Robert Downey Jr. helped kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s epic run more than 12 years ago when Iron Man hit the screens in 2008 to both fantastic critical reception and a stunning showing at the box office. Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark became the de facto face of the franchise, until meeting his end by saving the world at the end of the Avengers: Endgame. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe lost a critical piece of their ensemble, there are plans for another character to pick up the tech mantle going forward.
Rumor is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will start to pivot away from Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark/Iron Man, while also understanding that his gadget-creating/suit-modifying/superhero-enhancing skills are still needed in this franchise. Who better to pick up where Stark left off than Peter Parker’s Spider-Man? It makes a lot of sense in the context of this universe, considering Stark took Parker under his wing from the moment the former sat down with Aunt May in Civil War.
From there, it was a match made in comic book heaven with the two clearly sharing a strong bond, making Robert Downey Jr.’s reaction to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man disintegrating in Infinity War even more difficult to watch. Plus, we know there is an overlap in Parker and Stark’s skills. Parker is a tech wiz who was able to begin fashioning his own suit with almost no resources before Stark gave him a serious upgrade in Civil War and then a super-boost in Spider-Man Homecoming. Imagine if he had the entirety of the Stark estate’s collection of toys at his disposal.
Making Tom Holland’s Spider-Man now the tie that binds the Marvel Cinematic Universe in place, now that Robert Downey Jr. is out of the series just makes a lot of sense. They even continued that process by transferring Happy Hogan’s assistant skills from Stark to Parker in the last couple of movies.
From a marketing perspective, having Tom Holland as the face of the franchise and carrying over as the constant thread through a bunch of new productions and movies is a strong direction for the series. The character’s kind demeanor, humble beginnings, and emotional ties to the previous group of characters make him the perfect brand representative. Just look at the excitement Holland showed when arriving to start filming Spider-Man 3. There isn’t a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan out there who wouldn’t mind seeing Holland fill the role that Robert Downey Jr. has played in this franchise so far.
Things might get a little tricky with this seeing as how Disney and Sony have a complicated deal when it comes to the Spider-Man rights in films. There was no such issue with Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man, since that character was owned outright by Disney. The web-slinger, on the other hand, is good for another two solo movies (effectively three and four in the franchise) but after that, the character is completely in Sony’s hands.
How this works in ensuring Spidey/Tom Holland can take on the Tony Stark-like role as franchise figurehead isn’t exactly clear, but that Kevin Feige and company are trying to make it work is encouraging. But for both Sony and Disney, making Holland the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is mutually beneficial and makes sense for both companies going forward. At this point, there seems to be no better person to fill the shoes left behind by Robert Downey Jr. than Tom Holland.