Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) might still be playing the reluctant mentor to the new iteration of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but director Jon Watts says that MCU’s first superhero was a huge influence to the Queens-native long before he even became Spider-Man. Now, as the wall-crawling good-doer is scheduled to set-off in his first solo adventure, Stark is still the one showing him the ropes as he dives deep into the world of crime-busting and evil-fighting.
Despite Watts’ claim, we were only first treated to Tony and Peter’s official relationship in last year’s Captain America: Civil War when the former recruited the latter in his fight against Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). It seemed, however, that even before then, Tony was already keeping tabs on Peter – quickly identifying him in a video stopping a bus with his bare hands. What started as just a simple recruitment process turned into some kind of a mentor-mentee relationship that will further be explored in Homecoming.
Sitting down with Den of Geek!, Watts talked about how integral Tony Stark is, and his very public journey in becoming an Avenger, in Peter’s grooming to be a superhero:
“He was always a part of it. That was always a big part, the idea of him being this reluctant mentor – or the unintentional mentor – to Peter. Like, just sort of the grand ambition to be like that someday.”
The filmmaker continued explaining the supposed timeline of events from the first time Tony came out as Iron Man in 2008 to his current situation – far removed from the rest of the Avengers and once again, working mostly by himself. Backed by the confirmation that a young Peter attended the Stark Expo in Iron Man 2, the new canon seems to make sense especially with the time frame pretty spot-on.
“Because if you think about it, now that Spider-Man is in the Marvel universe, that means that Peter Parker was probably like eight years old when he saw Tony on TV telling the world he’s Iron Man. And when you start thinking about it as a whole world like that, it gets really fascinating. You know? And now the most famous person in the world has picked Peter Parker and taken him on this crazy adventure, and now dropped him back off and gone to deal with his own thing. And here’s Peter, left in his bedroom, you know, having had the greatest experience of his life, and not being able to tell anyone about it. That would be crazy!”
In hindsight, there are many parallels to Tony’s and Peter’s characters – both brilliant scientists, both tinkerers who built/sewed their own battle suits and both were unexpectedly given superhero capabilities that they could use to do good. Some would argue that Tony would not be the ideal mentor for a new superhero, but through his character evolution in the MCU, he is arguably the one who has seen and went through the most – resulting in him fully knowing that being a superhero isn’t as cool and easy as it looks. And that is what Peter needs in order to prepare himself if he continues pursuing superheroism full time moving forward.
Downey Jr. ushering the up and coming actor into the world of MCU is not only a great narrative but also a clever move in terms of the film’s marketing campaign. If Marvel wanted to differentiate this version of Spider-Man by reiterating that he is now part of the MCU, associating Holland with Downey Jr. is the best way to go. After all, it is Tony Stark/Iron Man who kicked off the massive shared cinematic universe, in the first place. Unfortunately even with the good rapport between Downey Jr. and Holland both and off screen, the former will not be back for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel. But it is safe to say that Tony will have a lasting impact on Peter and how he operates even long after he is gone given that Iron Man is his first real mentor.