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For years, Marvel Studios built up to the Avengers’ battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin). After three phases of storytelling with the same core heroes, the next few years will introduce fans to a very different Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But now that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is dead and gone, it’s the perfect time for Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to shine.

Marvel Studios visual at the Disney+ booth at the D23 Expo
Marvel Studios visual at the Disney+ booth at the D23 Expo | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Phase 4 is the perfect time for Justin Hammer to make an overdue return

Introduced in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer was Stark’s greatest corporate rival. In that film, Hammer even teams with Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) to defeat Iron Man, only to wind up in prison. Since then, the character has only been seen once, in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King. Yet Stark’s death means Hammer has an opportunity to rise again.

After all, no Iron Man means a certain corner of the MCU is relatively unprotected. Hammer could either escape or be released from prison to hatch some more schemes, likely to get his hands on Stark’s tech. And the MCU proved with the reintroduction of Phase 1 baddies like General Ross (William Hurt) and Red Skull (Ross Marquand) it has a long memory.

Oscar winner Sam Rockwell has said he’s interested in an MCU return

Of course, Rockwell’s career has changed a lot since he faced off against Downey in the MCU. The actor — who was considered to play Iron Man before Downey was cast — won an Academy Award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2018. Yet, despite his success, Rockwell has said he is still open to returning as Justin Hammer if he is asked.

“Yeah, I would be happy to do it! I’m just waiting on the avengers [sic] have to give me a call,” Rockwell said during a Reddit AMA in 2019. With Phase 4 bringing in so many new faces, a familiar one like Justin Hammer could help ease the transition for fans. In many ways, the coming line-up of MCU films marks a bit of a restart after so much sacrifice.

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More corporate tycoon baddies could be coming to the MCU

Besides, if fellow Iron Man villain The Mandarin gets a second chance, why not Justin Hammer? In addition to showing Hammer in prison, All Hail the King revealed that the real Mandarin is still at large. Iron Man 3 divisively made the supervillain a smokescreen hiding Aldrich Killian’s (Guy Pearce) plan. But the MCU has since retconned The Mandarin back into existence.

Likewise, the new MCU will likely introduce Norman Osborn sometime in the next few years. So Hammer and other corporate villains coming out of the woodwork after Stark’s death makes sense. The power dynamic has drastically shifted, and Hammer could drive that point home in hilariously epic fashion. Plus, fans need more of Rockwell’s signature dance moves.