Robert Downey Jr., the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first actor, celebrates his birthday today, and several cast and crew members have wished him a happy birthday on social media. After launching the massive franchise in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, the actor became a fixture in the universe for the duration of the Infinity Saga. That is, until Avengers: Endgame concluded his arc; he is still a part of the MCU.
Tony’s standalone films may have concluded in Phase 2, but he remained a central narrative force in the franchise through his appearances in several ensemble films. Apart from the Avengers film series, he appeared in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming; despite the fact that both films focused on other characters, his arc progressed as he learned valuable lessons. This culminated in his final confrontation with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, in which he chose to give his life for the greater good.
Given his time as Iron Man in the MCU, Downey Jr. has made a slew of MCU friends. As the series’s first actor in 2008, he also served as a shepherd for those who followed, and on his 56th birthday, he’s receiving several birthday wishes from several of them. Such as Jeremy Renner, Russo brothers, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth.
While Iron Man is no longer a part of the franchise following his heroic demise in Avengers: Endgame, his presence continues to loom large over the series. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier both address his legacy, particularly in terms of technological inventions. This will be further explored in War Machine’s upcoming Disney+ series Armor Wars. Rhodey will have to fend off villains attempting to acquire Stark technology for their own gain. Ironheart follows, introducing Riri Williams, Tony’s comic book successor.
Iron Man may no longer be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he will continue to play a significant role in its future storytelling, albeit in a more subdued manner. Downey, on the other hand, will always be a part of the franchise, just as Chris Evans will always be as Captain America. If Marvel Studios wishes to reintroduce Tony in a creative manner, Kevin Feige and his team will almost certainly find a way. However, for the time being, the universe will have to function independently of the genius billionaire Avenger.