After Iron Man 3′s wild box office success, get ready for Iron Man 15

Nice suit. (Disney / Marvel Studios via AP)

Nice suit. (Disney / Marvel Studios via AP)

Well, Iron Man 3 had a wildly successful opening-weekend box office – the second-highest ever, in fact, just behind “The Avengers,” with 175.3 million, putting it on track to be the most smashing superhero threequel of all time.

And, of course, trapping Robert Downey, Jr., inside the suit forever.

Downey calls himself “one of the best actors” of his generation in an interview with GQ, although he notes “it’s not that big a deal. It’s not like this is the greatest swath or generation of actors that has ever come down the pike.” In the same interview, though, he states that an Oscar is inevitably in his future.

The trouble with a superhero suit is that it gives you unlimited powers but, at a certain point, only as long as you wear it. You become synonymous with the suit. Christopher Reeve becomes Superman. Adam West becomes Batman. William Shatner becomes Captain Kirk. You aren’t the guy who plays Spock; you’re Spock. It’s a subtle but meaningful distinction. Robert Downey, Jr., is well on his way to becoming Iron Man, especially if they keep being this successful. Will they ever stop? What does it take to stop them?

Wolverine, which almost everyone acknowledges was freakishly awful, kept its claws in Hugh Jackman long enough to force him to come out with Wolverine II, even when he wanted to be running around 19th-century France, singing high A’s.

Some people are complaining about the quality of the new Iron Man movie, which is at 78 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, as we speak. But not enough people — indeed, fewer than than the first sequel. It looks likely to bring in a billion overseas.

This is quickly turning into Shrek, which started out as the quintessential Fun Fairytale for Kids That Your Parents Will Chuckle Along With but was so successful that in order to put itself out of its misery it had to come out with Shrek 4, otherwise known as Shrek Has A Midlife Crisis And There are Kids And Please Dear Lord Let Us Stop Making These.

At the present rate, we are going to wind up with thickly layered Dickensian characters whose lives we know more deeply than our own. Here are some movies we can look forward to.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 6, where Pepper Potts becomes mysteriously allergic to anything with gluten in it and starts a lifestyle website, and the Internet gets really judgy about it. The main villain is a really weird salad, which Tony must pretend he enjoys.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 7, where, desperate to end the franchise, Iron Man purposefully destroys the earth and drifts into the vastness of space, everyone he loves having perished horribly. “Are you not satisfied?” he asks. “Please, we’ve run out of plots.”

– “I wonder how he’ll get out of this one,” millions of loyal viewers wonder, showing up for Iron Man 8, which pretends that the whole preceding movie was a bad dream and doesn’t really address it satisfactorily at all. Tony Stark stops something from exploding something else, but you can tell his heart’s not in it.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 9, a musical directed by Baz Luhrmann.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 10, a straight biopic of Pope John Paul II.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 11: Day of Judgment, in which self-aware JARVIS is no longer content with his menial role and tries to start the Rise of the Machines, hopelessly entangling two tapped-out movie franchises forever.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 12, where Tony needs a hip replacement and everyone keeps telling him to slow down. Rhodey attempts, but fails, to mandate a new flying test for superheroes, and he and Pepper cannot get the keys away from Tony no matter how hard they try.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Kirk Lazarus playing Tony Stark in Iron Man 13: The Artist, a silent film in black and white. Amidst all the confusion, it wins 8 Oscars and scores enough box office to recoup its tiny budget.

– Iron Man 14: Amour. Basically “Amour,” but with palladium, the entire movie is in French in an effort to dissuade people from continuing to show up. It is an intimate meditation on love, loss, aging, and the long-term effects of toxic metals.

– Iron Man 15: On Iron Pond. (“Listen to me, mister,” says Pepper Potts, “You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re gonna get back up in that suit and I’m gonna be right behind you holding on tight and away we’re gonna go, go, go.”) Another pensive meditation on love, loss, and old age, except for the part where Tony stares forlornly into the audience and whispers, “Please stop coming to these.”

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