(WARNING: This post contains potential spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.)
I recently re-watched Captain America: Civil War as it has become available for streaming on Netflix and a couple of things came to my attention. They got me thinking about the potential fate of some of the #Avengers, more specifically, #TonyStark a.k.a. #IronMan. I read Michael Davis's theory on #IronHeart a.k.a.#RiriWilliams entering the MCU, a theory that contributes to the full theory here.
As the #MCU expands, more and more characters are introduced. Reaching upwards of 64 characters with the potential to star in #InfinityWar, #Marvel needs to drop some before introducing more. After some research, thought, and revisits, I have put a theory together. In this post I will break the theory down into four sections and explain the impact I think it could have on the dynamic of the Avengers.
Zemo's Ulterior Motive
In #CivilWar, Daniel Bruhl's Baron Zemo was a less-than-impressive villain with a seriously questionable plan that relied on coincidences way too often. He also has a couple of lines in the movie that just don't fit unless he had another motive that we will see played out in future films.
Roughly halfway through, he says he wants "to see an empire fall," which we assume means the empire of the Avengers. However, when talking to Martin Freeman's Everett Ross about his plan after its blatant failure and the settling of the Avengers' feud (at the end of the film), he says something that doesn't make sense at all.
Ross: "To see it fail so spectacularly."
Zemo: "Did it?"
The camera lingers on Ross' face for an unusually long time. His plan did fail spectacularly. Unless, that is, his plan was not to tear the Avengers apart from the inside as explained in the film, but to kill Tony Stark. After all, Tony had created the robot (Ultron) that caused the deaths of Zemo's family. This would certainly make Civil War a much more interesting film and would contribute much more to the MCU than it already does.
Too Many Characters, Too Little Time
Not only has Iron Man already had his MCU trilogy but he is the leader of the Avengers, one of the oldest characters in the MCU, a fan favorite, and the most important character to every storyline so far. We know that Marvel plans to continue introducing more characters as more movies come out (Captain Marvel, for example) and the only way they can justify introducing more characters is by killing or otherwise retiring old ones.
Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk are easily the oldest four in the franchise. Therefore, these are the most logical to get rid of. I doubt Black Widow and Hawkeye will disappear because there is still room for a solo movie in their storylines (Budapest?), and the rest of the Avengers (Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Ant-Man) are still fairly new to the MCU.
Thor is practically invincible and will probably simply return to Asgard, live out the rest of his days and not meddle in the affairs of Midgard. Hulk cannot be killed and still has the potential for a solo movie (What he does will largely depend on the events of Thor: Ragnarok). However, Captain America and Iron Man cannot simply disappear without a trace or move to a different planet because they are too well known and have too many attachments. Tony has Pepper and Steve has Sharon Carter, for example.
This means that unless there will be movies in which these two pass the mantle to another hero (more on that later), the only way out would be death. Robert Downey Jr. is very expensive for Marvel to keep on their payroll and the Iron Man movies haven't exactly been great recently. Therefore, both Captain America and Iron Man have a high chance of dying in Infinity War.
Iron Heart: Riri Williams
For those who do not know, Riri Williams is Iron Man's new protégé in the comics. Her basic backstory is that after the death of her father, Riri Williams Sr., Riri received a full scholarship to MIT at only 15 years of age. She began to build an Iron Man suit as a fun project, simply to challenge herself. However, when a security guard notices some suspicious behavior, she is forced to don the suit. She proceeds to stop two criminals from escaping prison and catches the attention of Tony Stark and the world (and is labeled by the media as "Iron Heart"). Stark then proceeds to take Williams under his wing and introduce her the world of heroes.
Earlier this year, the cover artist (and general Iron Man artist) for Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 #7 (the comic to first introduce Riri Williams as a new character), Mike Deodato Jr. tweeted that the character was based on Skai Jackson (The Smurfs, Jessie). This seems like nothing at first, but Skai Jackson then posted a picture on Instagram of her with Tom Holland with the caption: Who's ready for #SpidermanHomecoming?
These two posts could be a coincidence, but as #RDJ's Tony Stark does seem to be acting as a father-figure to Peter Parker, he could take on that role with another character, possibly setting them up to be future Avengers. Iron Heart would be an interesting story to follow, and it would be fun to see someone completely different don the Iron Man suit.
MIT Fan Film: Marvel Have Stated That Riri's Storyline Is Possible
The fan film above was released on March 14, 2017 (Pi Day) and was created by MIT students. It depicts the origin of Riri Williams and her creation of the Iron Heart suit. The impressive fan film caught the eye of some of the high-up people at Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige has since stated that they appreciate that many fans want Williams to be incorporated into the MCU (let me know if you do in the comments) and that it is a potential storyline. Marvel did not say any more than this, but it seems hopeful and confirms the possibility.
No Uncle Ben In 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'?
Marvel has said that we will not see another Spider-Man backstory in Homecoming and there will be no Uncle Ben. This is an obvious choice for Marvel because everyone knows the backstory.
In the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer (you can check out my trailer breakdown here) we can see that Tony will be taking a similar role to Uncle Ben in the Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man — giving the "With great power comes great responsibility" talks and such like.
Uncle Ben's death plays a very important part of Peter Parker becoming the Spider-Man he is today, and Marvel will possibly try to work around the lack of Uncle Ben by killing off a character very dear to Peter — such as Tony Stark.
A New Leader
If Iron Man were to die, #CaptainAmerica would probably take over as a leader of the Avengers. If they both die, however, there will be no one to take over. Black Widow would be the obvious answer but considering her conflicted morals, she would not be a great choice to lead a group of the most powerful people in the galaxy.
Spider-Man could take over (as he does in the comics), but he is really too young, Vision will be dead (or something similar, because they have to take the soul gem — the very thing that keeps him alive — out of his head), while #Thor and #Hulk will probably be gone. Hawkeye will probably retire again, Bucky (the Winter Soldier) will be busy taking over the role of Captain America and Captain Marvel will be extremely new to the crowd.
I think Captain Marvel will take lead in the future but the only logical choices seem to be Falcon or War Machine. I suspect that War Machine will probably retire for the most part after being paralyzed from the waist down, meaning Falcon is all that we have left. Unless Tony officially says to either Peter or Riri (if she does appear) that they should become a leader, Falcon will be forced to take lead.
If you are wondering why I have left Dr. Strange and the Guardians out of this equation, the Guardians deal with problems on another scale to the Avengers, who only really just defend Earth. Dr. Strange, though fitting for the role, says that he works with "other-worldly" and "spiritual" situations, while the Avengers deal with much more physical threats.
The 'Iron Man 4' Problem
The one glaring problem with this theory is that Iron Man 4 seems to be in the works. It does keep fluttering in and out of certainty (maybe while Marvel decides whether to go through with the Iron Heart plan) and the whole idea for the film began when Robert Downey Jr. saying that he would enjoy doing another Iron Man movie (he has said that the film "probably won't happen").
It seems like the movie is on unsteady grounds, to say the least. Marvel also seems to have kept the release date far away (early 2019) because they are unsure whether they will follow through with the film or not. The film could potentially come out before Avengers: Infinity War Part II (which will be released in May of 2019) and tell the story of Stark taking Riri Williams under his wing and guiding her along the way to becoming an Avenger. This would fit well in with the theory and would be a big change to bring the MCU into a new era.
Let me know what you think in the comments and be sure to check out my movie/book review blog at Readers of the Lost Arc or my trailer breakdowns for 'Alien: Covenant', 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', and 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.'