Okay, this isn’t an easy thing to suggest.
Yes, Tony Stark kicked off the MCU. Yes, he’s always a joy to watch in his movies.
But we might just be getting to the point where we’ve had too much of the character. Iron Man is starting to overshadow everyone else in the MCU, to the point that he’s beginning to rock up in other heroes’ solo movies purely to cause drama.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is very much a story about Peter Parker’s relationship with Tony – this much is clear from all the endless trailers that we’ve seen of the movie thus far. The story entirely revolves around Peter’s desire to prove himself to Tony Stark, placing him as a surrogate father figure in his life, and suffering from the fact that Stark isn’t exactly emotionally available.
It’s all very similar to the last time Iron Man turned up in a movie. In Captain America: Civil War, Steve Roger’s story of finding and rescuing Bucky is engulfed by Tony Stark’s grumpy post-breakup pity party, as he takes his aggression out on anyone who doesn’t agree with him.
Now, of course, Civil War is a lot of fun, and Homecoming looks like it’ll be great too, but the fact remains: the MCU is relying an awful lot on a single character, and an actor that is getting increasingly expensive.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot of diverse, interesting characters. There are plenty of stories to be told with the Avengers that we have already, and things are only going to get more interesting as new heroes like Captain Marvel and Black Panther move towards getting their own movies.
Yet in spite of the rich diversity of characters in the MCU, we seem to always end up back with Tony Stark. The entire universe revolves around him, and his every action is shown to influence the entire world.
Where, for example, is the movie that explores Falcon’s home life as a military veteran who can’t entirely move past his combat days? This is so beautifully touched on in The Winter Soldier, but there’s no room to further explore it in Civil War, because Tony Stark hogs all the limelight.
Similarly, from what we’ve seen of Spider-Man: Homecoming, it appears that Tony Stark is essentially taking on the role of Peter’s Uncle Ben, which does a disservice to Spidey’s entire backstory (as we’ve covered previously).
Infinity War and Avengers 4 will have more Iron Man goodness, but in a crowded movie that’ll feature a bunch of heroes, both new and old, it certainly would help if Tony Stark wasn’t the center of the universe yet again.
There’s a bigger problem with this focus, though. As much as Robert Downey Jr seems happy to continue showing up in Marvel movies at present, he’s not going to want to stick around forever. If Marvel really wants to have a cinematic universe that feels alive and fresh, its ancillary characters need to be better developed so that they can fill in the gaps left by big name actors whose contracts are about to end.
Basically, for the MCU to continue to be strong in future, we need to see less of Robert Downey Jr. Building an entire movie studio around a single actor is never going to end well.
This is going to be a hard sell for most Marvel fans, though. It’s hard to accept less Iron Man when he’s just so darn watchable.
If only there was another compelling hero for people to watch instead? Someone, perhaps, with the proportionate strength of a spider?
Maybe if that character could get out of Tony Stark’s shadow for a couple of hours, audiences might just fall in love with him as well.
It’s a crazy notion, but it might just work.