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Why Marvel Stopped Using Sequential Numbering After Iron Man 3

For a number of reasons, Iron Man 3 is both Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark’s final solo movie and the final Marvel sequel to use a traditional numbered title.

Because it is the final numbered sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 represents a pivotal moment in Marvel’s history. Iron Man 3 chronologically follows the films Iron Man and Iron Man, both of which share the same name. However, sequels to other Phase 1 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, such as Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, would have more imaginative names. After Tony Stark’s final solo movie, Iron Man 3, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios changed this formula for a few good reasons.

The Avengers, which was the conclusion of Phase 1 and brought Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Thor, Clint Barton, and Natasha Romanoff together to battle Loki, is the first movie of Marvel Studios’ Phase 2, and it was released in 2013. Except for Hawkeye, who is briefly introduced in Thor, and Black Widow, who appears in Iron Man 2, both of which are part of Phase 1, each of these characters have solo movies in Phase 1. Following Iron Man 3, all Phase 2, 3, and 4 films have abandoned the use of numbered sequels in their titles. Steve Rogers’ follow-up film was given the title Captain America: The Winter Soldier rather than “Captain America 2,” which would turn out to be a major MCU revision.

After The Avengers’ enormous success, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was still developing its formula, and Iron Man 3 is the final film from Phase 1. Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the least cohesive because Kevin Feige did not have complete control, and some films, like The Incredible Hulk, were joint ventures with other studios. It makes sense that Iron Man 3 has a more generic title in keeping with naming customs of the time because it was released at a time when superhero movies were still transitioning from the era of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and the FOX X-Men movies into the modern MCU.

How Each Movie’s Marvel Comics Ties Are Revealed by The MCU’s New Naming Conventions


After Phase 1, there is a greater emphasis on using comic book references in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film titles. Marvel Studios demonstrates that it is drawing inspiration from the works of Stan Lee and other well-known comic book writers by using titles like Captain America: Civil War or Thor: Ragnarok, which specifically alludes to vintage Marvel comic books. This further explains why Iron Man 3 is the final numbered MCU sequel as it is a part of a marketing strategy to generate excitement for the upcoming adventures of heroes like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and the Hulk.

Additionally, subtitles make it simpler for viewers to follow along with Marvel movies. If Avengers: Endgame had simply been referred to as “Avengers 4”, some potential viewers might have been turned off because they might have assumed they needed to see The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron before seeing the movie. Thus, titles that make a direct reference to the story of the film—for example, Thor dealing with the catastrophic Ragnarok event in Thor: Ragnarok—are much simpler to comprehend. Iron Man 3 represents a bygone era of Marvel Studios when Kevin Feige hadn’t started using pre-existing comic book titles as movie titles to generate buzz and the MCU Phases 1 and 2 hadn’t fully figured out the MCU’s identity.

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