Yes. They must resign RDJ. Its to late.

    If they had done the Batman thing early on, they could have gotten away with switching out the hero.

    But not now. RDJ is to beloved. Besides. Had they gone the route of Batman, Ironman wouldn't have gotten as big as it did.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 9:31 PM, pookie412003 wrote:

    they would be crazy not to have RDJ. If you dont have him you will love money.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 9:32 PM, pookie412003 wrote:

    they would be crazy not to have RDJ. If you dont have him you will lose money.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 9:39 PM, venom1000000 wrote:

    Everyone has pretty much said that RDJ will be in Avengers 2.....The question is, will there be a Iron Man 4 with RDJ.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 9:40 PM, venom1000000 wrote:

    I think if they pay him enough, he'll do it for as long as it's feasable.

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 9:48 PM, RaiderGuy49 wrote:

    Yes. RDJ is well on his way to being the face of a franchise of films just as William shattner was the face of star trek and the movies that followed. RDJ and Disney has a win-win situation which could easily span decades if the director and scripts are right!!!

  • Report this Comment On May 05, 2013, at 10:50 PM, Awebb30 wrote:

    Don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen IM3, but doesn't the ending kind of tell you the answer to whether RDJ will be back (medical procedure)? Does for me.

  • Report this Comment On May 06, 2013, at 12:34 PM, Santacruz831 wrote:

    RDJ has to return!! They have to re-sign him, RDJ knows he is the face of Iron Man and he knows that he has millions of fans out there he can't disappoint, and there should be an Iron Man 4, if they want money they would make an Iron Man 4 look how successful these 3 have been. So that being said, they should make an Iron Man 4 and have RDJ star in it.

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2013, at 1:11 AM, Missimarvel wrote:

    The problem is that the big guy in charge said that for sure there gonna have an iron man 4 but its going to be around 2025. Rdj will be exactly 60! Which sucks because they'll have to replace that sexy face with another. Hopefully his son has his fathers looks.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2013, at 10:13 PM, Viniciusnc wrote:

    Honestly, RDJ need to be at Iron Man 4, 5, 6 and how much he be able to do. Iron Man wil never be Iron Man if Robert don't start as Tony. RDJ is like Jhonny Deep for Pirates of The Caribbeans, there's no Pirates of The Caribbeans without him.

    RDJ, We love you, Come back for Iron Man 4

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2013, at 2:36 AM, avk0001 wrote:

    If they want to keep RDJ in the Ironman role it would be absurd for them to wait until 2025 for a 4th installment. As another post stated, RDJ will be 60. They can't replace the character....in some instances, it works but not this time. RDJ IS IRONMAN. Renegotiate a contract and give us at least one more. I have found myself wondering why filmmakers keep going on and on and on with sequel after sequel as if they don't have anything else to make a movie about. However, I enjoy the Marvel Comics series and think Disney has done a great job and I love RDJ in the Tony Stark character. Cruise would have never done the character justice.

  • Report this Comment On October 01, 2013, at 1:01 PM, 1073735 wrote:

    They need to make an iron man 4 movies

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