Linking Spider-Man to Tony Stark Was the Only Way to Make the Character Fit into the MCU

Never mind Team Cap and Team Iron Man. What about Team Iron Man and Team Spidey?

No, Iron Man and Spider-Man won’t be fighting each other in the Marvel Cinematic Universe unless things get really strange. All the same, there is a battle among some Marvel fans as to whether Iron Man should have been Spider-Man’s link to the MCU. 

Many people have complained that the two standalone MCU Spider-Man movies in particular leaned too hard on the Iron Man connection. Even Far From Home did it after Tony Stark was dead. But there’s another school of thought that Iron Man was the only route into the MCU that really made sense. 

Tom Holland on the red carpet
Tom Holland | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

How Spider-Man got to the MCU

Last year, there was a ton of talk about Spider-Man leaving the MCU because the original deal between Sony (who owns the movie rights to the character) and Disney (who owns Marvel) expired. To set the stage for the debate, it’s important to remember how Spider-Man got to Iron Man, or vice versa. 

When Sony made its first Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire in 2002, it made sense to start with the origin story since that had never been seen on the big screen. After three very successful movies, Sony decided to reboot the series with Andrew Garfield, again telling the origin story in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Many people thought this was a mistake, which led to the two Garfield movies relatively underperforming. 

So when it came time to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, Disney and Sony agreed it was wise not to tell the origin story a third time. Their reasoning was that it made sense for him to be kind of a protégé of Iron Man, since Peter Parker and Tony Stark are both big science geniuses.

The case against Iron Man

One of the biggest reasons against the Iron Man/Spider-Man partnership is that the tie was so tight that when the Disney/Sony deal looked like it was going to go south, a big chunk of the storytelling was going to go with it. Had Sony and Disney not extended their deal, a lot of ret-conning might have been necessary. 

An analysis by The Verge written after the deal unraveled, but before it was extended, argued that it could actually be good for Spider-Man. It stated; “More so than any other hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man has never fully been allowed to stand on his own two feet. Holland’s Peter Parker has largely been defined by his relationship to Tony Stark; his biggest goal is to live up to the legacy of a larger-than-life paternal mentor who’s better at snarky detachment than emotional caregiving.”

A small example of the problem is the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, which featured a shot of Spider-Man and Iron Man swinging/flying together. That shot wasn’t in the movie and was used specifically for the trailer, becoming one of Marvel’s little white trailer lies, like the Hulk in Wakanda for Infinity War.

Maybe it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a prime example of how the characters are too close for their own good. 

The case for Iron Man

Fans on Reddit discussed various unpopular MCU opinions on Reddit, one of them being “Spider-Man and his villains being so heavily tied to Tony Stark is one of the biggest strengths of the MCU’s adaptation of the character, not one of the biggest weaknesses.”

That fan didn’t elaborate on his reasons, but one could argue that teaming up Iron Man and Spider-Man made thematic sense in that it helped “humanize” Tony by turning him into a sort of father figure before he became an actual father very late in the MCU run.

The various Stark gadgets attached to Spider-Man’s outfit made for some unique visual gags unlike anything seen in the movies before. 

As it is, these arguments are always academic because we got what we got. That said, it will be interesting to see if Tony Stark’s shadow still looms large in the third MCU/Sony Spider-Man movie, due out in November 2021.