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Iron Man’s return was a ‘non-starter’ at Marvel, say No Way Home writers

Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame final battle

We knew going into Avengers: Endgame that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) was one of the superheroes most likely to die during whatever daring plan the Avengers would concoct to bring everyone who died in Infinity War back to life. And Marvel delivered that heartbreaking ending that we feared. But it wasn’t just Tony Stark who sacrificed his life. So did Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). And Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) retired from being Captain America. Since then, we’ve been looking forward to Marvel bringing back the dead Avengers. And Marvel quickly provided one obvious avenue for doing so: The multiverse. The studio announced Doctor Strange 2 a few months after Endgame, and the early 2020 cameo rumors said that we might see RDJ return as an Iron Man variant from the multiverse.

Things have gotten a lot crazier since then. And it’s not just because the pandemic forced Marvel to rethink the Phase 4 timeline. We saw multiple delays that impacted the order of movie releases as well. The latest one concerns Multiverse of Madness, as Marvel went back to film extensive reshoots. Part of the reason was to include more cameos, according to leakers. And some of them say that Iron Man will show up in the sequel. But a new interview with the No Way Home writers gives us an idea about Marvel’s thought process regarding Iron Man. Mind you, some spoilers might follow.

Iron Man’s death is permanent

Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are the screenwriters behind the No Way Home success. They’ve already talked about making the final Spider-Man movie in the first MCU trilogy and what went into that process. They’ve even addressed potential plot holes that fans might want explanations for.

The two were guests on The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith (via ComicBook). That’s where they talked about Iron Man in relation to the latest Spider-Man movie.

The No Way Home writers said that Marvel never weighed opening the multiverse to undo Iron Man’s death in Endgame.

Whenever we talked about the potential Iron Man return, we always said that Marvel would have to do it in a way that preserves the events in Endgame. Our Iron Man has died for good. Whatever might happen in the multiverse when it comes to Tony Stark variants, they won’t be the MCU’s original Iron Man.

Avengers: Endgame
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) embraces Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in an emotional scene from the climactic Avengers: Endgame final battle. Image source: Marvel Studios

Iron Man’s absence in No Way Home

One of the obvious plot holes in No Way Home is that Peter hardly has time to mention Iron Man in any meaningful way. The action occurs sometime after Halloween, only a few months after the events in Far From Home where Peter was still devastated after Tony’s death. But the plot hole can be easily explained. The events in No Way Home occur for the most part over a couple of hectic days for the teenage superhero. He had more pressing matters to deal with than missing Tony Stark.

McKenna and Sommers explained that the plan for Far From Home has been to move on from Iron Man’s influence on Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Instead, it was Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) who was meant to deliver the iconic line that we’ve been waiting for the MCU’s Spidey to hear. “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”

It’s all about Aunt May

“I think honestly that’s a non-starter in the halls of Marvel, at least in our experience,” McKenna answered a question about whether they considered bringing back Tony Stark. “They just don’t really like constantly evoking [Iron Man].”

“I mean, obviously, Tony cast such a large shadow even after Endgame — which we dealt with in Far From Home — but I think everyone felt like we can’t just keep on going to the Tony well,” he said.

“I think what we started realizing as we were writing this is that [Tony] wasn’t the Uncle Ben. He was a father figure, there was a bond between them,” the writer said. “But I think in writing [No Way Home], we started realizing that we had an opportunity here to tell a different story for Peter Parker that, by the end of this movie, maybe is a different origin story than everyone else has assumed up to this point.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer
Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. Image source: Sony

The crazy Doctor Strange 2 cameos

Ditching all the ties to the Avengers, Tony Stark included, is one of the things that make No Way Home so great. Spidey is finally alone, truly alone. He didn’t just lose Aunt May and the Avengers. He also lost his girlfriend and his best friend. Moreover, cutting ties with the Avengers and Stark’s tech means Spidey is no longer in possession of advanced tech that made him unreasonably powerful. That was a problem for the MCU’s Spider-Man.

The good news in all of this is that Marvel doesn’t seem ready to cheapen Iron Man’s legacy by having the character return so soon after his demise in Endgame. However, that doesn’t mean we should exclude other Iron Man sightings. After all, we saw various Iron Man variants in What If…? — but even there, Marvel never let us spend any time with them.

It so happens that some of the most exciting Doctor Strange 2 rumors out there say that we might get not one but two Tony Stark versions in the movie. Tom Cruise and RDJ might play different Iron Man variants from the multiverse. But there’s nothing concrete to back these wild claims up. Even if Iron Man doesn’t return in Doctor Strange 2. Hope is not lost, however. There might be other opportunities down the line to have Tony Stark return to the MCU.

Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he's not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.