It's beginning to feel like the ceremonial changing of the MCU guard is hurtling towards us at a great pace. Barely a week seems to go by without Chris Evans' status as Captain America beyond Avengers 4 being questioned, and with Avengers: Infinity War likely to kill off characters, it's inevitable that we will be seeing the end of some of the series veterans sooner rather than later.
One name that comes up in such terms almost as much as Evans' is that of Robert Downey Jr, who has already flirted with leaving the MCU a couple of times, and extended his contract each time. He might be starring in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and he might be a key element for Infinity War, but there's very much a big question mark hanging over his head.
He's now fed into that uncertainty to suggest that there may be an end in sight for his genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, no matter how unthinkable an MCU without his foundation stone Tony Stark would be.
In an interview with News.com.au, Downey Jr has acknowledged that his time will come:
“Everyone says to me it’s like a glove that fits so well. I have to start over every time but I am starting over with a pretty solid base. I just never want to blow it for the last six or seven [movies] I have done by dropping the ball because I decided to go do it one more time. I just want to hang up my jersey before it’s embarrassing.”
So far, his age isn't an issue (and CGI character rendering means it's unlikely to be as long as he wants to continue), but by the sound of it, that will be the driving force behind his decision when it comes.
It seems it's his enthusiasm for working with Marvel that has kept him coming back (the pay must help too):
“It’s this cyclical thing I could have said when the first Avengers came out: ‘It’s never going to get any better than that. Everybody stop’. But to me it’s always about people and opportunities, like the (Avengers directors Anthony and Joe) Russos, who I adore.”
It would be foolish not to acknowledge the role Downey Jr has played in the MCU since it began, and it was arguably the perfection of his casting (which was enough to survive a poor first sequel) that underpinned the studio's ability to expand the franchise.
Let's just hope we get a last chance to see him retire with Iron Man 4 before that happens. Because the MCU definitely needs its version of Logan.