Will Robert Downey Jr. Return to the MCU If ‘Dolittle’ Flops?

Actor Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, as far as Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are concerned. And though he’s stepped back from the gigantic property to try out new things, like this weekend’s Dolittle, who’s to say he’s gone for good? Here’s why we think he could be returning very soon.

Robert Downey Jr. kicked off the MCU as Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. Comic-Con 2012
Robert Downey Jr. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Downey Jr. was known for his acting in 1980s, but then spent the better part of the ’90s and some of the ’00s dealing with his drug addiction and its subsequent fallout. However, it was around this time that he was able to repair his image as the very first star in what would soon become known as the MCU.

After starring in Iron Man, which was very well-received, Downey Jr. went on to primarily work on Marvel projects for the next decade-plus. He appeared in the Sherlock Holmes films as well as a few others, but generally speaking, playing Tony Stark kept him very busy.

His exit in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was expected

After starring in Iron Man 1-3, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and all of the Avengers films, Downey Jr. had, we assume, fulfilled his contract with Marvel (though there’s some discrepancy there). And as it was the end of the Infinity Saga, and were promised some real stakes, no one was surprised to see the actor exit with Avengers: Endgame.

Tony Stark’s death saving the world completed his character arc so well that it’s hard to argue with it. And he was properly celebrated (unlike some — *cough* Black Widow *cough*) in a funeral scene. But still, seeing such a beloved character die was very hard for most fans.

Downey Jr.’s new film ‘Dolittle’

The actor’s first film post-Endgame is another big-budget flick. Dolittle stars Downey Jr. as the literary character made famous by Eddie Murphy twenty years ago. Rather than go for straight comedy, this time around, they’re leaning into the technology and fantasy adventure angle.

Downey Jr. is the main human star, though Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen also have notable roles. The voice cast is also a plethora of who’s who, including Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Selena Gomez, and even Downey Jr.’s MCU pal Tom Holland.

It has been getting terrible reviews

Let’s speak frankly for a minute. This is the kind of movie that does well with exactly two groups: International audiences, who enjoy it primarily for the visuals, and children, who enjoy it for the same reason (and, you know, the talking animals).

After numerous delays and reshoots, Dolittle was already off to a bad start. And, ahead of its U.S. premiere, the reviews began to pour in, and they were terrible. The film doesn’t stand a chance of making back even close to what was spent on it. That’s very bad news for Universal, and for Downey.

How could he return to the MCU?

Downey Jr. has never explicitly said he wouldn’t return to the MCU. And he gets that question a lot. And, in fact, he hasn’t even really left, as we know he’ll appear in Black Widow in some capacity (as it takes place before Stark’s death), and likely in What If…? voicing his character.

But there are plenty of other ways he could show up in future Marvel projects. Though Iron Man 4 doesn’t seem likely (at least, not without a different Iron Man at the helm), we’re now seeing an MCU that includes time travel and mysticism. Add those to flashbacks and dreams, and there’s no reason to think Downey Jr. won’t be making even more of that sweet Disney money for years to come.