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– by David Kozlowski

Marvel’s cinematic superheroes are cruising towards an existential crisis. Many of their key heroes (from Disney’s MCU, Fox’s X-Men, and Sony’s Spiderverse) are played by aging actors or their current story arcs are reaching logical conclusions. Disney, Marvel, and Fox need to decide (soon) whether these characters are more like James Bond or Luke Skywalker. What does that mean? Consider that seven actors have portrayed James Bond to-date, and the franchise keeps chugging along; by contrast, Mark Hamill is the only actor to have played Luke Skywalker.

By comparison, we’ve had multiple Spider-Men and Hulks, but only one Wolverine or Iron Man. By emphasizing continuity Marvel’s painted themselves into a corner over the last decade and a half. So the big question is: should these studios recast, reassign, or retire any or all of these heroes? In the next couple of years we’re going to get some pretty clear evidence how they’re leaning, one way or the other.

Related – Avengers 4: Chris Evans Signed On Because “It’s Going To Wrap Everything Up”

When Bryan Singer’s X-Men debuted in 2000, we were introduced to Hugh Jackman’s amazing Wolverine, a career-making role. Arguably, this was the beginning of the modern era of Marvel superhero film (yes, yes, Blade hit in 1998, but X-Men still feels like the beginning to me). Can anyone imagine a non-Jackman Wolverine? All thee Wolverine movies combined have earned $1.4 billion to-date. You’d better believe that Fox wants to take that bet, given the money at stake and the intense fan love for this character — but it’s a damned risky move.

Marvel — whether we’re talking Disney, Sony, or Fox — needs to determine what’s most important to them: the actor, the alter ego, or the superhero. It’s a Bond vs. Skywalker decision. In other words, what does Marvel prioritize: Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark, or Iron Man. Let’s discuss…

Iron Man / Stark / Downey Jr.

Iron Man was a B-list comic book character before RDJ blew us away with his portrayal of Tony Stark in 2008. Similar to Jackman’s Wolverine, it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Stark/Iron Man. However, in the comics many others have worn the armor (sometimes, the suit is even AI-controlled). Iron Man can exist without Tony Stark, but can Marvel part ways with RDJ?

Stark is central to the MCU, his name and his presence are everywhere. However, RDJ turned 50 a couple years ago — playing the action hero over 50 is tenuous — although as Iron Man he is often depicted via CG (similar to Hulk). It’s conceivable that RDJ could continue in the MCU as Stark only, a defacto father figure; perhaps he passes along the Iron Man mantle while he assumes a background supporting or management role. Consequently, RDJ could continue on with the MCU for years as Stark, but maybe it’s best to hand off the keys to the suit to a younger protege, which could seriously energize Iron Man 4 (if Marvel decides to go that way).

Decision: REASSIGN


Captain America / Rogers / Evans

It took Chris Evans a while to connect with Steve Rogers/Captain America, he even fancied walking away a time or two, but Evans found his footing and his Rogers/Cap has become the moral compass of the MCU, and a great counterpoint and foil to RDJ’s Iron Man. However, if you’ve followed the comics over the last decade you’ve seen Cap killed, resurrected, live a full life in another dimension, grow old, and even become a Hydra villain — it’s been a pretty wild ride. During this time Cap’s best buddy, Bucky Barnes, once carried the shield and established a darker and gun-happy version of the Captain America. Sam Wilson’s Falcon has also assumed the role, resulting in multiple Captain Americas at various times in the comics.

The interesting thing is, Evans’ Rogers is not nearly as important to the MCU as RDJ’s Stark. Were Evans to depart, it might not have as large an impact on the storytelling — particularly given the character’s history with Wilson and Barnes.

The MCU version of Barnes (Sebastian Stan) appears poised to step into the role, either during or after Avengers: Infinity War — he’s earned the shot. However, Falcon (Anthony Mackie) would also be a fantastic choice to pick up the shield, and present a high-flying version of the Sentinel of Liberty. However, we think it’s more likely that Barnes’ Winter Soldier will complete his redemption story and honor his friend, as there’s a very good chance Evans walks into the sunset or (more likely) sacrifices himself to save others as the ultimate heroic gesture in one of the next two Avengers films.

Decision: REASSIGN


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  • Mad Barchetta

    I don’t have much of a disagreement with anything you said. It all makes pretty good sense. The concept of the the full-on CGI character is pretty interesting and close to happening, I would say. While I immediately knew Tarkin in Rogue One wasn’t real, my kids did not. I knew because…well, Cushing would have had to have been the best damn looking 104-year-old ever. They didn’t remember he was in the original. So it seems to make a difference in recognizing the CGI people.

    Meanwhile, “It’s a reasonable bet that Fox reboots the whole damned thing after next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix film (in the comics, a whole bunch of characters are killed).”
    What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?? Who died in the original Dark Phoenix comics, other than Jean Grey?

  • Kindofabigdeal

    Is this part of the pro DC/anti Marvel propaganda

    • Neither, we love both DC and Marvel here. Where’d you get the impression we were pushing an agenda?

  • Venomaide

    Wouldnt be a bad idea all CGI movie.

    • chaburchak

      I wouldn’t mind a CGI flick if the animation was of the Arkham Asylum quality…

    • The Tekken games and Arkham Asylum (as chaburchak mentioned below) had amazing cutscenes, I would pay to see an entire movie of this quality with Marvel or DC heroes!

  • randomironicname

    I think Wolverine needs to stay dormant for as long as they can, putting the most separation possible from Jackman’s. I would probably have to say the same about Iron Man/RDJ. I don’t see that character staying prominent without him so Stark could go away for a lengthy period and come back in as more of a secondary player.

    The Singer-verse is such a mess that I really hope they start it over quickly and I don’t see doing that without Prof.X. I would like to either see a true first class with the original 5 members. I don’t necessarily want a beginning origin story but something from the early days that can be built into a consistent decade of stories. (Introduce Wolvie in the 4th movie?)

    • Yeah, I liked the Singer movies, but man they are confusing. I agree with you that Wolverine should stay gone for 4-5 years, but then bring him back in a big way (probably requires a top-to-bottom franchise reboot).

  • Han’s Blaster

    Oi Dave……. bad ideas galore. Where to begin……

    RDJ is fine for now……. seeing him at the end of Homecoming was great and brought back memories of the first film. He is fine- you act like 50 plus is a death sentence. LMAO tell that to Tom Cruise, Sly Stallone, and Liam Neeson. If the story/script is good along with directing- no one cares mate.
    Same with CE. Chris is even younger. Recasting again would be more than lame and unnecessary. And HULK???? Are you for real about a recast? Hilarious. Thor Ragnarok will be awesome and just the
    fact that you mentioned a balding, greying Hulk being a concern is beyond ridiculous. I guess anyone over 40 is ready for a walker and bed pan then? Dave, I like your thoughts on the upcoming Marvel Punisher but in this area you couldn’t be more off base.

    • So you disagree?

      • samjacksonswig

        My belief is that whilst a shred of money can be made from any of the above characters, then the studios will continue to pump out movies regardless of if they have to recast or not. There will be no retirement of anyone so long as $$$$ are involved.

  • Luis Schneider

    I don’t have much of a disagreement with anything you said. It all makes pretty good sense. The concept of the the full-on CGI character is pretty interesting and close to happening, I would say. While I immediately knew Tarkin in Rogue One wasn’t real, my kids did not. I knew because…well, Cushing would have had to have been the best damn looking 104-year-old ever. They didn’t remember he was in the original. So it seems to make a difference in recognizing the CGI people.Meanwhile, “It’s a reasonable bet that Fox reboots the whole damned thing after next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix film (in the comics, a whole bunch of characters are killed).”What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?? Who died in the original Dark Phoenix comics, other than Jean Grey?

    • It’s been a while since I read Dark Phoenix, but I was pretty sure there were a couple character deaths… researching…

  • Mr Smart

    It’s literally making me hyperventilate, vomit and lose control of my bowels thinking about how white-male-centric the entirety of the bigoted MCU is. The movies have only been mild successes, if that, and the absolute unarguable reason is the lack of diversity.

    These mildly successful movies need to take a cue from the much more correct comics and rid itself of all heterosexual relationships, they are offensive, remove all masculine men (horrifying) and correctly depict most hu-individuals as homosexual, peaceful practitioners of glorious Islam, awoke hupeople of color, powerful strong womyn or effeminate subordinate men. Also, is there a reason at least 3/4 of the super beings are not teenaged? Ridiculous, MCU, utterly nonsensical.

    You are hereby ordered to recast Thor, Captain America, Iron ***, Hawkeye, Spider-***, Hulk, Vision and immediately replace them with the RIGHT identities as it is with the comics. Womyn, hubeings of color, teenagers, mixed race Latinos, Asians and synthoids that identify as femayle…

    … just like in the comics.

    Period.

    • KilliK’s mother

      I’m offended by your use of the word Latinos, which is male-centric. There must be a more gender neutral option, such as ‘Latinies’ or ‘Latiners’. Honestly, I expected better of you, Mr. Smart, although perhaps I shouldn’t since your name includes the gendered “Mr.”. I thought I knew you. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Mr Smart

        As I have said in the past, my use of the honorific “Mr” is and always has been ironic. However, you are correct about my distasteful language regarding what I shall now and forevermore correctly say Latinas.

    • samjacksonswig

      Yawn.

    • William Johnson

      Please tell me that was sarcasm.

  • WTFITBS

    When it comes to any of the X-Men characters, FOX should look at doing another hard reboot and recasting of the main X-Men cinematic universe after they wrap up the Dark Phoenix saga. Continuity is so jacked up that’s its beyond repair and each subsequent film requires you to just forget that something happened with some characters in order for the story to progress.

    I would like them to RETIRE all actors currently playing any X-Men characters, wait about seven years and then debut a new series of films that are based in current day events of the comics. after 17 years we still haven’t received a true straight up X-Men film with the right characters, outfits and a storyline from from the comics. They should just give it a shot for once to see how it turns out.

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.