Riri Williams as iron man

A couple weeks back, Marvel Comics revealed that a black teenager named Riri Williams would be replacing Tony Stark as Iron Man in the comic books. But could Marvel Studios replace Robert Downey Jr. with a young black actress in Disney’s Iron Man movies? I know what you’re probably thinking, this is only the comics — they kill off characters all the time and they often take on storylines that would probably never make it to the big screen. But could they? Will they?

The Avengers: Infinity War Part II

Infinity War Will Result In Huge Changes

I believe we’re in for some EXTREME changes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming out of the Infinity War films in 2018 and 2019. Marvel Studios executive and producer Jeremy Latcham previously told us that that Infinity War will act as a conclusion to the Avengers as we know them:

I think it definitely is an end to some version of the team that we’ve come to know as The Avengers. Who knows exactly what is going to happen yet in that film, but I think this version of that team—and I think we start to hint at it at the end of Age of Ultron—will be evolving. One of the things we love from the comics is that the roster is always changing and new people are coming onto the team, and you can pick up an Avengers book 10 years later and you don’t recognize the people on the cover. But the ideas and ideals and things that make the Avengers the Avengers still exist, and I think that’s part of what this culmination will be. We’re seeing this version of the team doing this thing to save the universe, the galaxy, however you want to put it, and we’ll kind of see where that goes. It’s not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I think that it is the end of part of it for sure. We’re still trying to sort out that point.

Marvel head Kevin Feige has also said very similar things teasing what we might expect from Phase Four:

I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase Three, as well as new beginnings, that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different, chapter in what will someday be a complete first saga made up of three phases.

Feige often talks about phases and formats which brings us to…

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The Trilogy Format

Kevin Feige has talked many times in the past about trilogies. It seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a blueprint that includes a trilogy of films for each of its characters. Feige recently said that Captain America: Civil War is very much “the completion of a Captain America trilogy.”

I think one day you’ll look back and watch — Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War — and it’ll be one of the most unique and different trilogies ever around a single character.

I think this statement is very telling. The only thing he didn’t say was that the trilogy of films is about Steve Rogers.

It’s my belief that Marvel is planning, like the comics, to bring other characters into these iconic superhero roles. Captain America in the comics is not just Steve Rogers but a bevy of other characters who have taken on the uniform, including: Isaiah Bradley, William Nasland, Jeffrey Mace, William Burnside, Bob Russo, “Scar” Turpin, Roscoe Simons, John Walker, Sam Wilson, James Buchanan Barnes, Dave Rickford and in alternate universes: Scott Summers, Danielle Cage, Kiyoshi Morales, Roberta Mendez and Samantha Wilson.

That’s a lot of people and a lot of possible stories for Marvel to tell. Is Marvel Studios done with Steve Rogers? Who knows. A character like him could be killed off in Infinity War or could stick around to mentor a new generation of heroes following in his footsteps. Same with Tony Stark.

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Could aNew Actor Become Iron Man?

Marvel believes that their characters are the stars of their movies, and Marvel head Kevin Feige has been very up front that Iron Man could be played by someone other than Robert Downey Jr. In April 2012, it was unclear if Downey would re-sign with Marvel for more movies and Feige explained that they could go the James Bond route with the character:

I think Bond is a good example. Let’s put it this way: I hope Downey makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it.

There are previous examples of that in the current MCU: Don Cheadle replaced Terance Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine and Mark Ruffalo replaced Ed Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk.

Of course, this was after Iron Man 3 had finished filming and Downey was playing hardball about coming back to appear in more Avengers films. Feige had a gameplay that included Captain America: Civil War and the two-part Infinity War finale. These are plans that weren’t announced until two years later. I think if you asked Feige today it would be a different story. I still don’t think they’d reboot the series entirely, retelling the origin story of Tony Stark with a new actor, but I do believe they could bring a new actor as a new character in to take over the Iron Man suit and legacy.

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