After 23 feature films, there are bound to be similarities in the stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of these superpowered heroes have had a trauma that enabled their abilities. They’ve made mistakes because they are intrinsically human and those errors have led to battling beleaguered business associates, aliens from another solar system, or even their own siblings. Most importantly, a hero has to save the world from impending doom.
Perhaps the most familiar superhero story of the MCU is that of Spider-Man. Having appeared in eight feature films, most of them released before the character joined the franchise, there isn’t much about him that hasn’t been said. We know a radioactive spider bit teenage Peter Parker turning him into a hero. We know about his special abilities and incredible intellect. These are attributes of the character that have been repeated in each adaptation.
Unique to this iteration of Spider-Man, though, Parker (Tom Holland) has become like a son to the late Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). After that character’s death during the climactic events of Avengers: Endgame, the world is in mourning and they need a new Iron Man. Spider-Man: Far From Home asks if Peter is ready to become what the world needs. And in doing so, he has an adventure that is in many ways a redo of the plot of the film that began the MCU, 2008’s Iron Man.
Far From Home mirrors Iron Man with its themes, enemies, and story beats. While Peter is hardly the playboy Tony was in his heyday, the high schooler has a comparable childhood to that of the CEO of Stark Industries. Both characters grew up at the top of their classes, excelling in the sciences. They both had to live with the grief surrounding the death of a beloved family member — Captain America: Civil War details how Tony lost his parents during an assassination; Peter’s parents also seem to be deceased, while his Uncle Ben, his first surrogate father figure, has also died in some as-yet-unexplained manner. In earlier Spider-Man movies, Uncle Ben was shot and murdered, which led to Peter taking the mantle of Spider-Man and protecting civilians everywhere.
Additionally, there is a big emphasis on the idea of legacy in these characters’ lives. Avengers: Endgame made Tony a legend who saved millions of people from “The Blip.” Peter has to live in the shadow of Tony’s legacy, just as Tony had to live in the shadow of his father’s.
Tony and Howard Stark’s relationship issues are a signature part of Tony’s identity throughout his time in the MCU. Despite his monumental achievements, he was always measured against his father’s great deeds. In Iron Man, Tony mentions his father at almost every opportunity. While he is the current CEO, he has this belief that nothing he does will ever satisfy. Even when pitching Stark Industries’ newest weapons, the Jericho Missiles, he takes the opportunity to quote his father. Later, when he escapists terrorists using a prototype Iron Man suit, Tony talks about what his father would be thinking at that moment. He wonders if his father would be proud of what Stark Industries has become, a defense contractor whose weapons are wreaking havoc around the world. He also ponders if his father ever had conflicts or doubts about the perceived good that the company was offering.
Far From Home sees Parker bequeathed with a parting gift from Tony, control of a highly advanced defense system. With a single pair of glasses, Parker can control the AI known as E.D.I.T.H., which has many functions made with the utmost idea of protection. E.D.I.T.H. allows an individual to survey mobile phones in their vicinity and manipulate that data. It can control massive amounts of drones and can kill targets with a simple voice command. It doesn’t just represent a super-powered weapon but also the physical manifestation of the mantle being passed from Tony to Peter. After Endgame, Parker isn’t as excited to be an Avenger anymore. He has enough trouble being a teenager and getting the attention of a girl he likes. He can’t fathom being Earth’s greatest protector.
Another element that Tony and Peter both face in their respective stories is disgruntled Stark Industries employees. In Iron Man, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) was a good friend of Howard Stark and his business partner. Before Tony reached adulthood, Obadiah was interim CEO and had a taste of the power that inflated his ego. When he had to give up his seat, his jealousy sparked a rebellion against the younger Stark. He was set on eliminating the only person standing in his way of power. Obadiah craves the genius that exists in Tony’s brain, and it is a source of immense frustration for him. “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scrap,” Obadiah says to his employees. The betrayal of a business partner would be painful enough for Tony, but Obadiah repeatedly reminds him of his father’s legacy. He shouts lines about Howard’s contributions to society and how Tony only really exists to make his father proud. Tony would continue to wrestle with himself about his accomplishments throughout his life.
Far From Home introduces Mysterio, a superhero alter ego created by Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal). Beck knows an opportunity when he sees one and is eager to replace Tony as Earth’s next great hero. He makes up this farfetched story about alternate timelines and elemental beasts that can wipe out humanity. He goes through all of this trouble because he has an alternative motive. As an employee of Stark Industries, Quentin was working on a new prototype known as Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing. The device works almost like a VR simulation, able to show anything programmed into the system using a series of projections. Tony shows off this tech during Civil War to showcase the last time he saw his parents alive. He didn’t see much practical use for the tech and nicknamed it “B.A.R.F.” Tony fired Quentin afterward, implying that Quentin was “unstable.” Quentin not only wanted revenge against Tony, but he wanted accolades for what he believed was his life’s greatest achievement. His goal was to obtain E.D.I.T.H. and continue the illusion that he is Earth’s greatest hero. Along with a group of former Stark employees, Quentin devises a scheme to get in the good graces of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Peter. Using his VR technology, he creates monsters that terrorize countries around the world. Peter comes to believe that Quentin is more capable of protecting Earth than himself. Like Obadiah Stane, Quentin Beck chastises Peter for his faults and blames him for Tony’s death. Peter must decide what kind of hero he wants to be.
Several other similarities pop up between the films. The hero’s identity is kept a secret from everyone except his best friend (Rhodes for Tony, Ned for Peter) and his love interest (Pepper Potts, MJ). A government agency contacts the superhero (Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D.) looking for support on world issues. And the genius of Tony and Peter is shown while the men use computer holograms to create their superhero suits. In Far From Home, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) looks on as Peter is crafting his new suit. It is a brief shot, but it looks as though Hogan is reminiscing about those days with Tony. Not to mention the needle drop of AC/DC “Back in Black,” first played during Iron Man, which Parker hilariously misidentifies as a Led Zeppelin song.
The legacy of Iron Man looms large over Far From Home in more ways than one. Peter is struggling with his new responsibilities as a hero and trying to imagine what kind of man he wants to be. At the end of Phase Three of the MCU, Far From Home recalls the film that started the billion-dollar franchise, to bring everything into a new era. There is one more thing both movies share: Tony famously lets the world know that he is Iron Man during his press conference that ends the 2008 film, and thanks to Mysterio, the world now knows that Peter is Spider-Man at the end of Far From Home. Now that we’ve seen how the two movies parallel, moving forward we’ll see how Peter shapes his story as not the next Iron Man, but as Spider-Man.