With much of the known world having seen Avengers: Endgame by now, directors Anthony and Joe Russo can finally talk about that much-ballyhooed ending, which closed the book for good on a number of key Marvel storylines, some of them in very surprising ways.
** Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow. **
Given how much energy Marvel has devoted over a decade to assembling its superhero squad, it was no easy task for the Russo Brothers to bid farewell to some of their principle Avengers while insuring those endings were deeply satisfying to fans.
For Chris Evans' Captain America, such an arc meant traveling back in time to return the Infinity Stones and deciding to stay there with the love of his life, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Whereas after overcoming his depression over his failure to stop Thanos, Chris Hemsworth's Thor took his hammer and newly minted potbelly and joined the Guardians of the Galaxy for whatever adventure awaits them next.
But the most delicate proposition of them all was Iron Man's literally snap decision to sacrifice his own life to save half the universe and defeat Thanos once and for all. Given Tony Stark has been the heart and soul of the Marvel universe since the franchise's first big screen outing with 2008's Iron Man, killing him off needed the blessing of the man who plays him, Robert Downey Jr., according to the Brothers.
Lucky for them, though it took some time to embrace his alter-ego's last hurrah, the actor was into it.
"We did pitch Robert his arc, because he kicked off the entire MCU. The Tony Stark arc is the longest and perhaps fullest in the MCU," Anthony told The Hollywood Reporter. "Once we decided we wanted this kind of ending for the character, we certainly wanted to make sure Robert was comfortable with it, just because of his enormous contribution to the MCU. We did pitch it out. We went over to meet with him and we pitched it out to him."
He continued: "A lot of the actors are not opinionated about what we do. They like the fact that we are sort of in control of these stories and we are driving where they should go and we have a vision for where they should go and they trust in that. I think Downey may have had mixed emotions about thinking about [where Tony Stark ends up in Endgame], but I think at the end of the day, he totally accepted it."
And the brothers added that Downey Jr. was the perfect collaborator in how Stark arrived at his heroic fate, which Joe Russo noted the duo have been laying the groundwork for since 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
With such definitive endings taking a number of beloved Marvel characters off the board for now, fans are likely wondering where the MCU will go next as it enters Phase 4. Well, count on the God of Thunder popping up in director James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 while there's word Thor 4 may also be in the works. In the short term, expect new installments of Black Panther, Doctor Strange and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home now that Iron Man has resurrected the Marvel heroes along with a Black Widow prequel movie.
And with Disney+'s entrance into the streaming wars, fans can also look forward to a plethora of series following Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany's Vision, and Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie's Falcon, the latter of whom just may be donning the shield now that Cap has retired and embraced old age.
With such possibilities, it's safe to say even without Tony Stark, Marvel's future is looking eternally bright.