I’m not going to shock too many by saying Robert Downey Jr’s time as Tony Stark is winding down. Since 2008’s Iron Man, he’s been in 10 different MCU movies (can you name them all?) and will be 54-years-old by the time Avengers 4 hits theatres next year. He’s become as important a part of the MCU as anyone, but he can’t do it forever. At some point, he’s going to start looking ridiculous and I’d imagine he’d want to retire the suit long before that happens.
While it would be tough to lose such a Marvel icon, it turns out, keeping the armor in the MCU is pretty straightforward. James Rhodes will step in as Iron Man. It makes sense. Aside from being comic accurate, after being paralyzed in Civil War he now relies on Tony Stark’s tech to walk, similar to how Tony himself relied on his Arc Reactor. Aside from Pepper (and I doubt Rescue will be joining the MCU) James Rhodes is the only one in the MCU to don the Iron Man armor. Imagine in Avengers 4 Tony makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the planet. Tears all around from the surviving Avengers (and me). James Rhodes, in the War Machine Suit picks up the Iron Man Helmet, or finds a spare suit, and says, like at the end of Iron Man, “My Turn.”
While clearly speculation I can absolutely see this happening. I think Marvel wants an Iron Man presence in the greater MCU, even if it’s someone else in the suit. They could always introduce Riri Williams, but I think Rhodes stepping in makes all the sense in the shared universe. I’ve already speculated on some surprises I think are in store for Avengers 4, and I’m adding this one to the list. It’s certainly plausible War Machine fills the Iron Man void, but there’s something poetic and at this point nostalgic about seeing the red suit flying in for the rescue. Is it too soon to say R.I.P. Tony?