It's official, Robert Downey Jr. has been added to the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming! Anyone who has read any of my posts will know that this fills me with glee. I love Spider-Man, I love all that he stands for and everything about the character. I also absolutely love the MCU and all of the associated films, so of course, finally seeing the web-slinger in the MCU is something I am eagerly anticipating. I believe that under Marvel's care, Tom Holland's version of Spider-Man will be the best one we could ever ask for.
Marvel regaining the rights to Spider-Man was a big deal. Spidey is Marvel's flagship hero and has consistently been their biggest selling comic book. To put it another way, the MCU without Spider-Man would be like DC's cinematic universe not having Superman (or Batman, arguments can be made for both being the top man). So for the first 8 years Marvel's MCU managed (pretty well) without their biggest draw. That role instead fell onto Iron Man's shoulders...
In The Beginning...
At the birth of the MCU, Marvel took a huge risk. Iron Man was not a particularly well known character to the general populace, but he certainly started with a bang. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark and the success of Iron Man elevated the character to new heights. He went on to play a pivotal role in Phase One of the MCU, appearing in not only his own films, but also The Avengers and a brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk. Tony Stark was the biggest star in Phase 1 and this was particularly notable by the fact that Robert Downey Jr. was paid the most for his appearance in The Avengers.
We are now on the verge of Captain America: Civil War and the Avengers are now in a state of limbo. Splits have formed and the team has been divided into 2 factions, #TeamIronMan and #TeamCap. As we are talking about a Captain America film, it is safe to say that Iron Man could play a more antagonistic role in Captain America: Civil War. This is a stark (sorry, no pun intended) contrast to his role so far. Iron Man has been portrayed as the main hero in the MCU - it was Iron Man who ultimately won the Battle of New York in The Avengers and who decided to implant JARVIS into The Vision. Yes, I realise he was also responsible for Ultron's creation but this was ultimately done out of good intentions. It is clear to see that his role is changing...
Now we can finally get excited about Spider-Man joining the MCU. We will get our first proper look at him very soon indeed, and his stand-alone film will be released in just over a year. I firmly believe Marvel will get Spider-Man right and finally give us the Spider-Man we deserve to see. This also means that he could become the most important player in the MCU. Iron Man's appearance in the film could serve many different purposes, he could be a mentor to the young Peter Parker, or he could offer him assistance as Iron Man. But there is a third option. What if he is passing on the torch to Spider-Man?
Robert Downey Jr. has admitted that he can't play Iron Man forever, perhaps Avengers: Infinity War could be his final appearance in the role. But with Tom Holland only being 19, there is every chance that Peter Parker could play a huge role in the future of the MCU. This incarnation of the character is 15 years old and is new to the superhero game. I would expect that Iron Man will play a bit of a mentoring role to Spider-Man, perhaps offering him some new web-shooters or giving him a job at Stark Industries. It's possible that Tony will see potential in Spider-Man that means he can take a back seat. He knows that New York is in safe hands under Spidey's protection so he decides to back off, and we have a passing of the torch.
It would actually be fitting for Tony Stark to appear in a mentorship role in Spider-Man: Homecoming as the MCU has a history of doing exactly this. In all of their films, the heroes have had an older character played by a known actor guiding them along their way. In Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark has Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane as his mentor. Thor has Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Ant-Man has Michael Douglas in the role of Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. The same is true with Tommy Lee Jones' role in Captain America: The First Avenger and the theme will continue with Tilda Swinton playing the part of The Ancient One in the upcoming Doctor Strange. This is a formula that has worked very well so far for Marvel Studios.
One key aspect of Spider-Man's mythology that will be missing from Spider-Man: Homecoming is that of Uncle Ben. Marvel have made the decision to forgo including Spider-Man's origins on screen for the third time in 15 years and as such Uncle Ben has not yet been confirmed for the film. Without Uncle Ben's wisdom we may not hear Spider-Man's mantra "with great power, there must also come great responsibility". This leaves the possibility that Robert Downey Jr will take up the mantle of Peter's role model.
Why Would This Be Important?
Peter Parker is such an important character because he is so accessible to the fans. He is not an Asgardian god or a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist - he is just like one of us. He has problems at school with bullies and his struggles to make ends meet at home are often stories that appear in his comics. Peter feels responsible for his Aunt May financially as the man of the house so he tries to earn some money to help her. His problems are relatable and that is why he is so popular. He is truly one of us.
This relatable side to his character could make him a figurehead in the MCU. Yes, he has fantastic spider-like abilities, but deep down he is a normal guy. Captain America is another of the figureheads of the MCU at the minute and he has strong morals but he is a man out of time. He is still figuring out the world around him as it has drastically changed since his time. Peter Parker is a young man who grew up in this world of superheroes, who has a tremendous sense of responsibility. Perhaps his youthful outlook will show the Avengers a new way of looking at the world, a new way of doing things. Spidey is notoriously a loner so it could take some time before we see him as a full fledged Avenger, but his values and his character could be a vital part of the MCU for years to come.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Or do you have another suggestion for his role? Let me know in the comments! :)